Regardless of conscious practices, every good farmer knows that when animals and plants are managed together, holistically, they provide numerous benefits to ecosystems. Plants turn solar energy into usable energy for all life, but they depend on high energy being returned to the soil. That's where animals come into the equation. They offer a simple, closed-loop fertility input that is beneficial to farmland, providing sustainable solutions to the rapidly declining health of our soils.
Regenerative agriculture uses holistic management techniques to emulate biodiverse ecosystems in farming, mimicking natural processes as much as possible. This highly productive method of farming is the complete opposite to the highly specialised monocultures that dominate agriculture today. As Meredith Leigh so eloquently puts it, "Agriculture that restores and respects the earth seeks to be as diverse as the systems the planet would itself create, and includes plants as well as animals, because each contribute in unique ways to the resilience of the whole. Attempting to manage one without the other is not realistic, and not correct".
Our aim at Lúnasa Farm is to provide our community with ethically-raised, nutrient-dense and exceptionally delicious produce that's been raised in a way that utilises regenerative farming techniques. We move our cattle regularly using single strand electric fencing and a portable water system. This ensures that overgrazing never occurs and that all plants have sufficient time to recover before the animals return to them. A ruminants ability to turn food that we cannot digest into one of the most nutrient-dense foods available, with nothing but sunshine and rain, is nothing short of miraculous. There is no doubt that grass-fed and finished ruminants provide the most sustainable meat available.
We use the same decision making framework to rear our pasture-raised pigs. They are always free to root, dig and run around their paddocks, and their diet is supplemented with a certified-organic, balanced ration to ensure that their nutritional needs are met. The fact that commercially-raised pigs are dependent on a formulated ration means that no matter the farming practices, pork will never be as sustainable as beef. Traditionally, most farms kept pigs. They played many pivotal roles and often ate whatever the farm produced, turning waste streams and surplus crops into food that could be preserved for many months. We would love to emulate this one day, however it does present many challenges, including navigating strict regulations, logistics and producing a somewhat consistent product that consumers are happy to purchase. I'll cover this topic in more depth in the coming weeks.
We hope that understanding the ecological and economic principle behind holistic farming will help you to make responsible buying decisions, ones that supports both your health and a sustainable food system.