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Regenerative agriculture describes farming and grazing practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil's organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity - resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. It is a holistic land management practice that leverages the power of photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle through building soil health, improving crop resilience and increasing nutrient density.
Carbon is a naturally occurring element found in the Earth's atmosphere. It plays a vital role in supporting life as we know it. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas that helps trap heat from the sun, creating a stable climate and enabling essential processes like photosynthesis. Without carbon dioxide, the Earth would be a cold and unsuitable for life; however, the excessive release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from human activities, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation, has resulted in an imbalance.
Cows play an important role in the carbon cycle. Sometimes referred to as the biogenic carbon cycle, cows cycle CO2 through the atmosphere in ways that humans never could. For example, cows are able to digest grass as they are ruminants, which in turn is a form of cycling carbon through their digestive process, ultimately causing them to release a gas known as methane (CH4).
Although methane releasing from cows is a completely natural process, conventional farming has taken this to an unnatural level. Therefore, it has began to contribute to our changing climate. However, we at Fischer Farms have taken action to combat this!
Our crops, with their active growth and photosynthesis, possess the potential to capture and store more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than old-growth forests. This makes them valuable contributors to carbon sequestration and mitigates climate change. For instance, a study conducted by Michigan State University revealed that during its short 90-day growing season, an acre of corn captures 18 tons of CO2, while an acre of old-growth forest only captures 4 tons of CO2 annually.
But our efforts don't end there! Immediately after harvesting the entire corn stalk for silage, we proceed to plant ryegrass to maintain continuous coverage and minimize carbon leaching. Ryegrass demonstrates rapid growth both above and below ground, adding over 4,000 lbs of roots per acre during a growing cycle. This doesn't even account for the above-ground carbon stored in the grass, which serves as nutritious food for our cattle to graze on. Since ryegrass grows faster than our cattle can consume, any excess is chopped and stored as silage for winter feeding. Silage can be likened to preserving grass clippings in an airtight container, thus preserving a higher percentage of the grass's nutritional value compared to dry hay.
Furthermore, we implement rotational grazing, a process that promotes healthier pastures. This system enhances soil fertility, increases carbon sequestration, and mitigates climate change. The rotational approach allows grasses to have sufficient periods of rest and regrowth, enabling them to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. This grazing process also facilitates the direct application of cattle manure to the fields, as the average cow produces 86 lbs of manure per day. Although a significant portion of the manure is water, it contains substantial amounts of carbon and nutrients that are returned to the soil, allowing plants to utilize and store that carbon in the ground.
We look at emissions both on and off the farm to fully understand our impact on the environment.
In our continuous effort to reduce methane emissions from our cattle, we have implemented an innovative approach: feeding them kelp. A groundbreaking study conducted by UC Davis showcased the remarkable potential of kelp, demonstrating an impressive 82% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, to power our farm operations, such as tractors and equipment, we primarily utilize soy biodiesel—an eco-friendly fuel derived from soybeans. Furthermore, we have integrated an all-electric side-by-side (UTV) into our fleet.
Additionally, by prioritizing local sourcing, consumers contribute to the reduction of food miles—the distance food travels before reaching their plates. In the United States, it is estimated that processed food covers over 1,300 miles, while "fresh" produce travels over 1,500 miles before consumption. At Fischer Farms, we take pride in the proximity of our butchering and order fulfillment facility, which stands a mere 2.8 miles from our farm. From there, our distributors incorporate our products into their backhauls, delivering to restaurants and stores in the local area. After their initial deliveries, they efficiently collect our meat, ensuring their trucks operate at full capacity in both directions, minimizing unnecessary mileage and corresponding emissions. This synergistic approach enables us to maintain a sustainable and environmentally conscious supply chain.