Farmers and ranchers take a regenerative approach to farming | Progress

The Marksman Spade is used by Regenerative Farmers to find out what’s going on below the surface.

ENID, Oklahoma— Mark Thomas knew regenerative farming worked after he started spotting more and more dung beetles in his pastures.

Thomas and his wife Annette own and operate Thomas Land & Cattle, a first generation family farm in Meno. He said he had started selecting a livestock dewormer that would not harm the dung beetle population, as the insects help enrich the soil, improve plant growth and control flies and pests.

“It was my first ‘aha moment’ with regenerative agriculture and farming,” he said.

Thomas and Annette moved to northwest Oklahoma ten years ago and bought their first farm in 2013, practicing no-till farming.

About five years ago, Thomas and Annette began focusing on regenerative agriculture, which is a farming and ranching practice that aims to improve soil health by promoting biodiversity, reducing labor soil, reducing the use of artificial fertilizers and using regenerative pasture management for livestock.

“Long Live the Earth”

In addition to seeing more dung beetles, Thomas saw other fruits from regenerative agriculture.

cover crops

Livestock graze on a diverse mix of triticale, turnips, radishes, vetch and clover.

In one year, on July 4, he said, he checked the soil temperature in a field where there was good “soil armor,” and the temperature was 85 degrees, as opposed to at the 110 degree temperature of the bare soil that was plowed after. -harvest.

“There are things you can see and feel before you really start seeing some of these other responses,” he said. “You start the journey, and you start seeing these things reacting and how the earth can react. Then the next thing you know, you do a soil test and your organic matter starts increasing. Then you say: ‘Okay, we’re going in the right direction.

Jimmy Emmons, a third generation farmer in LeedeyOklahoma, and his wife Ginger have been growing and breeding together since 1980.

Emmons, who is vice president of No-till on the Plains and works for the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, has been monitoring soil health with soil testing since 2011, using cover crops to improve soil health.

Over the past five years, the Emmons have grown about 14 diverse cash crops, as well as several cover crops, which help improve the soil.

The pair also use a multi-pen adaptive grazing system on their range and forage grown on cropland to help maintain healthy native grasses and soils, maximize biological diversity and optimize animal health, according to No. -till on the Plains.

Emmons said having healthy soil is the biggest benefit of regenerative agriculture — one of his favorite sayings is “long live the soil.”

“There are multiple benefits, but No. 1 is soil health and rebuilding that functional system,” he said.

Additionally, Emmons said regenerative agriculture benefits consumers.

“The healthier the soil, the healthier the plants,” he said. “Healthy food, healthy bodies.”

sharp shooter spade

The Marksman Spade is used by Regenerative Farmers to find out what’s going on below the surface.

“A Growing Thing”

According to the publication Farming Base, industrial agriculture has certain advantages, including increased food production and employment opportunities, faster market readiness and lower consumption costs.

However, some of the techniques of industrial farming — like the application of synthetic fertilizers and monoculture — can negatively affect soil over time by reducing organic matter and releasing carbon, according to Food Print, another agricultural publication. .

Emmons said history shows that cover crops and other regenerative farming practices help get nutrients into the soil and nourish the soil.

“(Regenerative agriculture) is nothing new,” he said. “We’re just trying to revive it, restore it, and regenerate it to get it working again.”

Emmons said some of the common things he’s heard from those who oppose regenerative agriculture include the Oklahoma drought; that Oklahoma gets too much rain; or that farmers or herders have tried and failed and reverted to other practices.

One of the hardest parts of shifting to regenerative farming practices is having patience.

“Changing that mindset, normally, is the hardest part — trying to do something different,” Emmons said. “If you’ve been on a full-tillage farm for years like I have been for years, no-till and cover crops are a totally different way to what we’ve always done, and sometimes, it can play mind games with you…. If you have a hiccup, look at what was wrong and try to fix it instead of quitting.

Thomas said there’s been a learning curve when it comes to regenerative agriculture, saying some of the lessons he’s learned are that planting a cover crop can fail and soil takes time. get rid of chemicals.

However, when the cover crop is successful or after finally getting to a low-input location, Thomas said the benefits are far beyond “what you could put your pencil to.”

“Getting these soils back to more natural soil biology and more natural nitrogen sources, … that’s your goal. That’s what you’re trying to achieve,” he said.

Emmons said many farmers and ranchers throughout Oklahoma, like himself and Thomas, practice regenerative agriculture, saying it’s a “growing thing” that he hopes will continue to spread.

“(Regenerative agriculture) started out like that. It was working and we degraded it, so what’s the challenge for us not to regenerate it,” he said. “We should adopt this concept because we will do better in the long run. … We will have healthier food. We will mitigate the effects of droughts and floods, and in these wild and extreme weather events that we face, that is very important.

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