Farm Journal

The White Clover Farm Journal

Welcome to the White Clover Farm Journal. We track our grass-fed beef from birth to consumer, to ensure they remain safe and healthy food. 

Regenerative Agriculture - A Pathway to a Better Future

We all value healthy, nutrient dense foods. But did you know that how this food is produced could also help mitigate global warming?

America’s industrial agriculture system has been very productive, but at a high environmental and health cost. We need a more holistic paradigm. Worldwide we have lost 50-70% of the organic matter from our soils, resulting in decreased fertility and water holding capacity. Soil depleted of carbon results in erosion and leaching with subsequent pollution of our streams, rivers and lakes. An 8,000 square mile dead zone exists in the Gulf of Mexico due to nutrient runoff into the Mississippi River. Toxic algae blooms occur in Lake Erie each summer for the same reason. There is a water crisis worldwide. This is the result of the loss of soil carbon with resultant dysfunction of the carbon and water cycles. Sustainability of such depleted topsoils is no longer sufficient. We must rebuild our soils.

The single most important determinant of a healthy, fertile, biologically alive, and functioning topsoil is organic matter. A living plant is the most efficient, cost-effective way to add carbon to the soil. Through photosynthesis, this plant takes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and puts the carbon into the soil in the form of sugars. Soil microorganisms use this sugar as an energy source and are able to store some of the carbon in the form of humus. Humus can remain stable in the soil for hundreds of years, thus sequestering carbon and increasing soil organic matter. A 1% increase in soil organic matter allows the soil to hold an additional one inch of rain, or 28,000 gallons of water per acre. You can think of it as a carbon sponge. This helps ameliorate floods, droughts, runoff, and leaching, while at the same time removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It also allows more plant growth, which cools the earth through transpiration.

Fallow Soybean FieldFallow Soybean Field*Soybean fields that have been fallow since October of last year. This results in significant oxidation and loss of carbon from the soil. The resulting erosion present in one photo amounts to the loss of 5 tons of topsoil per acre. This could all be avoided by the use of cover crops.

Regenerative Agriculture (also known as carbon farming) Needs to be Our New Paradigm

The tenets of regenerative agriculture are as follows:

  1. Reduce tillage as tillage oxidizes carbon with the loss of organic matter
  2. Keep soil surfaces covered at all times to protect them from heat, wind, and water erosio
  3. Keep a living plant growing for as much of the year as possible by using cover crops. This maximizes photosynthesis, increases soil microorganisms, prevents erosion, and increases soil organic matter. Currently, our corn and soybean fields remain bare 6 months of the year. Cover crops are used on only 2% of farm acreage in USA.
  4. Rotational grazing of livestock instead of the continuous grazing that is done on the majority of farms in the USA. Beef production in CAFO’s (confined animal feeding operations) contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Several recent studies have demonstrated that grassfed beef production using rotational grazing is a net carbon sink.

White Clover Farm Receives Conservation Award

White Clover Farm received the 2016 Cooperator of the Year Award from the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation District in Highland County. We were chosen based upon our conservation practices that improve the soil and water quality.

White Clover Farm Receives Conservation AwardOur mission from the beginning has been to conserve and improve our topsoils. Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in 1937, shortly after the dust bowl, “The nation that destroys its soils, destroys itself.” Despite this warning, we have continued to destroy our soils thru the loss of soil organic matter. Worldwide we have lost 50-70% of the organic matter from our soils. This has resulted in a dysfunctional carbon and water cycle. Dr. Rattan Lal, a soil scientist at Ohio State University, states “A mere 2% increase in the carbon content of the plant’s soils could offset 100% of all greenhouse gas emissions going into the atmosphere.”

Agriculture of the future must be regenerative. We must produce food and improve our soils. Dr. Christine Jones, PhD soil biochemistry, states “If all farmland sequestered more carbon than it was losing, atmospheric CO2 levels would fall at the same time as farm productivity and watershed function improved.”

Our planet’s future food and water security is dependent on restoring the carbon and water cycles. Regenerative agriculture can accomplish this goal. As a consumer, I hope you will support this goal by purchasing your food from farms that practice regenerative agriculture.

Holistic Management

The term holistic management as developed by Allan Savory of the Savory Institute emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything in the universe. Because of this interconnectedness, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We use this model when making management decisions at White Clover Farm. We take into account the effects our decisions will have on the environment, water cycle, carbon cycle, mineral cycle, cattle, wildlife, soils, plants, and the human community.

Following is an example of using holistic management on our farm.

Problem: Poor soil fertility in a pasture.

Possible solutions:

     Option 1 - Use synthetic chemical fertilizers.

Drawbacks: Fertilizer is manufactured using fossils fuels which are a non-renewable resource and pollute the air. These soluble fertilizers pollute surface water thru runoff and groundwater thru leaching. Synthetic nitrogen also burns off soil organic matter and is harmful to soil biology.

     Option 2 - Mow the field

By leaving the grass clippings on the surface to slowly decay, they feed the soil biology and increase soil organic matter.
Drawbacks: Slow process and requires diesel fuel to mow.

     Option 3 - Holistic Management

Horses on the Farm

An Amish farmer had recently moved in down the road. He did not have enough pasture for his Belgian draft horses. I offered him the opportunity to graze this pasture free of charge. This decision helped my neighbor by providing free forage for his horses, while providing me with free manure as a source of organic fertilizer. This increases soil organic matter and feeds the soil microbes. Horses clip the pasture very short, opening up the canopy so I could frost seed clover with good seed to soil contact. Clover is a legume which fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere( thru the symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria in the soil) thus adding an additional 75-100 pounds per acre of organic nitrogen.

As you can see, this holistic approach to management decisions benefited everyone.

Benefits of Optimal Omega 6/Omega 3 Ratio

Essential Fats

Healthy Cow FeedingNot all fats are bad. In fact, there are two fats, alpha-linolenic acid (an omega-3) and linoleic acid (an omega-6), that are essential to good health. These two FA’s are termed essential since humans cannot synthesize them on their own, and therefore must ingest them in their diets.

Now here is the key point. It is the balance or ratio of these two FA’s that determines their function. A high ratio of omega-6/omega-3 is detrimental as it promotes an inflammatory response that leads to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. A balanced ratio of 1 to 1 omega-6/omega-3 is protective against these diseases.

Most Western diets have an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 15/1. 100% grass-fed beef has a much healthier ratio of 1.5/1. Therefore, with grass-fed beef you are eating essential fats in the correct ratio to promote health.

Confused About Fat? Choose Grassfed!

In my Grandma's day, there was no such thing as bad fat.

All fat was "good" simply because it tasted good. My Grandma fried her eggs in bacon grease, added bacon grease to her cakes and pancakes, made her pie crusts from lard, and served butter with her homemade bread. My grandmother was able to thrive on all that saturated fat—but not my grandfather. He suffered from angina and died from heart failure at a relatively young age.

My grandfather wasn't alone. Population studies from the first half of the 20th century showed that Americans in general had a much higher risk of cardiovascular disease than people from other countries, especially Japan, Italy and Greece. Was all that saturated fat to blame? The Japanese were eating very little fat of any kind, while the people of the Mediterranean were swimming in olive oil, an oil that is very low in saturated fat but high in monounsaturated oils.

So, in the 1960s, word came from on high that we should cut back on the butter, cream, eggs and red meat. But, interestingly, the experts did not advise us to switch to an ultra low-fat diet like the Japanese, nor to use monounsaturated oils like the Greeks or Italians. Instead, we were advised to replace saturated fat with polyunsaturated oils, primarily corn oil and safflower. Never mind the fact that no people in the history of this planet had ever eaten large amounts of this type of oil. It was deemed "the right thing to do." Why? First of all, the United States had far more corn fields than olive groves, so it seemed reasonable to use the type of oil that we had in abundance. But just as important, according to the best medical data at the time, corn oil and safflower oil seemed to lower cholesterol levels better than monounsaturated oils.

Today, we know that's not true. In the 1960s, researchers did not differentiate between "good" HDL cholesterol and "bad" LDL cholesterol. Instead, they lumped both types together and focused on lowering the sum of the two. Polyunsaturated oils seemed to do this better than monounsaturated oils. We now know they achieve this feat by lowering both our bad and our good cholesterol, in effect throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Monounsaturated oils leave our HDL intact.

In hindsight, it's not surprising, then, that our death rate from cardiovascular disease remained high in the 1970s and 80s even though we were eating far less butter, eggs, bacon grease, and red meat: We had been told to replace saturated fat with the wrong kind of oil.


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