Farming Practices at Davis Creek Farm
Farming Practices and Philosophy
Our farming practices and philosophy combine the new with the ancient, connecting science with spirituality much in the way of Rudolf Steiner. We combine the most practical with the seemingly esoteric.
Practical Methods: It's not what's grown that is unsustainable, but how its grown.
Our decision to raise grass-fed and pasture-raised livestock on this farm versus a crop was based on our farm's unique topography and the clay soils here, rather than a global abstraction of "what is sustainable." Much of the top soil on this hilly land was eroded due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Camille in the late 1960s. We concluded that plowing the land to produce crops would lead to further erosion of fragile soils and irreparable damage. However, like in many parts of the world where livestock have been an integral part of the farm ecology, if raised correctly, they can improve the land.
There is a lot of misunderstanding in the public and the press concerning cattle in relation to global warming and environmental destruction. Cattle are not inherently unsustainable. Rather, it's the methods used to raise cattle, raising them in inappropriate environments, and basing too much of our diet on CAFO (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) cattle, or on any particular animal or plant that is unsustainable. This is also true of sugested protein alternatives such as coconut, almonds, chia seeds, quinoa, palm oil . . . . which are now devestating local environments due to excessive demand. Many of these crops sustained local peoples and are able to be exported up to a point. Please see "What to Eat" for more information on this subject.
Most studies on cattle and beef are based on CAFO/feedlot beef coming from cattle fattened on grain in manure-filled feedlots, which is resource-intensive and includes cattle raised in inapproprite environments such as deserts, rainforests, and other fragile landscapes not having sufficient plant cover. Most studies sited in the press are not based on grass-fed beef, which is entirely different. Unlike feedlot cattle, grass-fed cattle eat only grass and hay from their local environment.
To sustain maximum production of grass in our pastures, to build soil and prevent over-grazing, we use intensive rotational grazing and mob grazing methods from New Zealand. These methods allow each pasture to rest for 6-9 weeks before livestock re-graze so that plants can regrow and the soil is not overloaded with nitrogen. This rest means that more grass is being produced per pasture, increasing stocking density without damaging the land. These methods also create greater plant diversity because animals graze everything in their pasture rather than selecting their favorite plants, leaving their least favorite to proliferate. Using electrified polywire, the sixty-acre farm is subdivided into daily pastures with size depending on specific soil conditions, slope, rainfall, and season. Water is gravity-fed through pipes from our pond on the northern half of the farm and from the top of one of our creeks on the southern half into movable water tanks. This allows us to keep animals out of waterways, to keep water clean, and to do so without using any power.
We also practice bale-grazing in the winter. Bales are strategically placed in areas where the soil needs rebuilding. When the cows eat the bales there, their droppings and the fallen hay create a layer of compost that rebuilds soil. Our flock of poultry are grazed on slopes where we cannot place bales, adding their droppings to increase soil fertility. These practices revitalize worn land and also increase pasture plant diversity and soil fertility without disturbing the soil by plowing.
Our animals feed on the very grasses that keep the soil intact to produce food. During heavy rainstorms, which are growing in frequency, the only places on the farm that are not damaged are those in pasture. Keeping land in grasses versus plowing increases drought tolerance and flood resistance and also sequesters carbon.
Our chickens are raised on steeper slopes to fertilize those areas where we cannot bale graze. While their diet is supplement by grass and bugs, unlike cattle, they do require grain. We raise them in a movable coop with electric netting. Our small flock of sheep and goats are rotated with a smaller group of dairy cows so that the cows will eat the taller grasses thereby consuming parasites harmgul to goats and sheep. Goats and sheep are also allowed into areas to graze invasive weeds.
Farming in a State of Heart Consciousness
Our philosophy is that nature is more than the physicality we see. It is spirit cloaked in myriad forms. So farming in a state of heart consciousness is simply a way of saying that we are attepting to work in a state of awareness that is in alignment with spirit--our, and all of life's, innate inner state. Working intimately with animals and plants that sustain you and the local community creates a deep feeling of reverence and gratitude that can be experienced only by becoming a part of the daily rhythm of the farm. Our primary mission for education is to introduce people, especially children, to the practice of farming in the context of heart consciousness. In this sense, the farm is a place where we are reintroduced to our own intuitive “heart intelligence” with which we are all born.
If given the opportunity, all of us can engage with plants and animals through our full range of senses including an intuitive heart sense, rather than just our minds. This opportunity presents itself when we are allowed to step out of learned cultural patterns of fear surrounding nature—fear of dirt, fear of bugs, fear of smells, fear of “disorder” in non-landscaped environments, fear of non-humanness, fear of discomfort. Remove the blocks to fear and resistance to life as it is, and we humans are free to thrive.
Spending time on a farm—a bridge between humans and non-human nature--is a powerful way to regain lost heart intelligence. By full engagement of our physical bodies in the daily rhythm of farm work, and just physically moving across the farm, we overcome fear barriers. In the process, we discover an immense inner strength and grounding that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives.
At the same time, a farm teaches about other life. You might observe that cows pull up grass with their tongues and horses with their teeth, that chickens have different calls for sky and ground predators, that mama hens exaggerate chickenness to teach their chicks how to survive, that cows elect a babysitter to watch over calves, and different birds can tell us what’s going on around the farm based on their flight patterns and calls. In other words, there is so much more to these creatures than just food or "dumb animals."
The farm also teaches that in nature, death feeds life. A compost pile full of manure and dead grass turns into fruit and vegetables, a frog becomes a snake and a snake becomes a hawk and a steer becomes a person; and when we learn this, we learn not to fear life and death but celebrate the interconnectedness of it all. In this light, food is no longer a disconnected package from a store but a gift from real beings that allows us to feel immense gratitude to the life that sustains us.
Farm animals help teach us that there are no walls between them and our inner emotional state because animals read us before we are aware of our own feelings. Horses in particular are very sensitive to how we are feeling and the emotions we are projecting. They teach us to pause in silence and check in with ourselves before engaging with other life.
Please come and visit us (call first!). We would love nothing more than to share this special place with you.