How we're farming in the Midwest is causing drought and climate change
Last September Jamie, Cory and I were in Virginia at a Regenerative Agriculture conference.
It's where we go to learn the latest science behind raising animals in a way that builds soil, creates nutritious grass and healthy meat.
One of the world's experts in soil science stood before us with different soil samples and demonstrated the soil's ability to retain water.
We saw for ourselves that conventional, tilled cropland barely absorbs any water at all. While of course, concrete and asphalt absorb none.
In contrast, pastured and forest land had almost no runoff - all of the water showered on that soil was absorbed.
The scientist - Ray Archuleta - went on to inform us that 90 % of the atmosphere surrounding the earth is WATER VAPOR, while only 3% is CO2 (carbon dioxide).
That should tell you something about the importance of how much water vapor is in the air.
"VEGETATION, PLANT COVER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT CLIMATE REGULATOR!" he hollered at us.
And Ray kept yelling at us, saying the most compelling things:
"How we're farming in the Midwest, is causing the droughts and forest fires in the West!
Can we bring rain? Yes!
If just 40% of our arable land were covered, it would solve our climate problem!"
Really! Wow, right.
I went home and saddled up to Google, and indeed, everything Ray said is verifiable with numerous studies.
(The Chinese have long been making it rain over their cities by mounting rockets on small trucks and driving them into the surrounding country/hillsides and firing dry ice (carbon dioxide!) into the air over the city.
It works to some degree, but the sound of these cannons firing so startles the local goats, they faint with fright.)
Most farming today tills up the fields twice a year and leaves them bare for 6 to 8 months.
You know what that looks like. I took this picture right here on the outskirts of Iowa City today.
But, IF LAND IS COVERED in THICK VEGETATION, TWO-THIRDS of the moisture it collects will evaporate and TURN INTO LOCAL RAIN.
If the land is bare - it just gets hotter and dryer.
Every inch of green, every inch of root, every inch of healthy soil MAKES A HUGE DIFFERENCE.
Each additional 1% increase in soil organic matter results in 8 tons more carbon and 20,000 gallons of water per acre being absorbed!
I didn't know this. Or, I didn't know HOW important it was. Did you?
(Here's a link to a nice summary of the science, if you'd like to read more about that.)
"I want to be clear," says Jamie, "that I'm not vilifying conventional farmers. They are farming the way that professors and government TOLD them to for the last 70 years.
Moreover, converting a single field from corn to pasture can take $30,000 and 3-5 years at the least. And then, you better damn well hope it rains at exactly the right time, or all your efforts are for naught."
YOU, what does this mean for you?
Should you live in a smaller house, cover your roof with sod and prairie grass, and let your lawn grow real high and never cut it short? Well, that would be very helpful, actually.
But what most of you on this email list are already doing, is supporting the folks like Jamie and Cory, who are trying to keep the land covered in soil-building, microbe-creating, water-retaining pasture.
We couldn't do this without you, you grass-fed meat buyers, you.
Thanks for caring as much as we do.
On the plane ride home from Virginia back to Iowa, I looked out the window the whole time.
Besides the mountains of Appalachia, it looked like only 5 to 10% of the land in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa was covered in forest or green pasture.
The rest was bare brown ground, or concrete/asphalt.
If bare fields and concrete disrupt the small-water cycle and prevent rain from forming...it's no wonder 47% of the landmass in the United States is now under 'extreme drought conditions.
It's a relief to be out on Twisted Oaks Pastures, where the groundcover is thick and green.