(post by Jason) Since this is a horse blog it’s no surprise that we talk a lot about caring for the horses entrusted to us by their owners. It may come as a surprise that in spite of sixteen hundred or more blog posts….most of them directly related to horses….our success in caring for our charges has at least as much to do with the grass growing on this farm as it does anything else that we do.

There are two terrestrial…that is land based…..biomes that are warm enough and wet enough to support unirrigated agriculture. Of these two biomes grasslands have better, more naturally fertile soils than do forest biomes by far. The reason for this mostly has to do with the rate and volume of decay. Believe it or not, due to the fact that most grasses die back to the ground every fall in temperate regions, the weight and volume of material that is available to decay and build soil  is actually far greater in grasslands than it is any temperate season forest where trees may well live for centuries. We call this decayed vegetation organic matter. As organic matter levels increase so does soil water holding capacity, soil fertility, soil aeration, and every other matter related to plant health and plant nutrient uptake. If we have healthy soil the plants that grow on said soil will also be healthy, thick and lush. So it goes for the animals that graze upon the plants that grow on healthy soil. Like most things in the natural world this is a cyclical cycle.

The very best way to maintain healthy animals is to have healthy soils and the very best way to have healthy soils is to have healthy grass.

If soil building, which in this instance means maintaining and enhancing soil fertility in a natural manner, is an integral part of sustainable agriculture, it is my belief that we as a society will have to rely heavily on crop rotations that involve many years of grass for each year soil is put to the plow to grow any sort of grain crop. Since humans don’t have digestive systems designed to utilize grass in an effective manner, if we are to utilize all the grasslands in America effectively we will have to use livestock and horses to do so. As such, I think the future for a very different brand of equine herbiculture…one that is respectful of the animal and it’s natural cycle in improving the grass and the soil…is strong. We practice this concept every day here at Paradigm Farms.

In industrial agricultural settings today, it’s common to talk about grasslands as being inherently less productive than land planted to corn, beans, wheat, etc.   Less productive than what? Using what metrics of measurement? I’d say that’s more of a commentary on the persons issuing the proclamations than it actually is on the long term productivity of well managed grasslands. That’s especially true if you believe that soil under grass is constantly improving, whereas bare soil or soil under crops is deteriorating at some level.

At the end of the day every successful agricultural operation I’ve been a a part of in the last fifteen years relies heavily on grass as it’s foundation. Despite the number of cows we used to raise I never really was a beef farmer and despite the number of horses we board today we’re not really horse farmers either. What Melissa and I really do is manage grass. If we manage it correctly the animals we also manage will thrive. It’s a dance we’ve done for decades and it’s one that can always be improved. There are many things that influence the outcome and productivity of grasslands. Some are well within our control and others are completely out of our hands. We work with what we can and I am going to expand on this topic further in future blogs.

Bear, Quigly and Happy

Doni and Silver

Romeo and Lotus

George and Moses

Gibson and Ralph

Moses, George and Donneur

Doni and Fendi

Cocomo and Gus

George, Ralph and Fendi

Sebastian

Indy and Happy

Ascot and Taco

Sam and Johnny

Elf and Blu

Digby

B-Rad and Paramount

Sebastian and Lighty