Here at Rafter W Ranch, we love our nutritious, pasture-raised beef, chicken, and eggs. But what we really love is growing healthy soil. We practice regenerative agriculture, which means that we take care of the soil. Healthy soil does lots of great things, like growing plants that have more nutrients and reducing erosion. But one of the exciting things about healthy soil is how it affects carbon in the air.
Carbon is one of the major “greenhouse gasses” scientists talk about. We know that we add carbon dioxide to the air by burning fossil fuels, but did you know that another source of this gas is our soil? Plants breathe in carbon dioxide, and with the help of microbes around their roots, put any carbon they don’t use into the soil. This is really good for the soil, making it more fertile. But modern farming practices break this cycle. Instead of the carbon being used in the soil, it gets released into the air. In fact, scientists say that one-third of the excess carbon in the atmosphere is because of the way we use the land. Cultivated croplands have lost up to 70% of their naturally occurring carbon. Modern farming has harmed both the air and the soil.
But there’s good news! We are taking care of our soil because we want to help turn this around. For instance, adding organic matter to the soil helps it hold on to carbon. When our cows move through a field, grazing on naturally grown grass, they leave behind manure. Chickens follow the cows, scratching through the manure in search of bugs, breaking it up and working it back into the earth. That is organic matter, and healthy soil loves it. For every 1% increase in organic matter in an acre of soil, 36 TONS of carbon dioxide are pulled from the air.
We also take care of our soil by babying the mycorrhizal fungi. These tiny, thread-like fungi spread out through healthy soil. They actually move water and nutrients around to help plants grow. Plants with lots of healthy mycorrhizal fungi can funnel 15% more carbon into the soil. But commercial farms don’t take care of these helpful fungi. Tilling and chemical fertilizers tear them up, releasing carbon into the air, and making the soil less fertile. That’s one of the reasons we let our pasture grow naturally, and would never use chemical fertilizers. Manure is not only a great way to add organic matter, it quickly increases the amount and variety of soil microbes.
The pasture-raised beef, chicken, and eggs we produce at Rafter W. Ranch are great choices for your diet. But we’re committed to healthy choices that go way beyond the dinner plate. We are working hard to help bring health to everyone, from the tiny microbes under our feet to this beautiful planet we all call home.