Tag Archives: CA

Is Sustainability Possible?

It better be, because as I see that the status quo of our present agricultural model is not working.

The over-use of nitrogen fertilizers is causing them to leach into our underground aquifers as nitrates.  The nitrates pollute the aquifer before we pump water to the surface in a tainted form to grow our crops.  Then we wonder why so many people drink bottled water. Over-use of the herbicide RoundUp has caused weeds to mutate and become RoundUp resistant.  The list of law suites grows daily claiming the herbicide causes cancer.  The oldest agricultural practice of all, plowing the soil, is now being called into question because of the loss of top soil to erosion. This is caused by the exposed bare soil to wind and water.  I could go on and on sighting instances of farming practices that are mining our planet on a world wide scale that are not sustainable.  But before I numb you all to the pillaging that is going on 24/7 to our home called Earth, I want to pose the question: “Is their a better way?”  I believe there are better ways; some of them known and some yet to be discovered.  Those of us that raise the food and fiber for the masses must also ask the question: “Is there a better way or is there a different way?”  My frustration is that so few are willing to even ask the question.

I believe change will come as our old sclerotic farmers and ranchers pass from the scene.  What is ironic as I wait for kinder and more effective ways to raise our veggies and livestock?  The answer is showing itself with a new breed of kids on the block coming from our cities and families that don’t make their living from agriculture.  This new generation is passionate about their new found profession and are not weighted down with the millstones of tradition.  Some will argue that you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  I’ll agree to saving the baby but you must promise to at least teach him to ask the question: “Is there a better way?”
See Ya
Jack

We Need to UBER-ize Agriculture

I was reading an article in Time Magazine this morning about a fellow named Travis Kalanick ( The Disrupter) who has recently ascended to Silicon Valley’s billionaire nobility for recognizing a need and filling it.  The basic idea as I see it, was that a lot of people would be willing to make the family car double as a taxi for hire to supplement their income.  And what was really new, the frosting on the cake, these new entrepreneurs could schedule as much or as little time to being a taxi driver as each saw fit.
Well, I think that agriculture is in bad need of some UBERIZING.  I subscribe to several magazines that mostly report stories about farmers and ranchers east of the Colorado Rockies that are starting to question the validity of solving all of our livestock and farming problems with a new drug for all the vectors transmitting diseases in our livestock and new herbicides, pesticides, vast arrays of fertilizer and genetic engineering that always treat the symptoms but never the underling problem.  “Forget the problem,” says Farmer John.  “I’ve got a ‘fix-it solution’ and it guarantees to repair said problem or my money back!  So there, you disturber of the accepted industry practices.”
“Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do or die.”  I don’t know who penned those words– probably some Private going into battle who knew more than the General.  This is what is happening in agriculture today from our inbred educational system to the billions spent advertising.  Go out and buy all the tractors and harvesters to gather in all your booty.  Each night worry not as the ring of the cash register tolls for Monsanto, Caterpillar, John Deere, Dupont and all the other manufacturers of the Cure-Alls allowing us in agriculture to slip into a quiet slumber.
I’m not advocating that we melt down all the iron and incinerate all the advancements made for agriculture these past 200 years.  But what we are obligated to do is ask the question: “Is there a better way?”
Acres magazine of Dec. 2015 has an article titled Still Grazing by Cody Holmes, who surely must have asked himself that question.  After you digest the figures that I shall put before you, I hope all will come to the conclusion that there are better ways “to skin a cat.” (Sorry to all you cat lovers for the cliché.)  Mr. Holmes started marching to a different drummer about 20 years ago when he first started reading what Allen Savory had to say about how to care for our environment in his book Holistic Management. This book has become my Bible.  I’m going to recite verbatim Cody Holmes’ last 15 years working his Rockin’ H Ranch:

To bring you up to date, I want to give you an example of what multi-species grazing can do.  In about 15 years we took a rocky pile of thin soil and oak sprouts in southern Missouri known as the Rockin’ H Ranch- about 1,000 acres that was once feeding only about 125 cows and through a dedicated holistically planned model we are currently grazing year-round about 350 cows, 1,000 meat goats, 450 hair sheep, 150 pastured hogs, 25 head Jersey dairy cows, 80 head dairy goats, 1,000 laying hens and other pastured poultry. There is also a growing produce enterprise with a green house.  This production is done without any outside purchase of seed or fertilizer with the exception of a little liquid calcium for the produce. This list deserves no bragging rights, but is only an example of what they say cannot be done, and we are doing it. One really good thing for me about this list of animals is that I know better than anyone that we are almost constantly under stocked.  Quite a turn around.  If I could do half as well I would be a happy camper.

“As I see it” started during World War 2, with the invention of the pesticide D.D.T.  This supposed innocuous powder that would get rid of all your insect pests and would not only kill the bugs that were presently chewing on all your exposed body parts but would keep on killing for many more months.  DuPont Chemical Company knew they had a winner and hired an advertising company to come up with the jingle “better living through chemistry.”  The only trouble was this bug killer was also killing off most of our Eagles– our national bird– and God only knows what else.  But fear not, as we continue on our oblivious ways, with “don’t ask don’t tell” as our motto when using the thousands of items at our disposal all designed to make us healthy, wealthy and wise.  The problem is nobody was on the payroll to see if there was a fox in the hen house. Now, 70 years later, I see most of our farming land unable to raise a crop without the aid of big doses of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and some genetic tweaking.  We have plenty of food to feed the world… but is it sustainable?  Probably not.  Are there any hidden bobby traps ready to show their evil ways?  Probably.
So what’s the answer?  I think for every new sack full of “problem solved” maybe we could have an alternative NATURAL solution on the same label.

HA HA HA this guy has lost his cotton picking mind!  Why, this flies in the face of everything I was taught in college and by all the people that manufacture the cures for my problems. This guy must think I’m stupid.
See Ya
Jack

What’s in a Smile?

I was never much of a school yard scrapper.  On the other hand, I have always had a fair amount of confidence.  Some would call it “cocky” that I wore on my sleeve.  That made me a target for some of my classmates who found much joy in school yard scrapping.
Until my senior year in High School, I was smaller than most other students. This, for some, made me a sure victory.  So when confronted I developed the art of smiling; it became and effective shield that kept me from wearing black eyes to school.
I was not a great believer in the old saying “it’s not the size of the man in the fight but the size of the fight in the man.”  I had a different old saying: “he couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag.”  I believed it to have some truth.  When I was young, my mother called me Sunny but by around 8 or 10 years of age she seemed to know that it was time to start calling me Jack.  This was okay by me but I didn’t give up wearing a friendly face that was now my comfortable companion.  I started to understand how smiles open many doors and put people at ease.  A smile makes it hard to fight with a guy.
I’ve come to some conclusion over my lifetime. What I discovered was the top of my list is to “SMILE.”
1. Smiles are like welcome mats.

2. Smiles never go out of style.

3. Smiles are always in demand and they don’t cost anything to give.  You just simply turn the corners of your mouth to the up position from the down position and amazingly your attitude will follow.
4.  I usually find the greatest benefactor of a smile is myself.  When I smile I’m spreading around some joy and that makes me feel good.

5.  Smiles are contagious. So go laugh more, live more and the world will be a better place because you smiled.
See Ya
Jack

Pistachios Should be Grown by the Elderly

What else takes about 7 years for the grower to harvest his first nut (this guy is nuts) and 10 years to be able to start paying some bills?  Just think, if a person wants something to look forward to, why not a pistachio? Yes, there are other options out there, like wine grapes, which take as few as 3 years to come into production.  And if you drink enough of your own raising your liver will probably succumb from having too much fun, taking you with him.  Or you could raise oranges; now what could be better than that?  Why, you would never be deficient in vitamin C.  But are you ready to get out of bed at midnight on the coldest nights of the year to start your wind machine or sprinklers to keep your beautiful oranges from freezing?  I’m not.  So for me it’s pistachios.  I get more years to look forward to my first nut to go with the two I’ve already got.  Just think: when I’m 90 I’ll be able to start paying the bank back.  Now many of you at this moment are thinking, this guy is missing a few bricks out of the load. Well, it’s too late to try to reason with me as the trees are coming and I have to get ready.
See Ya
Jack

Hope Springs Eternal

The time is November, 1961.  A new, wanna-be cattleman and his wife who would like to raise cattle and a family on a piece of land located on  the Little Cholame Creek in southern Monterey County, California are in the local title company office dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s that will make them the new owners of what will become The V6 Ranch in 1965.

What happens next takes place after 30 years of using the traditions that were in vogue in the cattle industry then and are mostly still in practice today.  They about had me “tapped out.”

Holistic Resource Management comes to my rescue as taught by its creator Allen Savory.  This  new way to care for land and all that live there has been a most wondrous and satisfying journey for me.  It has caused me to no longer consider myself a cattleman first but a “soils man.” Care for the soil, which will care for the grass that will care for my livestock.

I want to fast forward again to today. It’s Sunday and I’m reclining in our living room watching a cozy fire warm my soul.  It’s raining.  I think every living thing is asking the same question: ” Is this the first rain of a drought ending era?”

My imagination is also excited at the prospect that this could be a weather game changer to wetter times.  For some time my imagination has been itching to transform me into a conductor of the V6 soil symphony orchestra.  Well, imagination, you’re going to get your wish.  “Give me that baton and show me to the podium.”

Good afternoon all you folks who love dirt under your fingernails.  I’ve been practicing for this day since 1991.  First, I want to introduce you to the different sections of the orchestra.  To my left is the soil section, next to them is the water section, contiguous to them is the green growing and insect group.  Next comes all the animals, and finally the sun and the air we breathe for life.

The music that we will play today won’t be nearly as melodic as when Mother Nature lead the band.  The earliest settlers didn’t have the luxury of considering the health of the land and all that lived upon it.  They had to feed their families so the land and all the animals of value were mined.  If erosion was sever because of the way they tilled the soil or they killed off a specie of animal for food, so be it.  The family came first, so the soil, grass and wildlife took it in the shorts.  For me, that type of land stewardship in today’s world is no longer acceptable.  The verses that make the most beautiful music for me today begins with slowing down the rain that falls on the V6 and inviting it to stay as long as possible.  Striving to keep our soils covered with grass, leaves, trees and brush is an important part of the music.  Organic matter is very important and should not be allowed to disappear.  Livestock grazing done right will help improve all of the above.  Agri-tourism and hunting help stabilize the V6 financially and gives much joy and feelings of connection to the natural world for many of my city brethren.  The grand finale with all the sections of the orchestra playing in harmony is a conservation easement that guarantees that the V6 Orchestra will make beautiful music in perpetuity and will never be divided by the hand of man.
See Ya
Jack

Trying Not to be Dead

I want to be either dead or alive.  The middle ground of life would be pretty boring.  That’s why I planted pistachio trees 10 years to full production and started a cow herd this past Tuesday.  If I breed 300 heifers by artificial insemination, they will have their calves next September and will help pay the bills sometime in 2017.  I am also learning better ways to invigorate the health of our V6 ranch soils to help keep me alive.
My wife made a comment that it was nice to live for the future but what about paying the bills for today? “That’s a good thought,” I said, because the first tenet of a good steward of the land is to pay your bills so you get to hang around to see the future become the present. So I find it necessary to not look so far into the future.
I’ve got it! I think I’ve got it!  CHICKENS!  Yes that’s it, from the cradle to the grave in 10 weeks.  So with the demise of hand picked cotton in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley many 10′ by 30′ cotton trailers were left to become sign boards along our California highways and for me a perfect chicken coop.  We have an army of hungry predators that call the V6 ranch home– from foxes to raccoons, coyote to bobcats, red tail hawks to golden eagles and possibly a down and out traveler passing through.
The day old chicks will arrive next spring.  After a 2 week stay in a brooder they will move to our pistachio orchard where their job will be to eat grass and bugs in the sunshine hours and roost in their cotton trailer at night. Then they will move the length of the trailer each night (30′) to poop on the land, fertilizing the soil in a much more friendly way than a sack of ammonium sulfate.
I’m writing this blog and it’s Thanksgiving what a wonderful day not to be dead.
See Ya
Jack