When we think about sustainability we are thinking about future generations and the resources we leave them. We believe that what we do today is to serve not only our current needs but to ensure that future generations are better equipped to serve their needs as well.
We believe that as stewards of the land we have a responsibility to tend and improve the vital resource that has been entrusted to us – the soil. At the center of our environmental strategy is a focus on soil health. We have seen that by focusing on healthy soil we improve organic matter, eliminate soil loss from erosion, increase habitat and reduce the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
A cornerstone of Shepherd’s Grain is building mutually supportive relationships. We believe that a truly sustainable system has nothing to hide and we are all served better by greater access to information. We also believe that a sustainable system is one that considers the needs of all members of the supply chain – including the people that grow the food, the people that prepare the food, and the people that eat the food.
We believe that a fair and transparent system of pricing that ensures stability and predictability to the farmer and consumer is a necessary part of a sustainable product. By breaking the mold and establishing a price based on the cost of production on the farm, Shepherd’s Grain is promising just that. Our farmers are reasonably paid for their risks and innovations without subsidy or price support. The consumer gets a predictable and reasonable price for supporting sustainable practices.
Mother Nature has countless millennia invested in sustainable agriculture, growing ever more food while preserving and building the underlying resource – the soil. Using this as our guide our farms focus on building the health of the soil rather than extracting it.
As our understanding of the soil continues to improve so do Shepherd’s Grain farming practices. Our practices are guided by some basic principles -
There is more than meets the eye -- Beyond the world we see on the farm, there is a complex ecosystem of microbes that are essential to complete the wheel of life – breaking down the organic matter we leave behind and existing in a symbiotic way with the plants we grow. Rather than focusing on the health of the plant we can see, we focus on the health of these microbes that we cannot see. Not only does this provide a healthier more efficient environment for the plants, it reduces our need for fertilizers and pesticides to prevent the problems that an unhealthy soil ecosystem creates.
Diversity is the key to vitality -- Monoculture does not exist in nature and so it should not exist on our farms. While we may focus in one year on a specific crop, we know that the soil thrives on a diverse diet just as we do. So our farms look at the rotation of crops we grow as the diverse diet of the soil microbes that are essential to provide the nutrient delivery to the plants we grow. Not only does a diverse rotation contribute to a healthier biome, it also helps control pests and weeds that we would otherwise need to control with chemicals or tillage.
Soil erosion is reduced -- By leaving the root structures in place and the previous crop residue on the surface, we are virtually eliminating soil and nutrient runoff into streams and rivers.
Less fuel is burned -- Conventional and organic tillage requires tractors to turn the land, resulting in large amounts of CO2 pollution. The practice of No-Till greatly reduces CO2 pollutants by eliminating the use of fuel combustion.
Atmospheric CO2 is reduced -- Sequestered in the soil. Tillage releases carbon into the atmosphere in the form of soil particulate. By eliminating tillage, we trap the carbon in the soil, increasing organic matter and building a healthier ecosystem for creatures that live there.
Natural processes control pests and problems -- By focusing on diverse rotations and the health of the soil, diseases and pests don't have a chance to thrive and therefore do not have to be treated by using chemicals, reducing both chemical residue and costs.
No-till and direct seed agriculture conserves the soil, reducing erosion and increasing tilth and fertility.