Category Archives: FAMILY

Wool – Regenerative Fiber

The impact of plastic pollution – why wool is the sustainable choice

‘British shoppers’ addiction to new clothes is putting the future of the planet at risk.’

As a nation, British shoppers buy more new clothes than any nation in Europe, with people buying twice as many items of clothing as they did a decade ago.

‘Fast Fashion’ – the reproduction of highly fashionable clothes at high speed and low cost – has far-reaching effects in terms of plastic pollution.  Discarded clothes are piling up in landfill sites (government figures indicate that three in five garments end in landfill or incinerators within a year) and wildlife in our rivers and seas is eating synthetic fibres dislodged in the wash.

The Government Environmental Audit Committee recently announced plans to work closely with major fashion chains to reduce plastic waste and encourage recycling, and could call on the fashion industry to create a demand for longer life garments, along with a ban on dumping clothes in landfill. These are two key actions where increasing usage of natural fibres (such as wool) can make a real difference.

So why is wool a better choice?

Wool is recyclable

Products made out of synthetic fibres can take up to 40 years to degrade, while wool – a natural fibre – degrades in a fraction of that time. This is because wool is made of keratin, a natural protein similar to the protein that makes up human hair, which can be broken down naturally without causing an environmental hazard.

Wool will also reduce waste to landfill as it decomposes in soil in a matter of months or years, slowly releasing valuable nutrients back into the earth.

Wool lasts longer

Wool is an incredibly complex natural fibre, providing many attributes that plastic fibres just can’t match. Its natural crimp and elasticity endures constant wear and compression, and its bulk resists crushing and matting, helping it withstand continuous wear.

Wool needs less washing

Wool naturally absorbs moisture when the atmosphere is damp, and releases it when the atmosphere is dry, supporting less frequent, lower impact washing, which in turn prolongs the lifetime of garments. A simple airing is often enough to refresh woollen garments – simply hang them outside on a dry day for a couple of hours.

Read more about the benefits of British wool at https://www.britishwool.org.uk/benefits-of-wool

References

https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/environment/environmental-protection/news/98810/british-shoppers-love-fast-fashion-putting

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45745242

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The impact of plastic pollution – why wool is the sustainable choiceWool can help combat plastic pollution

Wool can help reduce plastic waste and plastic pollutionWool is recyclable, lasts longer, and needs less washing

What Is the Greatest Challenge to Being A Grass Farmer?

This article is printed in the most recent issue of The Stockman Grassfarmer and written by our good friend, Jim Gerrish.  For more great articles like this, subscribe to The Stockman Grassfarmer.  If you are interested in an upcoming speaking engagement or prefer private consultation, contact Jim.

What Is the Greatest Challenge to Being A Grass Farmer? By Jim Gerrish

MAY, Idaho,

Allan Nation used the term “grass farmer” to describe a new type of agricultural producer who was something beyond the conventional mold of a farmer or a rancher.

The true grass farmer is someone who understands the foundation of our business is harvesting solar energy and converting it into a salable product.

A grass farmer strives to create a healthy landscape where water infiltrates and does not escape the boundaries of the farm as runoff; someone who understands that life in the soil is as critical to farm production as the life above the soil.

A grass farmer understands the fewer steps you put between your livestock and the direct harvest of solar energy, the more likely it is that you will be profitable.

The true grass farmer is someone who becomes one with their landscape and the life within it.  Grass farming has been described as farming in harmony with nature.  This is contrary to many of the basic tenets of conventional or industrial farming where nature is viewed more as an enemy to be vanquished.  Droughts and floods.  Weeds and bugs, Scorching summer and bitter winter.  All of these are aspects of nature conventional farmers and ranchers do daily battle to overcome.

It is very hard for most conventional farmers to understand grass farmers.  For this lack of understanding grass farmers are often ridiculed, ostracized, and sometimes, sadly, beaten into submission to the gods of iron and oil.  Sometimes that conflict is fought in the local coffee shop, sometimes across the neighbor’s fence line, and sometimes across the kitchen table.

That brings me to the consideration of what is the grass farmer’s greatest challenge.

Four years ago, I received an anonymous letter from a frustrated grass farmer.  It was five pages long and it outlines a 30-year long struggle to convert the family farming operation to an entirely pasture-based grass farming business.  The letter writer asked me to somehow tell this story and try to help other farm families struggling with the same issues find some resolution.

I thought about that letter quite a bit at the time and tried to find something to pull out of it for a monthly column.  I came up empty.

Earlier this year, I spent a day with a farm family and when I left, one of the family members put an envelope in my hand and suggested I read the contents some time later,. I did and, lo and behold, it was the same letter I had received anonymously four years earlier.

Now I had a face and a person to attach the story to.  The victim-less crime now had a victim.  How many times do we experience that in life?  Some issue that never mattered an iota to us becomes a cause when it becomes personal.

I think the greatest challenge to becoming a true grass farmer are those family members who cannot see the farm with the same vision.

If your brother is a crop farmer who sees only gross income, how is he going to switch from growing corn bringing in $1000/acre to a cow-calf operation with a revenue of only $300/acre?  That is a very hard sell.  But, why does he have a job in town?  He says he can’t make it just farming.  When the breakeven cost of growing a bushel of corn is $3.85/bushel and the price is $3.46/bushel, a gross income of $1000 doesn’t pay the bills.

If you have a gross margin of $240/calf and it takes you three acres to run a pair year around, the gross margin per acre is $80.  Which enterprise is actually better for the farm?

As long as your brother looks at gross income rather than gross margin per acre, he will never understand grass farming as a viable business.

When you have been taught all your life to till ground, kill weeds, spray bugs, and take whatever price the elevator offers you, it is hard to understand there is another way to use the farm.

If your culture says land must be divided with a 5-strand barbwire fence on the quarter section line, how can you accept weird shaped pastures created with single polywire?  The whole cultural construct must first change.

As long as the mentality is that is it OK to spend $100,000 for a new tractor but you must buy the cheapest electric fence energizer at the farm and home store, grass farming will not move ahead.  As long as the thought process i that the land rental rate is too high to run cattle on that field so we better plow it up, grass farming will never advance.

When farmers can wrap their heads around the idea that Mother Nature is our friend, then grass farming will move forward.  When we truly believe our mission as stewards of the land is to create a living landscape on every acre of ground we manage, then we will become true grass farmers.

Sadly, that is why we still say we advance only one funeral at a time.

Hate to start the New Year with such a downer thought.  Let’s see what February brings.

 

Jim Gerrish is an independent grazing lands consultant provide service to farmers and ranchers on both private and public lands across the USA and internationally.  He can be contacted through www.americangrazinglands.com.  His books are available from the SGF Bookshelf page 26.  He will present a Stockman Grass Farmer Grassroots of Grazing Schooland a Stockman Grass Farmer Management-Intensive Grazing School in February.  

 

 

Ultimate Glamping

Fundo Panguilemu is just a 20 minute drive from Coyhaique, Chile.  Stepping into your booked yurt is settling into surprisingly luxurious accommodation overlooking the renowned Simpson River – famous for waters rich with trout and perfect for fly fishing.  and quiet.  Peace and quiet with dark skies and stars like diamonds.

Relax and get away from it all, fly fish, go for a hike, sign up for horse trekking, or just enjoy being on a working farm complete with sheep, cattle, chickens, and horses.  Owners José and Elizabeth are dedicated to regenerating their beautiful property to an even higher level of productivity and beauty through proper management of resources and they are happy to share their knowledge with anyone interested in such endeavors.

Follow along on Fundo Panguilemu Facebook page.  There is good reason to plan your Chilean trip around this outstanding experience.

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Walking towards one of three yurts available for booking.

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There are two other yurts available.  you can see both here along with the larger one to the left of the photo which is the commons area where meals are provided (kitchen in the silver shed in back)
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Your hosts, José and Elizabeth.

 

The view from one of the yurts.

Trekking and Mustering

Can i just giggle?  will i sound like an insane person?  you’ll forgive me when you see the photos of the horse trekking our Savory Journey group took this morning at Fundo Panguilemu.  Much to Jose’s frustration, the sheep were out, but we all enjoyed mustering them back to their proper paddock — On horseback!  Have trailed cattle on foot in Kenya and Argentina, and now mustered sheep on horseback in Chile.  I am blessed.

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Getting ready to ride!
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Incredible experience and scenery horse trekking at Fundo Panguilemo.  Book ahead – this is a popular activity.
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Simpson River, Coyhaique, Chile.  Famous for outstanding trout fishing.  This long stretch is easily accessible by booking a yurt at Fundo Panguilemu.
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Our wonderful hosts serving us Pisco Sours on the banks of the Simpson River.

Savory Institute

So what is this tour i’m on?  and why?  For one, Chile and Argentina have long been on my bucket list and what better time to go than with other travelers interested in livestock, soil, grass, water, and community improvement!

Several years ago, a short sample of holistic management resources was offered at FSRC and it made some good sense, but mostly we adopted the grazing management bits which Jim Gerrish  taught and left the rest.  Oh, well, i do use the testing decisions to some extent.  My questions, however, tend to be, will it pencil?  and can a child do it?

Short history is that Stan Parsons and Allan Savory teamed up to start Ranching for Profit.  For whatever reason, they split and Stan continued Ranching for Profit (now called Ranch Management Consultants) and Allan started Holistic Management Resources (now called Holistic Management International).  then a few years back, Allan left HMI and started Savory Institute which now answers to Savory Global.

Savory Global offers journeys and this is my second, the first being the trip to Kenya.

I enjoy the camaraderie , the networking, and learning from others.  After this morning, no internet until i get back to Santiago sometime Friday night.

Cheers!

Across Country-Across the Borders

After a great supper followed by a good night’s sleep and enjoying a delicious breakfast next morning, we loaded in our vehicles and headed for the Argentinian border.  Crossing the border here is just part of the experience.  There are two windows and agents to visit with at each border with a driving space of about 7 kilometers between the two.  Getting out, showing and studying paperwork (for vehicles and people), stamping, questions, get loaded back up.  It took our small tour of about ten people, 2 hours to navigate this labyrinth.  The return was somewhat quicker – still a few bumps and luggage needed to be opened but only a cursory examination, more paperwork.  If you don’t have your paperwork in order, chances are good, you will not cross.

But the effort was worth it once we arrived at Numancia Estacion.  First greeted with open warm hospitality and then seated informally for a traditional Argentinian meal.  We did have to wait about an hour for the rain to stop before we began our now shortened farm walk.  Pablo shared details of his Hereford cattle program and Merino sheep scheme.  Then we went out to examine how his 10-year implementation of managed grazing has improved forage quality and yield.

Back to Coyhaique for supper at Hotel El Reloj (awesome) then to Raices Bed and Breakfastjust before they closed the doors for the night!  Finally to be in bed by midnight – scheduled departure is at 5:15a to meet a family business to take us to see the condors on a cliff side.

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Now this is just a fun group.  On the left front, Mimi Hillenbrand, owner of 777 Bison Ranch in South Dakota, as well as recent owner of a small property in Chili and on the right front, Elizabeth, owner of Fundo Panguilemu.  Photo taken just before supper at Cabañas El Diamante
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El Diamante’s owner (on the right) is assisting the builder with sprucing up the lovely accommodation and meals served business in Chile.  Stihl chainsaws all over the world!

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Traditionally roasted lamb.
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Our host slicing off slabs of tender juicy lamb to serve to his guests.  
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Pablo explaining his pasture improvement methods.
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Yes, we got to walk these quiet Hereford pairs into another lot.
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This and several other Merino rams being graded for quality by an inspector for a composite which tries to improve both wool and meat quality.
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And back to Chile.

 

777 Bison Ranch

So, the short story is that an awesomely talented and accomplished woman, Mimi Hillenbrand, has for some years owned and managed the 777 Bison Ranch in South Dakota in a holistic manner vis-à-vis that which is promoted by the Savory Institute or Holistic Management International.  Bison on an open ranch of thousands of acres requires a bit different approach to grazing pressure and rest to improve the soil health and forage quality/quantity.  It was very interesting to hear how she handles the animals.

These past few years, she purchased a smaller property in Chile she named 45 South to not only improve the pastures, (though using cattle this time) but also just to really enjoy the beautiful scenery and to live in a completely different culture –at least part time.

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Mimi provided hand made empanades for lunch!
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A huge tray of them!
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It will take more years, but with managed cattle impact on the land, improvement can already be measured.
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Properly managed livestock impact is critical to healing the land.