The Disturbing Life of A Grass Farmer.

Ashley Browning

Ashley Browning › Born in Atlanta, GA in 1981, Ashley Browning was raised as a city girl with a love ...

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I never thought I’d be so enamored with grass. I grew up in the South, where our lawns were manicured and sprayed and sod was laid. The lawn care business was booming under a blanket of southern heat.

There was a whole system and business dedicated to keeping the fields I kicked a ball on, in tip top shape. The only thing that saw the tops of that sod was the tooth of a lawn mower, a molecule of Round Up, the leather patch of a soccer ball, and the sole of a kangaroo leather cleat.

Today the grass I look after never sees a lawn mower or one molecule of herbicide. It looks into the mouth of a ruminant, the front of a pig plow, the beak of a chicken, and the hoof of a cow.

And so the grass and soil is tended to, in the way Nature intended it to be. By animals who turn grass into milk, eggs and meat, and roots into porkloin.

For what seems like eternity, animals have roamed the Earth in large herds eating grass. And then leaving it, followed by flocks of birds who eat the parasites left behind by the large animals. And so the grass was beautiful and tall and there was 10 feet of topsoil.

Enter humans, oil, the Industrial Revolution, housing booms, confined animal operations, horses, and humans again. The large animal herds disappeared and were forced out of their own native environments. Left to pick and choose where they can. The predators who hunted them and “mobbed” them together were hunted and killed. The cycle was interrupted.

Enter the grass farmer. The one who looks to the seasons, the ebbs and flows of nature, and now herds of domestic animals to return the soil to its natural, healthy state. Instead of predators we use electric fencing to “mob” them.

Take care of the grass and in return it will take care of us.

I’d never considered myself a grass farmer. Isn’t that someone who grows sod and sells it to soccer and homeowners associations? Not likely.

The grass farmer is one who uses animals to fix a broken Earth. One who knows that in order to grow the grass we need to encourage the root system to expand and disturb the resting seed. A seed can sit for 10 years, dormant, if left undisturbed. But put some cows and then chickens on it, and suddenly it is brought to life again.

We recently placed our pigs in an area overgrown with willows and roses. So thick you couldn’t even sit down underneath them. There was a little grass, but not much. What was there was gone in 2 hours. After rotating them off that section, the grass grew back twice as thick in 7 days. Twice as thick. Disturbance.

And so our days are spent rotating cows, chickens, and pigs onto grass. I mean yes, we are growing meat, milk and eggs. But really, the basis and what it boils down to is grass. Without grass, there will be no milk. Without bees, there will be no fruit or vegetables. And without that, there will be no us.

We have come so far from nature, that we now have to mimic nature in order to return to a more natural state.

Take care of the grass and in return it will take care of us.

This post originally appeared on Ashley Browning’s blog, The Browning Homestead. We have reproduced here with her kind permission. You can read her post in its entirety right here. Thanks, Ashley.

Have you given much thought to what grass does for you, either directly or indirectly?

Photo credit: Ashley and Shannon Browning