Benefits of Using the Polyface Farm Model in Central Texas
Organic Red Hard Wheat growing in our largest garden bed and planted as the first crop to build the soil! We purchased this seed from Thayer Feed and Seed LLC at the Mother Earth News Fair in Kansas 2014.
There are many benefits to the Polyface Farm model. Joel Salatin isn’t caught up in labels but believes in the essence of husbandry practices and stewardship (Salatin, A New Old-Fashioned Food System 2015). His model aides the local community with access to affordable food and he shares his knowledge with those willing to learn how to incorporate biodiversity while turning a profit. Central Texas is a difficult region to be a “grass farmer.” Land varies depending on the ecoregion and is a mix of rocky cavernous ridges, limestone, savannah, piney woods, and blackland prairies (Library of the University of Texas n.d.). Drought and a hot climate bring about other challenges that Salatin doesn’t necessarily face in Virginia.
Salatin claims that his beef is “salad bar beef” because of the variety of leafy greens that are found in his fields (Salatin 2014). So every day he provides a different polyculture, diversified, paddock for nutrition which consists of dandelions, Kentucky blue grass, onion, narrow leaf plantain, wide leaf plantain, orchard grass, fescue, red clover, white clover, and buttercup (Salatin 2014). Although our region has the capacity to produce a variety of forage crops, different seasons really dictate what is grown but rebuilding the soil is a necessity.
Native grass seed by Native American Seed company would be introduced to the grazing system because it’s what the buffalo used to forage, is extremely hardy, requires minimal watering and does well in Central Texas. We have access to organic feed from a local mill just a few miles away so it is ethically important we purchase soybean free, Non GMO feed from Coyote Creek as the most sustainable option. However gleaning food from other farmers and businesses is another great sustainable feed source that works well in a zero waste system.
A mixed farming system is sustainable as long as the number of animals and crops produced stays in balance with nature and production demands. A grazing pasture management system must be in place on any farm with livestock. Efficiently maintaining a sustainable pasture requires incorporating the forage-producing capacity and stocking rate to achieve the target level of animal performance over time without causing deterioration of the pasture’s ecosystem (David L. Greene 2002, 1).
Salatin grows on a large scale farming system and a smaller scale farm could; be more attainable; require less labor input; be more manageable; be financially feasible and sustainable. I also believe that food crops should be integrated in order to be more self sufficient. Salatin raises beef, chicken broiler meat, chicken eggs, rabbits, and pigs on between 100-500 acres (Pollan, Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm 2006). By reducing farm scale to accommodate smaller percentages of livestock while encouraging heritage breed diversification is imperative to the preservation of endangered species. In my experience, raising heritage breed chickens in Central Texas creates more resilient food systems. Reducing farm size would allow the farmer to have a better quality of life. (Pollan, Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm 2006). There is a demand for access to healthy and affordable food in Central Texas as well as markets to sell value added products through CSA, farmers markets, and restaurants (Austin Energy Depletion Risks Task Force, Roger Duncan 2009).
Austin needs to minimize food security issues in order to be more sustainable but Austin only represents a fraction of Central Texas. Having access to a farm store and being able to visit the farm to understand where your food comes from plays a crucial role in establishing a better food system. Building a farm brand using a sustainable whole farm model will encourage community members to become a part of the food movement. Educational opportunities aid in the development of future farmers which is essential to making our bioregion more sustainable.
“When we say we are grass farmers, what we’re saying is we are honoring and producing the most historically normal, carbon cycle, nutritive cycle, energy cycle that is solar driven in real time and actually builds soil like nature has done forever (Salatin, Episode 516 – Polyface Farm 2014).”
Austin Energy Depletion Risks Task Force, Roger Duncan. The City of Austin. Austin Energy Depletion Risks Task Force Report, Austin: Austin Energy, 2009.
David L. Greene, Stanley W. Fultz. “Understanding Pasture Stocking rate and Carrying Capacity.” Fact Sheet 788. College Park: Maryland Cooperative Extension University of Maryland, 2002.
Library of the University of Texas. Figure 1. Balcones Escarpment Area, Central Texas. Austin.
Pollan, Michael. “Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex.” The New York Times Archives. May 13, 2001. http://www.nytimes.com/2001/05/13/magazine/13ORGANIC.html?pagewanted=all (accessed October 19, 2014).
–. “Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm.” Strategies for Sustainable Agriculture: Rotational Grazing. Compiled by Rooy Media LLC. November 29, 2006.
Salatin, Joel. Episode 516 – Polyface Farm Growing a Greener World TV, (October 23, 2014).
–. “A New Old-Fashioned Food System.” Mother Earth News, January 2015: 67-69.