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    Harvesting Sunlight And Managing Groundcover

    I like to think of our farm as a large green biological solar collector, harvesting the energy of the sun and turning it into a living biomass of plant and animal species. For only green living plants through photosynthesis are able to capture and convert solar energy to matter upon which all biological life exists.

    To be fruitful sunlight needs to fall on green leaves, if it hits bare ground it produces nothing.

    So we need to have no bare ground and as many of these plant solar collectors as possible throughout the year to cover the ground and turn the incoming solar energy into biological energy. As land managers all else flows from this simple but profound realisation.

    Consequently we are first and foremost “grass farmers”, harvesting sunlight in our grassy woodland to drive production of plant biomass, sequestering carbon, building soils and producing high quality food from the grazers of the grass.

    In order to produce a vibrant grassland we need grazing animals, as they are the major recyclers of carbon, turning old plant material to dung and mulch, opening up the growth points of the perennial grasses to sunlight to allow them to grow and creating disturbance with their hooves thereby providing germination sites for plants. 

    All grazing though is not created equal and grazing animals can be an immensely constructive or destructive force on plants depending on the timing of grazing and the way they interact with plants and the soil.

    If they remain grazing too long in one place or return to re-graze before the plants have recovered then the plants will be overgrazed. This overgrazing depletes the grasses and impacts their ability to harvest solar energy and pump life into the landscape. If continued it will lead to their death and disappearance from the plant community which tends to simplify and become dominated by species more tolerant of the overgrazing. 

    When managing plants and animals the critical interface to observe is the condition of the soil surface and its associated ground cover. Their condition will determine how effectively the processes at the heart of this biological system function. These processes cover how well water and minerals cycle, how the energy flows in the system (for instance is the sunlight captured by green leaves or lost on bare soil) and whether the whole community of plant and animal species is moving towards complexity and stability or simplicity and instability?For the plants on our farm not only have to feed our livestock, they also have to feed the soil and its future. They provide the carbon that soil life will convert and sequester to humus, the litter and mulch that reduces water runoff and evaporation and the minerals in a form that won’t readily leach so fertility is maintained.

    Everyday we manage our animals with these things in mind, so they can not only harvest their own food and thrive but also be the predominant tool we use to influence the plants and ground cover in our grassy woodland so it will thrive and harvest more life giving sunlight.

    Summer Newsletter

    With the onrush of Christmas and the last few markets of the year to manage it is clear another year is about done. 

    2017 has been an interesting year, with great variability in both weather, people and projects and a  salutary reminder that change is a constant. Nothing sits still. From the deluge of rain during winter/spring 2016, when the farm looked at times like a rice paddy, 2017 flipped and then entered a long extended drying out period reinforced by one of the driest and frostiest winters we have seen. It was looking like summer was to arrive early and all growth would be gone by early October. 

    We were beginning to batten down the hatches in expectation of extended low rainfall, selling off excess cattle early and reducing our grazing numbers. And then the rain returned, the grass responded and early summer turned into spring. Which is a beautiful reminder how in farming we dance to the elements and they circumscribe all we do.

    2017 also saw some long planned projects come to fruition.

    Due to the increasing and sustained pressure of kangaroos from neighbouring land we made the reluctant decision to erect a solar powered electric fence on our northern boundary to help us manage the kangaroo numbers and their grazing pressure. This has proved to be successful, in the sense that it has allowed us to reduce the overgrazing that was occuring and to restore ground cover. The broader issue of kangaroos and their place in rural landscapes that are largely dysfunctional ecologies has of course not been resolved. Our society still has a long way to go on this issue.

    On the marketing front 2017 has seen the redevelopment of our branding from our logo to the new website. This is all aimed at making contact with Boxgum Grazing easier for our customers and heralds a new direction in our marketing which will be further developed in 2018 to include an online shop platform. We are excited by the possibilities.

    Lastly we would like to thank all our customers whose support makes it possible for us to do what we do here at Boxgum Grazing. Without you our vision of a regenerative agriculture & consumer alliance would not exist.