In agriculture, the term holistic is used to refer to a management system developed by Allan Savory in his book, Holistic Management. This approach is designed to restore degraded grasslands using a method that integrates economic, social, and environmental variables (particularly movements of grazing livestock) into land management.
A 2013 TEDTalk by Allan Savory spread his research faster than the 60 years he spent promoting it himself.
We farm along these lines with the questions in mind, “Does this benefit the soil?” Does this benefit the animals? Does this benefit our neighbors? Does this benefit us?
Does This Benefit The Soil?
Soil health determines the health of every other living thing. We all eat something tied to the soil. Whether we eat salads that derived nutrients from the soil or we eat the beef, that ate the grass that derived nutrients from the soil, it all boils down to soil health. The healthier the soil, the healthier our food.
Superphosphate fertilizers consume 100% of copper and vitamin A which destroys the microbiology in the soil, including the mycorrhizae fungi. By using synthetic fertilizers, the soil dies and plants are deficient in nutrients. That directly affects the health of our animals and, further, our health.
If we cannot answer with a resounding, “Yes!” that something benefits the soil, then we will not use it.
Does This Benefit The Animals?
The health of our animals directly affects the health of the soil and people both directly and indirectly.
If we keep our livestock in Concentrated Animal Feed Operations (CAFOs), then our animals health begins to suffer as they are denied fresh air, room to walk, and healthy pasture. Due to stress and concentrated manure build up, the animals get sick from ammonia stench and fecal fog. Flies increase and lay their eggs in any open wound for their maggots to feed on the flesh of a living animal, literally eating them alive (called flystrike).
In CAFOs, routine antibiotics given to sick animals remain in the manure. The symbiotic nature of bacteria thrives in healthy soil. However, by design, antibiotics destroy bacteria. The very act of attempting to keep an animal “healthy” through antibiotics by default destroys soil health.
If one has used synthetic fertilizers and superphosphates, then nutrients in the soil are tied up and unavailable to plants and therefore animals as well. Mineral deficiencies lead to parasite overloads and other illnesses.
Various parasite overloads prompt well-meaning farmers to dose with dewormers. Likewise, by design, the dewormers that destroy the intestinal parasites kill the beneficial dung beetles as well. The dung beetle is responsible for burying millions of pounds of manure each year. Without the dung beetle, because the dewormer killed it, manure sits on the soil’s surface to putrefy the air and deprive the soil of nutrients in the manure.
Further, instead of treating the soil and mineral deficiencies, well-meaning farming turn to vaccinations to “cure” their animals of diseases such as Johnne’s disease, enterotoxemia, tetanus, or caseous lymphadenitis. Vaccinations only make animals sicker leading to worse outcomes such as cancer.
In the industrial food system, no one has a problem feeding sick cancerous animals to the American public.
This leads to the next question.
Does This Benefit Our Neighbors?
Vehicle pollution does not compare to the stench of chicken houses that burns your nostrils and harms your lungs.
Destroying the soil health harms the ability of future generations to produce their own food.
Feeding sick animals to our neighbors cannot be good for them.
Further, we risk a good relationship with our neighbor if spraying chemicals hurts their crops or if our animals are always getting out causing an accident in the road.
Does This Benefit Us?
The health of the soil, affecting the health of the plants, affecting the health animals, affects our health. How can we be truly nourished if we are eating sick animals fed from depleted soils? We can’t! We get better health from healthy animals.
From a financial standpoint, it is cheaper to buy minerals than pay for vaccines, dewormers, antibiotics, and veterinary bills. Further, we will have less illnesses as well, meaning less medications and less doctor visits.