At the 25th Annual OGS Spring Conference
Organic Growers School welcomes three pre-conference, special guest speakers to its 25th Annual Spring Conference that exemplify the range of opportunities available to those interested in the organic growing movement. On the ground level, Shawn and Beth Dougherty share their story of growing their farm from a less than desirable piece of land to a thriving, no-input organic farm.
Shawn and Beth Dougherty each grew-up in farming families. So they were aware of the time and effort required to work the land and live a simple life on their farm in Ohio. They did not start-out with a focus on growing organic or sustainably, but grew into their current practices over the years.
The journey towards a closed-system farm came when they purchased their first cow and were introduced to intensive rotational grazing. When well managed, they learned that a “multi-species” farm that includes ruminants (cows in this case), pigs and chickens, allows the nutrient cycle – sunlight feeding pasture grass that’s eaten and eliminated by animals – to run full circle. This process naturally regenerates the soil that then produces food for all on the farm – human and livestock. Their advice to someone wanting to farm in this way: have patience, raise only what the land can sustain internally at the moment and be willing to listen to the land and change accordingly. The farm informs the farmer, not the other way around.
They are very excited about their pre-conference workshop on Friday. It’s not often they have an entire day with the same group of people to discuss “whole farm management,” meaning inputs and resources are not imported from the outside. Instead, the farmer manages, to their fullest potential, those inputs and resources already present in nature and on the farm: sunlight, water, the nutrient cycle, etc.
Their full day workshop takes place on March 9, 2017 and is called “The Independent Farmstead–Smart, Savvy, Scalable Land Stewardship” with Beth & Shawn Dougherty.
The workshop Description: In our lifetimes, we’ve seen significant decline in the home-grown American food community. How did farm families in the past provide nearly all their food needs directly from the farm? And how can we get there again? This full-day workshop, with Independent Farmstead authors Beth & Shawn Dougherty, is designed for the forage-based, family-scale, food producer hoping to create a secure, productive food system on small acreage. Sky-high land costs, lack of capital, and limited farming experience need not be obstacles for those who wish to build an abundant, fertile, independent cottage farm. The keys to success involve grass-fed ruminants and multi-species farming as cornerstones of the management plan coupled with a four-season gardening and garden-raised roots and grains for animal feed. Milk from a moderate-production dairy cow provides the high-quality proteins for beef steers, pigs, chickens, with whey to fertilize the garden and heat up the compost pile, as well as milk, butter, cheese, and cream for home consumption. This small-scale, dairy-centered farm sustained the majority of the world for centuries and can do so again, especially in Appalachia. This model of self-sufficiency transforms the farmer from a purveyor of purchased grains to an ecologist who orchestrates the farm’s resources. By using intensive grass management, captured water systems, home dairying, four-season gardening for food and forage, and whole-farm “no-waste” composting, homesteaders can grow food, fertility and a future on most pieces of land.
Beth and Shawn Dougherty have been farming together for over thirty years, the last twenty in eastern Ohio on their home farm, the Sow’s Ear, where they and their children raise grass, dairy and beef cows, sheep, pigs, and poultry. They identify intensive grass management as the point of union between good stewardship and good food. Their ongoing goal is to rediscover the methods and means by which a small parcel of land, carefully husbanded with the application of ruminants, pigs, and poultry, can be made to gain fertility and resilience while feeding the animals and humans living on it. Beth and Shawn are the authors of The Independent Farmstead, Growing Soil, Biodiversity, and Nutrient-Dense Food with Grassfed Animals and Intensive Pasture Management, published by Chelsea Green.
You can also visit their blog, https://onecowrevolution.wordpress.com/, or read their book, The Independent Farmstead published by Chelsea Green Publishing.
Jennie Ashlock lives in Sylva and works at Southwestern Community College. Her background is in education and religion. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering with the Jackson Farmers Market, gardening and exploring western North Carolina’s rich cultural and natural heritage.