Gabe Brown, along with his wife, Shelly, and their son, Paul, farm over 5,000 acres near Bismarck, North Dakota. Intent on emulating nature, their innovative farming practices have resulted in corn yields that are 25% above the county average. During drought years while their neighboring conventional farmers face a disastrous lack of hay, the Brown’s hay harvest illustrates the benefits of their regenerative agricultural practices.
Their diversified farming operation includes livestock, cash crops (including spring wheat, winter triticale, oats, corn, sunflowers, grain and forage peas, hairy vetch and alfalfa), and cocktails of cover crops that keep the ground covered as long as possible in their brutal North Dakota weather.
Formally a conventional farmer, Gabe Brown uses no synthetic fertilizers, fungicides, or pesticides on his ranch. Plus they use no GMO’s. He is working toward eliminating his occasional use of herbicides. His attention is focused on improving the soil and working with nature’s cycles to maximize quality of life on the ranch–for the animals, for the plants, for the soil microbes, and for the Brown family. For instance, by shifting their calving from winter to spring, the herd is healthier and the farm work is less nerve-wracking and more relaxed.
They have practiced no-till farming since 1993 and consider no-till methods a key component for soil improvement and soil protection. Great soil makes for nutrient rich forage, which affects the health of the herd and the quality of the meat/eggs that are harvested for consumption. The Brown’s extreme attention to detail contributes to their success. Fenced areas for animal forage are often moved once or twice daily and foraged areas are monitored for a harmonious balance of needs–food, weed control, family vacations, etc.
“Our goal is to have a living root in the ground as long as possible feeding that soil biology!”
From SARE:sustainable agriculture research and education. “Gabe Brown is one of the pioneers of the current soil health movement that focuses on regenerating our resources. Gabe, along with his wife, Shelly, and son, Paul, own and operate a diversified 5,000-acre farm and ranch near Bismarck, N.D. Their operation focuses on farming and ranching in nature’s image. The Browns holistically integrate their grazing and no-till cropping system, which includes a wide variety of cash crops along with multi-species cover crops and all-natural, grass-fed beef, poultry and sheep. This diversity and integration has regenerated the natural resources on the ranch without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or fungicides. Over 2,000 people visit the Brown’s ranch annually to see this unique operation for themselves. They have had visitors from all 50 states and 16 foreign countries.”
It is fascinating to hear how Gabe Brown’s holistic land management has resulted in dramatically improved conditions all around – for the animals, for the cash crops, for the soil, and for the farm family. Check out this short video by SARE featuring Gabe Brown. According to SARE, Brown’s Ranch has over 2000 visitors annually – including visitors from all 50 states and 16 foreign countries.
Learn from Gabe Brown in person: At the Organic Growers School Spring Conference 2017, Gabe Brown will teach a Full Day Pre-Conference Workshop on Friday, March 10 entitled “Treating the Farm as an Ecosystem”. On Saturday, March 11, Gabe will present a keynote talk “Holistic Regeneration of Our Land – A Producers Perspective”. He will also teach two conference classes – “Animal Integration with Gabe Brown” and “5 keys to Building Healthy Soil with Gabe Brown”. Sign up to attend!
Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, gardener, and local food advocate. She serves on the Organic Growers School Board of Directors as Vice President. In her job at Reems Creek Nursery, Ruth offers advice on all sorts of gardening questions, and benefits daily from the wisdom of local gardeners.
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Author: Ruth Gonzalez
Ruth Gonzalez is a former market farmer, gardener, and local food advocate who wants to see organic farms proliferate and organic gardens in every yard. She serves on the Organic Growers School Board of Directors, and in her job at Reems Creek Nursery, Ruth offers advice on all sorts of gardening questions, and benefits daily from the wisdom of local gardeners.