Reimaging Midwestern agriculture

The latest news from the Grassland 2.0 team on grassland-based agriculture and sustainable agriculture.

Reimaging Midwestern agriculture

What if we could reshape our food and agriculture system so that, in addition to tasty, nutritious food, it could produce healthy, resilient soils, clean air and water, biodiversity, stable incomes for farmers, and support vibrant rural communities? About half of the land in the U.S. is farmed. This land–this soil–is our nation’s most substantial and important natural resource. It is what we live on, both literally and figuratively. It can–and should–provide more than cheap food, livestock feed and ethanol.

The grass-fed market is more than just selling beef and milk

Throughout the month of February and March GrassWorks hosted a number of virtual grazing events including a recent webinar led by two members of the Grassland 2.0 team — David LeZaks from Croatan Institute, and Sarah Lloyd from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota. The duo, both of whom work on the Grassland 2.0 supply chain team, led an engaging conversation about the current momentum and challenges facing grassland agriculture.

New Midwest Grazing Exchange connects livestock farmers with landowners in six states across the region

The new Midwest Grazing Exchange website aims to connect livestock farmers with landowners – it’s like Tinder for cows!

From creating opportunities for beginning farmers, to improving the soil, to helping make cover crops profitable, livestock are often a missing piece in Midwestern agricultural systems, where the grazing of vast herds of bison and elk were vital parts of the historical ecosystem.

10 reasons why all farmers should raise livestock

Written by Laura Paine. A version of this article appeared in PD Extra, Progressive Dairyman and In Practice Magazine.

Aldo Leopold is one of my favorite ecological thinkers. Leopold was an internationally recognized ecologist and conservationist who lived and worked all over the world, but whose work was particularly inspired by the landscape of the farm he owned along the Wisconsin River. Although I grew up in the corn country of central Illinois, I was drawn as a young adult to this landscape and have made Wisconsin my home for going on 40 years.

Positioning agriculture for resilience in a post-pandemic Wisconsin

This piece was written by Grassland 2.0 members Randy Jackson and Laura Paine and was recently published in WisPolitics.

In the depths of winter, we all dream of summer pleasures–this year more than ever! Ours is sitting down with friends to a grass-fed burger hot off the grill, topped with a slab of Wisconsin cheese and washed down with a cold Wisconsin beer. The pandemic has made clear that many of the things we love about Wisconsin can be lost if we don’t make some changes…

Farm worker Edgar Navarro shares about his experience with grazing

One year ago, in January 2020, a group of Grassland 2.0 grad students launched the Grazing Oral History Initiative. They were motivated by a desire to collect stories from the farthest corners of the grazing movement. And, although the pandemic threw a major wrench in their plans, the group was still able to conduct more than 20 interviews—mostly over the phone and Zoom. These interviews have become an important part of the information gathering process for the Grassland 2.0 team, revealing many issues and challenges that graziers and grazing-aligned folks are up against today.

Growing grassland agriculture: New project devoted to expanding opportunities to graze cattle

This story was written by Stacy Smart and was originally published on Dairy Star. It has been republished here.

For grass-based dairy farmer Scott Mericka, grazing is the ideal way to farm. Mericka keeps his 200 cows on pasture year-round, letting them graze 250 days a year starting mid- to late-April on a cereal rye cover crop until early or mid-December eating stockpiled pasture as well as oat, pea, forage, kale and swedes on his dairy near Dodgeville.

“Grazing is an enjoyable and profitable way of farming that rewards you with a high quality of life and less stress,” Mericka said. “If your goal is to have a business that is environmentally and economically sustainable, and you’d like to bring your kids into it someday, then grazing is the way to go.” Wanting to share what he has learned, Mericka joined Grassland 2.0, a new project seeking to foster the growth of grassland agriculture in the upper Midwest.

Farmers, researchers form Grassland 2.0 to expand beneficial grassland agriculture

This article was written by Grassland 2.0 members Anne Nardi, Jacob Grace and Laura Paine. It was original published in the Organic Broadcaster and has been republished here.

What will it take to make a large-scale shift to perennial grazing systems in the Midwest? Grassland 2.0, a newly formed collaboration based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, aims to find out. The group is bringing together farmers, researchers, state and local agency staff, milk and meat processors, and citizen groups to seek transformative solutions to the social, economic, and environmental challenges facing Midwest food and farming systems. According to the team, the foundation of sustainable landscapes is grasslands. “We’re going to need farming practices that simultaneously produce healthy food, support thriving communities, and restore ecosystem processes. Grazed perennial grasslands do that,” said Randy Jackson, a UW-Madison researcher who leads the project.

Grassland 2.0 team helped connect art, culture, and the land at the Farm/Art DTour

This past summer the Grassland 2.0 team collaborated with the Wormfarm Institute on their 8th Biennial Farm/Art DTour. The event is a self-guided tour of rural arts and culture through the scenic working farmland of Sauk County, Wisconsin. This year’s event featured a tour through southern Sauk County with trailheads in Plain and Sauk City and a stop at Troy Farm Madison.

Grassland 2.0 podcast features the stories of graziers and grazing practitioners from across the state

We are excited to announce that Grassland 2.0 has a podcast; it’s called GrassCast! You can find it on Apple Podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts, or at

The podcast features a series of narrative accounts from producers and other grazing practitioners based on interviews conducted by Grassland 2.0 graduate students. Each episode is 20 minutes long and focused on a different theme, including: the social dynamics of grazing, farm labor in grassland-based systems, and intergenerational transitions of long-held family land—just to name a few! Episodes will be released monthly and are currently focusing on grazing leaders from across Wisconsin.