Re-Defining our Places Through Learning Hubs

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

Re-Defining our Places Through Learning Hubs

If improving biodiversity, water quality, and soil health are goals shared by so many, and we know about potential solutions, why aren’t these solutions being more aggressively pursued? Reshaping agriculture in ways that provide a spectrum of ecosystem services can feel daunting. The socially defined context in which farming decisions are made impedes transitions to more regenerative forms of agriculture (Stuart & Houser, 2018). For meaningful changes to occur in our agricultural systems, we need to reshape the way we have socially, politically, economically, and biophysically constructed the places where we grow and consume food (Vogeler, 2019). 

Thinking as a Community

Grassland 2.0’s Summer Meeting Recap By Greta Landis “Until we build visions and models for the future, we won’t know where we are going, or how to chart our course to get there,” said Randy Jackson, one of the principal investigators of Grassland 2.0. A barn full of 50 farmers, researchers, and conservation and policy […]

Dairy Needs Real Innovation

William D. Hoard’s enlightened understanding of the importance of livestock to soil health, coupled with his courageous advocacy work, helped pull Wisconsin agriculture from the depths of despairing wheat production in the late 19th century. When year after year of wheat production led to devastating disease pressure, he opened a door to unimagined prosperity. Hoard ignited the concept of America’s Dairyland by understanding the importance of diversified cropping to break disease cycles, the role of livestock in recycling nutrients, and the importance of peer-to-peer education to making change.
Hoard’s lore, captured in the booklet “Hilltop Decision,” speaks of how Governor Hoard saw “good farmers” exiting the industry all around him, and he realized the importance of education and technical support to maintain families on the land. We might call his work agricultural innovation because he transformed the industry. That is, Wisconsin agriculture was never the same, and that was a good thing . . . “back in the day.”

Back to his grassroots: Jacob Marty returns to family land with new vision for agriculture

As a dairy farm kid from southwest Wisconsin, Jacob Marty had no desire to return to his family’s farm. He was set on attending UW-Stevens Point and pursuing a career in conservation. Studying wildlife ecology pointed him in an unexpected direction, however: back to the farm.

“I got interested in how we can harmonize food production while also providing habitat for wildlife,” says Jacob. “That led me down this road.”

Watch Jacob Marty share why he had a change of heart, all while fending off an overzealous ram!

The Spring Digital Dialogue Series wraps up with four great presentations

And that is a wrap! This semester’s Digital Dialogue Series brought together over 700 participants to learn about the levers of change needed to bring about a transformational change to our agricultural system. This semester’s series featured four great speakers who discussed policy, populations dynamics and it’s impact on agriculture, watershed adaptive management, examples of innovative partnerships looking to create change, and the interplay of environmental laws and agriculture.

New tool helps dairy farmers explore the economics of grazing dairy heifers

To graze or not to graze? The newly debuted Heifer Grazing Compass is a spreadsheet tool designed to help farmers predict and understand the cash flow and long-term financial outcomes of deciding to raise heifers on pasture. Developed by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems of CIAS and Grassland 2.0, the Heifer Grazing Compass compares the total economic implications of a farmer’s existing system with a potential pasture-based heifer raising system.

Cattle and Brookies: Making Modern Agriculture and Trout Habitat in Wisconsin

Some 10,000 years ago, glaciers from the last Ice Age were retreating from the Upper Midwest. While much of Wisconsin was scraped into the rolling landscape that is representative of much of the state, a roughly 24,000 square mile piece of land at the intersection of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa, was left untouched by continental glaciers. Broad ridge tops with shallow soil, river-formed valleys, and steep, craggy ravines make the Driftless area a geological anomaly. For millennia, this was a fertile Brook Trout habitat but in an evolutionary blink of an eye, these waters became threatened by modern agriculture. Across this region of sandstone and dolomitic limestone bedrock, there is more than 6,000 miles of trout water, with about 1300 miles of public access. But the health of these waters continue to compete with agriculture to survive. 

U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard incentivizes land use change with environmental consequences

In order to address global climate change, the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) aims to increase the use of biofuel in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to a new study by Tyler Lark of UW-Madison and co-authors, including several members of Grassland 2.0, the RFS may have missed the mark in reducing emissions – in fact, the greenhouse gases produced consequentially negate any advantages of corn ethanol over gasoline. Why? The RFS policy makers did not predict the full-scale impacts of the land use change that would result from its implementation – mainly more corn and less pasture.

Creating a grazing movement in Sauk County

Serge Koenig has been serving Sauk County, Wisconsin as a county conservationist for the past 27 years. So, needless to say – he knows the community well. During his tenure he has helped a lot of farmers get back in touch with nature and rediscover why they farm. Koenig’s journey in conservation started in Madagascar where he grew up, where he says he basically lived outside.

GrassWorks: A place where working dogs (and their humans) belong

Exactly when dogs and humans started hanging around together is a matter of debate, but it’s been a good long time. Scientists suggest that ancestral wolves were likely the first animals to be domesticated by early humans, some 10,000 to 30,000 years ago. And what was those first dogs’ primary job? Herding! On grasslands around the world, wild ruminants were a food source for humans and wolves. As hunting partners, ancestral wolf-dogs’ herding abilities and hunter-gatherers’ hunting tools and skills benefited both. Domestication of ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) came later with the help of those same herding dogs.