Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Grass farming

I’ve never heard of grass farming. From the sound of it, I would assume that it has something to do with people raising different types of grass for the spectacles of the American Dream in having a lush and uniformed green lawn, one that might looks like this:

But I was wrong.

Grass farming is the complex process of allowing animal grazing cycles to control and maximize grass’s natural ability to convert solar energy into consumable protein in the form of livestock. This process also allows a natural enrichment of the soil to occur and helps develop a healthy biodiversity that offers our livestock natural antibiotics and other nutrients. Their corn-fed counterparts, as you may have already suspected, depend on the mass amount of synthetic drugs to accomplish this very task. If you want to know more, I suggest you read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

All the complexity aside, what I found fascinating is that grass, through its photosynthetic activities, also can help remove the excess carbon we pump into the air. While there are serious, as well as ludicrous, debates about the effects of global warming and the contributing effects of GHG, I can’t help but take note of an interesting observation Pollan has made in his book:

"[I]f the sixteen million acres now being used to grow corn to feed cows in the United States became well-managed pasture, that would remove fourteen billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road. We seldom focus on farming's role in global warming, but as much as a third of all greenhouse gases that human activity has added to the atmosphere can be attributed to the saw and the plow."

This reminded me that for a brief period last year I employed the services of a local lawn care company to come in and aerate my lawn, put down artificial nutrients – some sort of combined nitrogen formula, and spread weed control chemicals to kill of the native grasses in my yard. All of this to mimic the nature as it is intended. After hearing in horror, however, that we ought to keep our dog and (if we have any) small children off the grass for at least 48 hours after the application of chemicals, Lauren and I weighted our options and decided to cancel our services and keep our lawn chemical/hazard free.

While it is impractical for me to practice grass farming on my small urban lot, it may be possible to open my lawn for access to those who are raising a goat or two in the city to come in and graze periodically? And if there are enough people doing this sort of urban grass farming, would it change the world just enough to make it worth our while?

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