WFCF CARE : Environmental Stewardship

Our planet, and each of our environments evolve over time.  While farmers and ranches take from the ground, they are also very cognizant to give back to it.  It’s like a work of art, or science, in a sense.  Something that grows into something greater than when you started. With every proverbial brush stroke something new is created, that is greater, more detailed and more thoughtful than what was there when the artist began.  Here at Where Food Comes From, you could say we support our own type of art, and science – food production.  So, this week we continue our look into the Where Food Comes From CARE sustainability standard by discussing the second pillar of CARE: Environmental Stewardship.

Last week, we looked a little deeper into Animal Husbandry, the first pillar in our CARE standard. However, the health and conditions the animals are raised in isn’t the only important aspect of food production, and you – consumers – are looking for more from the food you eat. This is why the second pillar of CARE is Environmental Stewardship.

According to the latest census, consumers are three, sometimes four, generations removed from food production.  So, it’s easy for consumers to have a hard time understanding what goes into the job that farmers and ranchers hold so much passion for.  It’s a science.  Literally.  Producers must understand their soil and water health for their animals, but also to keep their land improving, and they’re eager to keep learning!  Alexis Budde, a WFCF Customer Verification Specialist (CVS) Regional Manager, says most of her producers attend seminars or events on a regular basis to ensure they are learning as much as they can to improve their environments as well as their operations.

One way that farmers and ranchers exercise environmental stewardship is by continuously trying to decrease their carbon footprint.  They all have some sort of grazing management plan in place.  Rotational grazing, which means they move their cattle from pasture to pasture to ensure it doesn’t get overused, is a very common practice.  “But, grazing management is more complex than just cattle rotations.  It includes diversity of vegetation, understanding how rotations affect not just the quantity of pasture grasses but also the quality, controlling erosion and weeds to improve grass diversity.  Most of these grazing plans also include plans for increasing wildlife presence for biodiversity. “ says Kelly Crymble, a CVS Regional Manager for WFCF.

The processes they develop turn into long-term strategies that they use as continuous improvement goals on their operation.  However, the farmers and ranchers that we partner with don’t just stick to the norm, they go outside the box by pushing the standards related to sustainability.  In fact, last week, one rancher told us he uses a drone to check his water sources across 30,000 acres instead of driving so he can reduce emissions!  And, many, many producers have moved to solar and wind power to run their wells for water as well.  They all say they choose efficient vehicles or equipment based on the specific task they are doing.  They do this not only to reserve energy sources, but to lesson the impact on their environments.

WFCF CARE ranchers truly believe that in order to provide a better product and to not only leave the land the way they left it, but leave it better, that they “have to do more with less.”

Waste is another concern when it comes to being good stewards of the land our farmers and ranchers cultivate.  Think about the amount of trash you personally produce; you’ve probably found ways to reduce it through recycling and purchasing items that can be reused.  Farmers and ranchers who CARE are finding ways to manage and optimize their waste.  On a farm you can reduce waste in several ways; by using specialized water filtration, reducing runoff, and utilizing manure as a natural fertilization.

At the end of the day, farmers and ranchers that have made it their livelihood to produce your food try each and every day to take care of the land.   They understand that without the land, they can’t do what they love and you wouldn’t have food on your table.  The land will remain long after we are gone, but it’s important that we are leaving it in the best possible shape for future generations.  CARE helps farmers and ranchers communicate with consumers that the products with the CARE seal are doing what they can to give back.

Learn more about CARE by visiting our website, you’ll even find a few of the ranches that sell their beef (more coming soon!) direct-to-consumer as well as catch some of the Storybit videos we have featured this year.  Tune in for next week’s blog as we introduce you to our third and final pillar of CARE: People & Community.

 

Pictures featured: 
Five Dot Ranch (2) and (3)
Eagle Rock Ranch (1) and (4)
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