Community Agriculture Alliance: Micro loan benefits local ag producer
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
In December 2019, Community Agriculture Alliance launched a new micro loan program to help support local ag producers. The program was funded by an initial generous donor with a $10,000 investment contribution to establish the revolving loan fund. A committee of CAA board members accepts and reviews applications with a goal of providing short-term, flexible micro loans for local agriculture. As loans are repaid, new loans will be accepted.
M&M Custom Grazing, a cattle grazing operation in North Routt County, was one of the first recipients of a CAA micro loan. They are taking a holistic and science-based approach to animal impact, photosynthesis and resiliency. The goal is to maintain a symbiotic relationship between the grass ecosystems and herbivores/cattle. Ultimately, this connects back to the soil, which breeds life for the working landscape and the animals.
Effective strengthening of plant root systems buffer against drought stress and topsoil creation work to increase soil fertility and production. Pasture-based agriculture provides high quality, healthy and low input local food. The goal is to help build a strong, resilient local food system that brings positive environmental outcomes.
The animal impact of these grazing practices is numerous. Appropriately managed herds of ruminatory animals contribute a vast array of positive and essential land impacts such as:
• Stimulating root growth, enhancing photosynthesis and carbon sequestration
• Depositing natural fertilizer; trampling vegetation, promoting decomposition, while providing ground cover for moisture retention and topsoil creation
• Removing fire hazards
• Breaking up soil crust through hoof action, which improves water permeation and reduces erosion
Since the animals depend solely on the land for nutrition, nothing is more important than photosynthesis. Through photosynthesis, plants remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it into the soil. Plants are essentially solar panels that harvest sunlight, convert the energy into a product for the cattle to ingest, build topsoil and strengthen root systems.
M&M Custom Grazing’s management practices bring together the welfare of the animal and all that the natural environment has to offer. They utilize portable electric fences to rotate their cattle often. Moving the animals frequently has a myriad of benefits for the land and the finished meat product. By keeping the animals in a small area for a short time, they expose the land to the positive impacts of grazing animals and stimulate the cattle’s appetite. Once the animals are moved, it allows for the crucial rest period of the land required to promote regeneration.
This dedication to both animal and land management brings benefits to the environment, animals and product. While this small-scale agriculture may be time consuming, it is a win-win-win.
As global food systems have ongoing disruptions, it is a critical time to learn more about where your food comes from. Understanding the impact of your food purchases is a conscious way to support local agriculture and, ultimately, get a great tasting meal. You can learn more and purchase local, grass-fed meat at caamarket.org and mmcustomgrazing.com.
Meredith Rose serves on the Community Agriculture Alliance’s board of advisors. Mandy and Matthew Gordon own M&M Custom Grazing.
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Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about water scarcity and wildfire surplus.