Putting Regenerative Agriculture into Action.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to regenerative agriculture. Instead, there are a series of smaller actions you can put together to tailor a solution for any location. It all starts with looking at the primary concerns for that location.
Our Starting Conditions
For us, in the Texas Hill Country, our primary concerns are hard, compacted soil, lack of water penetration and retention, lack of water in general, and temperatures that rarely drop below 40F, but spend half the year over 85F with up to 112F possible. We also have to contend with generations of overgrazing and some very tenacious and pervasive invasive species.
The soil here is predominantly clay and limestone. We receive on average 35 inches of rain and around 228 days of sunshine per year. Our only regular major weather events are droughts and thunderstorms, although a heavy thunderstorm can drop an inch of rain an hour (causing flash flooding), and have hail, winds just shy of hurricane strength, and lightning strikes.
Geologically, we are situated in a very stable area. Earthquakes are so rare that the last one that could be felt in Austin was 134 years ago.
We Strive to be Zero Waste With our Animals
Our pigs get fed Grocery Store food waste. This means the leftover vegetable and fruit trimmings, produce that's no longer in sellable condition, leftover beef, seafood, and poultry trimmings (pigs are omnivores), just past expiration date eggs, dairy, and packaged non-pork meats, stale bread, and leftover non-pork pre-made foods (soups, stir fries, salads, casseroles, pastas, etc.). We collect on average 1 to 2 thousand pounds of food waste daily to feed out to our sounders. That food waste is being directly diverted from landfill to feed our animals and become beneficial nutrients for the soil. All of this is currently collected from only from 4 stores spread across our area, but we hope to increase that number as we grow.
Since we process our own chickens from slaughter through packaging, we have to deal with every single part of the chicken. This includes feathers, blood, and guts. While we use every part of the chicken possible, we cannot sell every part, and are currently looking into ways to compost the remaining parts in order to not be putting anything into landfill.
In order to sell our pork, we must use a licensed and inspected large animal slaughter facility for the initial processing steps, but we do all of our own butchery in house. We take all of the off cuts (trim, skin, fat, bones, organs) and do our best to turn them into high quality products. At the moment, we are limited by time and scale of operation, but as we grow, we firmly believe we'll be able to turn at least 95% of what we receive from the processing facility into great product. By the time we reach that point, we should be capable of composting the remaining 5%.
As much as we would love to be zero waste in all aspects, and work towards it where we can, the unfortunate reality we live in is that it is impossible to be truly zero waste while we still have to deal with plastics. We have ditched plastic where possible, but there are a few notable areas that we cannot do that.
First and foremost is bringing our meat to farmer's markets. In order to legally sell our meat outside of a brick and mortar shop, we have to put it in sealed plastic packaging. We do plan on opening a retail butcher shop in the future, where we will be able to do without plastic packaging, but until then, our hands are tied.
Second is tools. We use electric fencing, tarps, modern vehicles, feed barrels, safety equipment, and many more necessary and usually reusable tools that unfortunately are not possible to find without plastic, or the plastic free solution is not affordable. We do our best to get as many uses as possible out of every item, but eventually they break down and go to landfill.
Third is electronics.