Our ‘Forever Farms’- Ireland’s Tradition of Regenerative Farming
What are regenerative farming and carbon farming?
In its simplest terms, regenerative farming is exactly what it sounds like: a holistic approach to agriculture that actually restores the biological balance of the soil. This practice not only improves the productivity potential of every acre by bringing much needed minerals and biodiversity back to the land, but it also reduces toxic carbon in the air by recapturing it in the soil where it generates nourishment and value. That’s where the closely related term ‘carbon farming’ comes from.
Using regenerative and carbon farming techniques, including livestock grazing management, no-till farming, organic composting, and ecological aquaculture (water management), we can all look forward to a brighter, more bountiful future with greater food security, healthier land and animals, reduced greenhouse gases, and more economical yields for farmers. In short: it’s farming the way it used to be and should have always remained—making conscious use of earth’s natural resources and animals’ natural habits to rebalance the carbon cycle.
How does regenerative farming benefit farmers, the environment, cows and milk products?
Cows that graze naturally help aerate the ground with their hooves, fertilize the soil, and actually encourage grass growth. Not only is this a better life for the cows, but it also saves farmers money by integrating these tasks into the natural ecosystem of the farm. That means less outside energy usage, fewer chemical fertilizers, plenty of homegrown feed, healthier soil, and quality yields of rich, nourishing dairy. It’s a win-win-win-win-win.
Truly Grass Fed’s Farm Policy Manager John Fitzgerald notes, “The traditional farming approach employed in Ireland is naturally conducive to more efficient farming, healthier soil and cows with greater longevity, as well as compliance with current environmental accords and regulations.”
How do Truly Grass Fed farms practice regenerative farming?
All of our farms undergo a rigorous independent audit that measures 175 quality and sustainability metrics every 18 months. Anne Browne, Truly Grass Fed’s Farm Sustainability Manager comments, “We foster long, trusting relationships with our farmers and ensure that they are prepared to meet the standards set forth by Origin Green, Ireland’s national sustainability initiative, during their audits.” Here’s a breakdown of our efforts:
- SOIL MANAGEMENT: Truly Grass Fed farmers are trained to manage the nutrients and pH balance of their soil for optimal productivity without ever stripping or abusing the land. Each independent audit includes a full analysis of all farm reports, and farmers are required to do their own soil testing every three years per the EU Nitrates Directive.
- GRASS MANAGEMENT: Not only are Truly Grass Fed farmers highly skilled in the management of their grass throughout the seasons (grazing rotations, grass measuring & budgeting, silage harvesting, grass reseeding & rejuvenation, longer periods between pasture renewal/tilling as a result of better management, etc.), but they also exclusively choose grasses that complement the land and give our cows the natural nutrition they need grazing outdoors for up to 250 days per year.
- FERTILIZER: Our farmers make efficient use of farmyard manure as a regenerative natural fertilizer, and they know how to spread it at only the most beneficial times for the grass and soil’s health.
- HEALTHY, HAPPY COWS: We nurture our cows in small herds and on open pastures to promote longevity and quality of life. Truly Grass Fed cows produce about 50% the amount of milk compared to a volume-driven confinement system. This equates to higher quality and far less stress on the animals. Browne continues: “Quality grass and natural grazing improves the protein of your milk, whilst maintaining cow health. That’s not magic. It’s a scientific fact.”
- ENVIRONMENT: Truly Grass Fed is committed to keeping and continuously restoring the lush Irish landscapes that we call home. Since Ireland is not an industrial country, we don’t see the same air, soil, and water pollution that affect other parts of the world. The grass truly does grow greener here, so from farmers’ pastures to their hedgerows and the surrounding areas and wildlife, we treat the earth with extraordinary respect.
- COLLABORATION: The passionate team behind Truly Grass Fed, Glanbia Ireland, works collaboratively with Teagasc (Ireland’s Agriculture and Food Development Authority) and Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) to bring research and proven guidance to our farms. It is our goal to partner with others to create sustainable solutions that produce better quality, cleaner label foods that don’t take a toll on the environment.
So what does the future hold?
Truly Grass Fed hopes to be a beacon of time-honored regenerative farming practices that can reverse the trends of land degradation and desertification. Fitzgerald concludes, “‘Regenerative farming’ is a term rarely used in Ireland because it’s nothing new here. We just call it ‘farming,’ and we are dedicated to showing the world how powerful our tradition can be for people, the planet, the cows and our customers.”