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Greener Pastures—How Grass-Fed Restores Our Relationship with the Land

At its core, farming has always been about the relationship between people and land. Ideally, that relationship’s founded on mutual care and nurturing. We behave as caring stewards of the land, and the land nourishes us in return. But over the last several decades, that relationship has frayed with the introduction of more and more harmful practices. Pesticides, water overuse, soil degradation, synthetic fertilizers, and much more—the list is long. We overwork and over-treat our land, and the land degrades and under-nourishes us in return. 


Fortunately, grass-fed dairy offers a solution. Rather than maximizing output at any cost, grass-fed is all about restoring that healthy balance to farming. As a regenerative practice, grass-fed is a return to the basics and an emphasis on cultivation rather than mere extraction. And while that process has many beneficiaries, the land itself is certainly near the top of that list.


Here are some of the most important ways that grass-fed offers greener pastures:


Soil fertility. Perhaps above all, grass-fed supports the land by supporting soil fertility. Where conventional farming often deploys practices like monocropping and excessive tillage—which harm the land—grass-fed cuts a sharp contrast. By using pastures to graze cattle on rotation, grow diverse plants, and minimize tillage, grass-fed practices enable the soil to maintain rich organic nutrients and fresh air, and protect it from the burden of constant disruption and overuse.


Fertilization. Synthetic fertilizer—a common input of conventional dairy farming—also does great damage to soil fertility and much else. To begin with, most synthetic fertilizers cause soil acidification and soil hardening, both of which harm plant growth. It alters the composition of the soil and thereby reduces the natural diversity of its microorganisms. But that’s not all. Synthetic fertilizer also carries nutrients away from the soil and into waterways, which it then pollutes. And it’s often used to great excess, which exacerbates all these issues together. Quite the opposite, grass-fed deploys all-natural fertilizer—in other words, the stuff that comes out of the back end of the animal. (Cheeky!) Natural fertilization is a much healthier practice, as it releases nutrients more slowly into the soil and provides plants with a more natural, well-balanced diet. Rather than chemicals, natural fertilization returns to the soil the very nutrients that the soil gave to the animal in the first place.


Biodiversity. All of the above harms—overgrazing, monocropping, excessive tillage, synthetic fertilizer use, etc—together contribute to a significant reduction in biodiversity. Each of these practices makes it difficult for diverse species of plants, insects, birds and other wildlife to thrive. This is harmful to the land because any healthy land stays healthy due to the many activities that a tapestry of diverse animals accomplish, like organic waste disposal, pollination, and pest control, to name just a few. By contrast, grass-fed dairy works in harmony with the natural rhythms and composition of the environment, keeping intact the intrinsic biodiversity of the farmland. This helps create a much healthier, more robust, and self-sustaining ecosystem.


Carbon sequestration. Grass-fed farming helps us capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil, where it belongs. This is due both to the increased quality and health of the soil and to the plentiful green grasses and trees that accompany a grass-fed operation. In addition to helping mitigate the greenhouse effect, returning carbon to the ground improves the health of the plant life on the pasture, which means the grass that grows is both abundant and healthy.


Elimination of pesticides, waste management, and other toxins. When you bring dairy farming back to the basics—grass-fed style—you eliminate many of the other superfluous yet harmful components common to resource-intensive, conventional dairy farming. Apart from synthetic fertilizer, conventional dairy farming often employs other contaminants—like pesticides—which cause harm to the plants, land, and waterways. These processes in turn create a lot of waste which then has to be cleaned up and carried away from the operation, resulting in the need for excess use of heavy machinery and transportation, all of which causes cumulative harm to the environment. 


At the end of the day, the mission of any farmer should be to leave the land better than you found it. That’s what genuine stewardship entails. So it’s no accident that we call it “grass-fed” dairy. Because grass—the pasture—is at the heart of everything we do. As a 100% grass-fed organic dairy farm, Maple Hill is proud to lead the way to a more caring, sustainable relationship between people and the land. As we always say…when we take care of nature, nature takes care of us!


At Maple Hill, we’ve been committed to regenerative practices since 2009 because we know the highest quality dairy begins with the health of soil, grass, and cows. We believe that 100% grass-fed organic dairy farming done right is the pinnacle of organic, nourishes families with the best nutrition, and leaves the earth better than we found it. We are proud to be selected as a USDA Climate Smart Partner — supporting the production of climate smart commodities throughout the United States. 


Our 100% Grass-fed Organic dairy products include: 100% grass-fed whole milk, 100% grass-fed 2% reduced fat milk, 100% grass-fed butter (salted and unsalted), 100% grass-fed kefir (plain, vanilla, and strawberry), 100% grass-fed greek yogurt (plain and vanilla bean), and 100% grass-fed cream-on-top yogurt (plain and vanilla).

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