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Back to Grass – Turning Marginal Cropland to Pasture For a Diverse Sustainable Operation

Darin Michalski’s direction in life was influenced by his father. “Dad didn’t like farming much. He was more into cattle. He always cussed some of the land we farmed. It was pretty marginal land and said that we should sow this down to grass.”

So when he got his first 80, that’s what Darin ended up doing. It was a poor piece of ground covered in quack grass and rocks, and when all he ended up with 30 bushel of corn, his next move was to disc it up and turn it back into grass.

In this 3:03 installment of “Our Amazing Grasslands,” Darin and his wife Jessica talk about their passion for grasslands and raising livestock on them.  They talk about how their rotational grazing system, and how their management and the timing of their grazing has brought back native species, both grasses and forbs, even on land where they thought the native population had disappeared.

“The loss of our native grasslands really impacts us on a global scale. It maybe isn’t as headline news as the loss of the rain forest for example. But it’s as impactful….We need to remember that this land was native grassland when we first inhabited it. That serves a huge purpose in our global ecosystem. We need to keep that in mind when we are talking about feeding the world, but also maintaining those native grasslands. They’re so important.”

If you’re inspired by what you see and you’d like a little more detail, you’ll want to listen to Working Cow’s podcast #17. Clay Conry interviews Darin and Jessica about the history of their operation and what they’ve learned along the way. You’ll learn about how they focus on the long-term with their decision making. Jessica talks about how she uses her Animal Science education and her access to the newest and best ideas from the Natural Resources Conservation Service about the importance of diversity in grasses and legumes to improve soil health. Darin talks about their rotational grazing management and the return of the native species, and about their landlord relationships and how good management is sometimes worth more to landowners than more rent money. You’ll even learn about why they’ve given up alfalfa to grow other forages to feed their stock.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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