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What is the True Meaning of Grazing?

By   /  November 30, 2020  /  10 Comments

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Management Consultant, Peter Drucker said, “Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.” During this past pandemic pasture season, I’ve had some time to ponder the farm’s reflection upon the guy in front of the proverbial mirror. Amongst a sea of seed-heads, in a Zen-like moment, on June 28th, 2020, I asked myself: “What is the true meaning of this thing we call grazing?”

Photo by Corrine Bishopp

 

On this day, I was seemingly flailing (pissed) over not “getting the grazing right” according to the playbooks of proper grazing management information, my own rollercoaster of a grazing plan and this damn weather. After moving the finishing beef animals into their pre-determined strip of 5 foot prairie, I just plopped down in the rank, carbon bio-mass, like a good healthy shit stuck in self-pity. “What am I doing here?” I was chastised by my inner demons with “I’m not relevant anymore,” “I can’t be teaching people this,” and “how could this possibly be regenerative?!”

What is the true measure of grazing again? I broke down unceremoniously to cows munching and flies sipping on my tears.

Granddaughter Emmie Grace and Pop Pop discover the true meaning of grazing. Photo by Corrine Bishopp

You see my wife Corrine, and official “Nonna,” brought my 6th generation for an ATV ride in the pasture and let them out to be “kids”. As I watched, their context of grazing was picking plants to feed the stuffed bovines, chasing after butterflies, hiding in the tall grass and splashing in the water tub. On their way back to the house with armfuls of pasture “weed” flowers, I heard, “Have a Happy Caterpillar Day, Pop Pop.” Well, like the Grinch, my heart grew 3 sizes that day.

If I would’ve gotten my head out of my “right”-eous ass, I would have seen the symbiosis and layers between the caterpillar and the cow. In my “failed” over-rested paddock, I could clearly see the cows shucking the grass seeds to the ground, picking from a salad bar of plants and forbs while grassland birds swooped in for lunch. I could see the bees pollinating, caterpillars eating milkweed, dung beetles swimming in pumpkin pies, spiders weaving webs and earthworms leaving behind a plethora of castings.

Photo by Troy Bishopp

The soil was soft and the understory lush with diversity as it waited for the tiniest dewdrop or shower. The sward had rodent tunnels, fawn beds and hidden predators waiting on the fringe for careless prey. This particular paddock is also surrounded by a tapestry of trees, bluebird houses and planted shelterbelts that create a kind of micro-climate for all seasons.

What was I thinking? This was an absolutely beautiful example of the true meaning of grazing. The activity of providing feed and this landscape for my custom grazing customer. Creating life is worth, on paper, only 50 bucks a day but the true accounting of grazing and it’s ecosystem service benefits are almost immeasurable.

Red Angus wedding ushers. Photo by Troy Bishopp

The “grazing” also had a profound meaning during this pandemic as a picturesque wedding venue for my daughter, Katie. The farm wedding had been 130 years in the making since our family started here in 1890. Under our iconic, “Thinking Tree,” above our riparian buffer, and next to adjacent green pastures with Red Angus “ushers”, we celebrated the union of beautiful love between our Katie B and Katie A. My father speech etched the significance this way:

“The ultimate goal of our farm is to build a loving, resilient diversity where all the parts: The soil biology, the pastures, the livestock, the flowers, the insects, the trees, the water, the wildlife, and the people come together as one, while dancing arm and arm with Mother Nature. Our passion is to create a place for the next generations to thrive. This land represents the premise of Professor Dumbledore, who said “You are protected, in short, by your ability to love”.

The quarantine protocols have given rise to virtual learning and limited engagements for all of us who relish field work, but the time has been beneficial to explore the finer points of all things grazing. I hope to shake the seedheads of on-farm trials from 2020 and get folks to question the true meaning of grazing. I’m at a point in my life where the art and decision-making of using this practice to holistically improve life on the planet is my true measure, even if I can’t do it “right.”

Enjoy this visit to the Bishopp Family Farm as they celebrate love of farm and family.

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  • Published: 8 months ago on November 30, 2020
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  • Last Modified: December 1, 2020 @ 8:08 am
  • Filed Under: The Scoop

About the author

contributor

Troy Bishopp, aka “The Grass Whisperer” is a seasoned grazier and grasslands advocate who owns, manages and linger-grazes at Bishopp Family Farm in Deansboro, NY with his understanding wife, daughters, grandchildren and parents. Their certified organic custom grazing operation raise dairy heifers, grass-finished beef and backgrounds feeder cattle on 180 acres of owned and leased pastures. Troy also mentors farmers on holistic land management for the Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Upper Susquehanna Coalition as their regional grazing specialist. This award-winning free-lance writer, essayist and photographer maintains a website presence at www.thegrasswhisperer.com

10 Comments

  1. SHERRIE OTTINGER says:

    All I’ve got is…wow!! Started out reading a grazing story and got a bucket full of tears, because of love. Thank you! Oh! You’re a writer that needs to keep writing!!
    Thank you for your article and family.

  2. Melissa Dodd says:

    A wonderful story and food for thought. Thank you.

    • Troy Bishopp says:

      Thank you Miss Melissa for taking the time to read my prose and for the compliment; something a farmer/writer needs from time to time. Happy Holidays and thanks for supporting Kathy at OnPasture. GW

  3. john marble says:

    Ok. I made it through the first reading and watching, and then the second. On the third, we both broke down in heart-felt sobs.

    You are a wonderful father and a thoughtful man. I admire your writing, as always. But this goes way, way beyond that.

    Most sincerely yours,

    John

    • Troy Bishopp says:

      Good Evening Young Man, I appreciate your sentiment very much and am always inspired by your poignant stories. A little birdie told me that some wine may have helped purge some tears. And you have every right to tear up with all you’ve been through in your community.
      But through storytelling, sharing our real-life experiences and possibly purging or riffing, we continue to persevere. We must keep showing up, and every once in awhile there is something so profound we get the chance to inspire emotional connection with others. I’d like to suggest, it’s just paying it forward. Thank you for your kindness. Sincerely, GW

  4. Terron Pickett says:

    Mr. “Grass Whisperers”, Bishopp
    Even though it sounds like you have been able to look beyond the grass getting too rank, and come back round to looking at the bright side. I think that if my daughter was getting married and the though of her leaving would have me out of sorts too, this may be the underlying reason that you let the grass get too rank, you had something more valuable and important to occupy your mind and thoughts for the past little while.
    Thank you for the article!

    • Troy Bishopp says:

      Thank you Terron for taking the time to show your appreciation for my reality writing. The truth is the grass was rank but it took a wedding to realize how much underlying beauty we are actually creating. Sometimes the notion comes just when you need it. Funny how that happens. Happy Holidays GW

  5. Curt Gesch says:

    Thank you for your ruminations and sharing your changing responses to things. This is one of the most moving pieces of “farming” writing I have ever read. (It’s really Socrates’ dictum–“the unexamined life is not worth living”–accepted and applied.

    Thank you, too, for allowing us vicarious presence at the happy event.

    P.S.: May I quote the paragraph, “The ultimate goal. . . ” in my farming newsletter?

    • Troy Bishopp says:

      Dear Curt, Your words floored me. And to me, words do matter. I thank you for such kind ones. I will take this praise and try to work on stories where there’s emotion and not just production. Maybe “emotional production”.
      I guess since I’m revamping my website, a must-have testimonial of this magnitude will be showing up on my page.

      Yes, use my quote and share with me when it gets posted.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to put alittle spring in my step today. Peace and Joy be with you. GW

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