The “Driftless Region” of Wisconsin–this part of the state beyond the reach of the last grinding glaciers–has a rolling topography of hills and valleys. Pine Knob Farm has natural “sinkholes” from karsts and has identified remnants of oak savanna. Much of this part of the state, and the bulk of the land in nearby Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, is being used for conventional production of GMO corn and beans.
The decision to donate a conservation easement on this farm was based on the philosophy that the Driftless Region is not suitable for conventional row crop production; that prohibiting chemical-based farming on the property was protection of the water table; that the natural plant communities of the property can be best managed through rotational grazing; and that a farm like this should not be developed for housing or mined.
Beyond that, why rotational grazing? Rotational grazing mimics the grazing of ruminants (primarily the bison) on the prairies. The flerd (flock+herd) is moved around the farm’s 13 pastures, which are subdivided to make over 50 paddocks. They graze each paddock for 1-3 days, taking the best, trampling coarser vegetation back to the earth (sequestering carbon in the process), and move on before the forage starts to regrow.
Livestock production like this is not only good for the environment, but it produces food and fiber in the most sustainable manner. The goal of Pine Knob is to have a balance between the number of critters and the feed that the land can produce, so as to make a soft and gentle footprint on the earth. Consumers are encouraged to buy meat efficiently (plan ahead, buy in quantity, cut down on trips to the store) and to eat beef and lamb, wear wool and enjoy the warmth and luxury of lambskins with a reverence for the cattle and sheep that ate the pastures that provide for us all.