Changing the way we think about food means looking beyond the box and label, and understanding how our food is actually produced – from start to finish. In the age of information, consumers now have the tools needed to make informed decisions about what they eat every day. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The food industry can be incredibly misleading in its messaging and has made it increasingly difficult to determine whether your food is truly nutritional or not. In fact, many consumers have lost touch with what makes food nutritious in the first place. The truth is, no matter what sticker or label is on your food, the only way to know you are getting the most out of your food is to know the methods used to produce it.
Although the biological systems involved in the growth of any food item are complex, we can take a step back and see that the nutritional makeup of every living thing is a result of the environment in which it is grown. Energy isn’t created out of thin air. The same goes for nutrients. The growth and development of any food relies on the availability of essential nutrients, minerals, and other key components that are drawn, ultimately, from the soil. A carrot, for example, is only as nutritional as the ground that it grew from, because the carrot quite literally IS that ground, converted into the form of a carrot through the miracle of DNA. This is an important realization to be made that can help begin changing the way we think about food. The food we eat and the soil it originates from are inextricably linked.
Today, industrial agriculture has a grasp on the food industry. The widespread use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, and various pharmaceuticals in industrial farming operations rob soils of their natural, optimal nutrient profile, while simultaneously causing an onslaught of environmental and health issues.
Although the use of synthetic fertilizers may result in an initial increase in yield, over time, the soil becomes functionally bankrupt, meaning that it loses its ability to sustain healthy plant growth without continued applications of chemical inputs. The use of synthetic fertilizers disrupts the natural balance of nutrients in the soil, leading to decreased soil fertility and the destruction of beneficial microbial populations.
This results in crops that are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, which produces food that is nutritionally starved. The soil structure of farmland is also negatively impacted by intensive ploughing, which increases erosion and reduces the ability of the soil to hold water and nutrients which supports its vital organic matter.
These harmful agricultural practices continue to be the status quo today, primarily because using artificial methods to augment food production results in a far larger output resulting in maximum profits. If your goal, however, is to engage in an optimally nutritious diet, then industrialized, highly processed foods are bound to fall short of the mark.
So, what characterizes a good food-producing environment? How is Acabonac Farms ensuring the health of its pastures and livestock? It comes down to how we manage and treat the land. Our approach is to support our soils with restorative farming practices as well as a holistically natural approach to farming. We believe that bringing properly managed livestock back onto the land is a crucial step in this process. Our livestock plays a vital role in healing and rebuilding soil health through a variety of means.
The manure our cattle produces is a natural fertilizer that enriches the soil with essential nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These nutrients promote healthy plant growth and support the development of a strong and diverse soil community. Grazing also helps to aerate the soil and promote healthy root development. The impact of hooves can even help to create microhabitats for beneficial microorganisms within the ground, which play an important role in soil health. Rest periods and rotational grazing are critical as well. During these rest periods, vegetation can recover and regrow, which helps to build soil structure, reduce soil compaction, and increase organic matter in the soil.
To maximize the positive impact of our livestock on soil health, we maintain diverse pastures, which create a varied and nutrient rich forage for our livestock that ultimately results in a far more nutritional beef product than anything an industrial ranch could produce. By having a variety of plants growing in the pasture, the soil also benefits from the variety of root systems and nutrient cycling that occurs.
We also employ a number of best practices to build soil health, including no-till farming, avoiding the use of pesticides and herbicides, limiting the use of synthetic fertilizers, actively composting, multi-species grazing, and selected use of annual cover-crop forages.
The use of regenerative farming practices that prioritize soil health comes with benefits that reach far beyond providing you with the nutritious food your body needs. One of the most significant advantages is the ability of healthy soil to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, which helps to mitigate the effects of global warming. This process, known as soil carbon sequestration, is achieved through the buildup of organic matter in the soil, which acts as a sink for atmospheric carbon dioxide.
This process has emerged as one of the most effective ways to address the warming of our planet, as increasing the amount of carbon in soil can lead to a massive drawdown of atmospheric CO2. By increasing the amount of organic matter in the soil, we can capture and store more carbon dioxide.
Scientists have estimated that soils—mostly, agricultural ones—could sequester over a billion additional tons of carbon each year if soil health was prioritized. This has led policymakers to increasingly look to soil-based carbon sequestration as a “negative emissions” technology, that is, one that removes CO2 from the air and stores it somewhere it can’t easily escape. This means that improving soil health through sustainable agriculture and forestry practices can play a significant role in mitigating the effects of climate change.
The story of life on Earth is a story of food. It is a story of countless natural biological processes working in harmony. Today, the food industry has lost touch with this reality, and now, more than ever, it is important to understand that not all food is created equal. Looking beyond the label and understanding the methods used to produce our food is crucial in making informed decisions about our diets. Acabonac Farms is dedicated to prioritizing the health of our pastures, and our livestock, to produce the highest quality, most nutritional food possible. We are steadfast in our belief that truly nutritional food comes from healthy living soils that are thoughtfully managed with a minimal human touch. The result is a thriving natural ecosystem that yields extremely delicious, tender, and nutritious meats. We believe in transparency and invite customers to visit our ranch to see the natural magic at work, giving them the opportunity to connect more than ever to their food.