His words stuck in my head as I thought about what makes a stream muddy. Runoff from uncovered soil can do that. I looked around me at the soy field. Moss was trying somewhat unsuccessfully to cover the bare soil. But that was all there was. Basically no cover. I traced in my mind further upstream where on another conventional farm cattle continuously graze the same pasture, creating another uncovered, or barely covered piece. Which of the two contributed more to the runoff I wondered.
Looking around I realized there was a second stream nearby, the one caressing through my farm. Would that one have the same debris and sediment, lost topsoil? I walked over to where the two streams meet and stood in the cradle of the "Y". The contrast could not have been more stark. The stream coming from my left was crystal clear while the one coming from the right was filthy.
This is exciting! Our holistic goal says in part that we "produce high quality nutritious and delicious food...while simultaneously improving the soil and water quality." We were doing that!
Let me share with you how we improve water quality. Our tools are cows, goats, and time. We graze the animals across the stream--taboo in conventional agriculture circles. The hoof action on the stream bank does wonderful things to CREATE vegetation there IF the tool of time is properly managed. Animal impact must be intense, but followed by long rest periods. For us any animal exposure is limited to no more than three days at a time and is always followed by resting that stream bank for two months. Even during the three day exposure to that little section of stream the animals don't lounge there. They come to get a drink but return to the pasture to continue feasting on our grasses and forbes.
That is the approach I was taught at the Judy-Innes Grazing School, and it is working. Because our ground is covered (due to the mob grazing techniques) all the way to the waters edge we trap sediment on our farm. We also filter the water, purifying it. How cool is that?