Renewable Farming

“Carbon Cowboys” video shows how to build soil, restore profits and enjoy life

Here’s a new documentary video that can give you an uplifting break from the pressure of spring planting, spraying and financial worry: It’s Carbon Cowboys, the stories of 10 farmer/ranchers who converted from intensive cultivation to intensive cattle grazing.

May 27, 2020  By Jerry Carlson — These families are enthused about restoring soil carbon, their balance sheets and freedom from stress. The director, Peter Byck, features farmers and ranchers ranging from Canada to Texas to dramatize how small-paddock “mob grazing” works effectively in virtually any climate. 

I first grew aware of intensive, controlled grazing more than 30 years ago when I introduced Allan Savory at an early Renewable Farming seminar at Amana, Iowa. Savory, raised in South Africa, had learned how migrating herds of grazing animals shear off savannah grasslands in a day, then move on to allow these natural pastures to regenerate.  Today, the Savory Institute is a global organization, with a powerful influence in restoring land.

Gabe Brown, Bismarck, ND

Now, American “carbon cowboys” enhance that concept with high-tech electric fencing, a wide array of pasture mixes and handy ATVs for cattle chores. Several ranchers featured in the videos tell you they’re free from debt and relieved from the physical and financial stress of cash-crop farming.  I met Gabe Brown, pictured nearby, at an ACRES conference and asked him why he’s willing to travel nationwide, telling people the multiple benefits of low-cost land restoration with controlled grazing. “I’m passionate about it,” he said. Occasionally, conservation groups in Iowa organize busloads of Iowa farmers to visit Brown’s Ranch in North Dakota.

No-Till Farmer’s daily e-mail announcements posted a detailed report on the making of Carbon Cowboys. Read that report at this link.

I wouldn’t expect many corn-soybean growers in Grundy County, IA to convert cropland to mob-grazed pasture. But Iowa has more than 3 million acres of pasture, plus a million acres which will eventually come out of the Conservation Reserve. Having been raised on a livestock farm where we had a cow-calf herd and finished beef cattle, I can envision intensive grazing as very competitive for land use. Especially on the rolling, erosive hills in many Iowa counties.

Enjoy the Carbon Cowboys show!