Coming Together to Create a Canopy

by Marina Dvorak

June 29, 2022

by Marina Dvorak

All Seasons Farm is situated on the sloped blufflands of the Driftless region of Wisconsin. The farm stretches over the rolling hilltop ridges and down into the coulees below. On a sunny 80-degree spring day, a crew of roughly a dozen helpers from a variety of organizations set out with the sun on the back of their necks ready to dig their hands into the soil. 

The crew planted 1,100 trees in pasture along the ridge for silvopasture. Silvopasture is intentionally pairing trees, pasture, and grazing animals for the good of the soil, animals, and Earth. While it may seem like an obvious combination, the long-term effects of land management can have a big impact on the future of a family’s farm.

Over the next 10 years, these 1,100 tree seedlings will sequester an estimated 66.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.

Planting trees to create silvopasture.

A volunteer plants trees at the Gretebeck farm in Wisconsin.

Regenerative Organic Agriculture

The project had inspiration in Organic Valley’s focus on carbon insetting, which centers around reducing carbon emissions directly on the farm instead of relying on carbon offsets. Carbon offsetting occurs when a company purchases carbon credits from a developer and “applies” the credits to its carbon footprint. When a company purchases credits it does not actually reduce its carbon emissions.

Silvopasture benefits the animals on the Gretebeck family farm—All Seasons Farm—as well as the land. Shade from the trees contributes to cows’ overall comfort and health. The diversification of plant species on the land, specifically the deep roots of the trees, helps secure the healthy soil by preventing runoff in the hilly acres of farmland that the Driftless area is known for. 

The Gretebecks’ farm is a short drive from the Organic Valley Cashton Office Building. It is the farm where Becky grew up, which is about 10 miles from the farm where Tucker grew up.

All Seasons Farm is abundant in biodiversity, from the array of animals to the plant life supporting healthy soil. The farm is 100 acres (the equivalent of about 80 American football fields) of certified organic pasture where their cows, goats, llamas, and other critters roam. 

The primary purpose of adding trees is to provide shade for the cows while grazing. Keeping the animals comfortable has always been a top priority on the farm, especially in extreme temperatures.

Curious cows watch volunteers plant trees.

Curious cows watch volunteers plant trees.

The addition of more plant life to the farm adds more diversity and longevity to the landscape, which will in turn protect more of the soil that is the key to the healthy land they operate on. The crew planted a variety of honey locust, black walnut, poplar, and cedar trees. The hardwood varieties, like honey locust and black walnut, will provide long-lasting shade coverage. The cedar and poplar trees grow faster and will provide shade more quickly.

Organizations Come Together

In addition to Organic Valley, All Seasons Farm partnered with a variety of local and national organizations to plant the trees, including The Savanna Institute, Monroe County, Wisconsin Land and Water Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, and the Monroe County Climate Change Task Force. Together, these partners made a big impact on the land in a few short days.

Volunteers plant saplings at All Seasons Farm in Wisconsin.

Volunteers plant saplings at All Seasons Farm in Wisconsin.

In addition to the positive impacts planting the trees will have on the comfort of the cows and the resiliency of the land, the Gretebecks also view this project as a benefit for the next generation. Tucker and Becky have two children, who may choose to continue their legacy on the land. Tucker said that planting the trees will have a long-lasting, positive impact on the viability of the farm for his children to potentially take over in the future. 

When you purchase Organic Valley products, you are getting nutritious, organic food and investing in a climate-positive future.