Harvesting sunshine to grow grass

Pete and Kelly turn the negatives into positives.

Pete had pretty much decided not to farm by the time he went to college. In fact, his dad had sold the family’s dairy herd. Then, as part of a class, Pete visited Organic Valley farmer-owner Jon Bansen’s grass-based, Oregon dairy.

“I prefer not to push a rock uphill if I don’t have to,” Pete says. “I had to figure out how to work with our environment here, where the climate is more like a rainforest and totally unsuited to growing corn. But I know grass grows really well here. How do I turn that grass into a paycheck?

“Seeing Jon’s operation made me see that’s exactly what I could do with our farm and that it would work. It was completely unlike how I grew up farming, but seeing it work on Jon’s farm helped reduce the unease you associate with the unknown. It all clicked.”

Today, Pete says, “I harvest sunshine so we can grow grass. By concentrating on growing grass, a lot of other good things follow, like healthy soil and healthy animals. We don’t push our cows with a heavy grain diet to make them give more milk. Grazing cows harvest their own food instead of us having to cut and store it for them to eat later, which eliminates unnecessary wear and tear on equipment and overuse of diesel fuel.”

Pete and Kelly continue to look for ways to turn negatives into positives.

“We innovate around fertilizing and building soil nutrition by taking other people’s problems—how to dispose of crab and shrimp shell waste from the nearby coastal fishing industry—and turning them into a plus by using that shell waste to fertilize the pastures. The shells are full of trace elements essential to healthy soil, and healthy soil grows more grass.”

Kelly adds, “We’re passionate about being good stewards of the land. We want to leave something for our daughters and our community that we hope will be desirable to them. That’s really foundational to our daily decisions. All of that revolves around grazing. And we are passionate about organic. We know that what we do every day ensures that the organic label means something to the families who trust Organic Valley.”

Grays River Holsteins
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Grays River Holsteins

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