Pineywoods Cattle are instrumental in conserving and maintaining Trees and vice versa.
The Pineywoods varied appetite - including kudzu, greenbrier, brambles, even poison ivy - has led to a healthier forest and increased biodiversity at Ozark Akerz. In return, forests help conserve the Pineywoods, allowing them to mimic the foraging behavior of their wild roaming ancestors, providing them with a variety of food and medicine.
This synergy between plants and animals allows the trees at Ozark Akerz to continue capturing over 800, 000 pounds of carbon every year.
Learn more about this partnership between Pineywoods and Trees and learn how we use the iNaturalist and iTree Canopy Apps to track biodiversity and carbon capture in this presentation originally given by farmer Mike at the Chatham Conservation Partnership.
Watch it all or scroll down to jump to the topic that interests you
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1:21 : Agenda
1:58 : Introduction to Ozark Akerz Regenerative Farm
5:27 : Meet the Heritage Breed Animals
7:36 : Pineywoods Cattle contributing to Forest Health and vice versa
11:11 : Measuring Carbon Capture with iTree Canopy App
13:45 : Increasing Biodiversity – Current Projects
15:38 : Measuring Biodiversity with iNaturalist App
18:21 : Resources
19:51 : Questions
This article was first published on trailblazingwriters.com
I call him Michael. He was walking along the road on a hot and heavily humid day in August. We see a lot more cows and tractors on the road than people walking, joggers or cyclists. We might see one or two people walking the road every year.
My wife Sue first spotted Michael about half a mile away. We met him at the end of the driveway when he walked past the 100-year-old farmhouse. The house has seen many people walk by in the wilting heat, most of them before the blacktop was laid. Sue asked if he needed help or a ride somewhere. He said no, then lowered himself slowly to sit at side of the road in the shade of a longstanding pine tree. We gave him water. Sue asked if she could cook him a burger. “It’ll take a while because the beef has to thaw.” she said. “If you’ll make the burgers, I’ll eat them.” Michael responded.
Michael had been at the church up the road waiting to meet the pastor, but he didn’t show. He had left his backpack there and was walking to the nearest town 4 miles away. He was going to return to get it later. I offered to drive him back to the church to get his backpack and into town when he had eaten. He was fine with that.
When we returned with his backpack, Michael and I sat on the shade of porch and talked. I talked, mostly, Michael was a man of few words. I shared what life was like on a regenerative farm, he shared that he was born in North Carolina and had lived in Washington state. He didn’t offer where he lived now and I didn’t pry. I thought he might be homeless, but it was not my place to ask.
We sat and listened to the cicadas for a time, then Michael quietly asked why we farmed. I explained that Sue and my son were both cancer survivors and that it was important to us to grow nutritious food, not just for us but for our community. He nodded and fell into his own thoughts. A few minutes later he broke the silence again, asking if I liked football. We found something we could agree to disagree on. I was a Carolina Panthers fan and he was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan. There was no trash talk, we talked about players and coaches past and present of the Steelers. Michael had words now.
The conversation came to a hammering halt when Sue brought out a tray of food and announced, “A meal fit for a king!”. There were two big burger patties, all the fixings and potatoes. Michael didn’t waste any time. I have only witnessed one other person eat a burger with such relish. My dad had been in the ICU and step-down unit for 10 days when I brought him a burger, he inhaled it. Michael ate two burgers in the time it took my dad to eat one.
When he had finished, Michael wiped his mouth, stood up and declared “I’m ready to go into town now.” As we were walking to the truck he threw up, then he threw up again. I asked if it had been a while since he’d eaten. “Yes” he answered and then he apologized for throwing up on the grass. “I’m sorry you haven’t eaten Michael.” “It’s ok.” He replied. “No it’s not.” I responded.
We drove in relative silence into town, La Ley 101.1 Spanish radio filling the void. He didn’t ask, but I shared that I listened to it so I could learn Spanish. He had nothing to say about that. I think he was embarrassed about getting sick or maybe all his effort and attention went into trying not to throw up in the truck so there was nothing left for words.
When I dropped him off, I handed Michael a $20 bill and wished him luck. He looked me in the eye briefly, thanked me and walked towards the woods at the back of the building. I wondered if he were heading toward the river to stay cool. I wondered where he would spend the night. I wondered if he would get meals the rest of the week.
I call him Michael, that is not his name. I named him as a result of a quote, attributed to John Bradford, that Sue shared with me when I returned home: “There, but for the grace of god, go I”.
My name is Michael.
Update April 13, 2021
Hunger is an epidemic. We are all only one job loss, illness, or accident away from needing help.
Michael is just one of many examples of hunger we have encountered in our community. Since moving to Coleridge, NC in 2014, we have made it a priority to donate our organically raised eggs and beef to families in need.
In 2020, Covid-19 increased the need. Friends told us about 3 local families that lost their jobs in March 2020. We began providing 9 dozen eggs and 3 lbs of beef to them every week. By July we realized we were in for the long haul and we began raising money via merchandise sales to help pay for the non-soy, organic chicken feed, our biggest expense, so we could continue. We raised enough to help provide them healthy food through March 2021.
The need is still strong in 2021. One local food pantry has gone from providing food to 30 families once a month pre-Covid to 50 families twice a month. in 2021 we're increasing our focus on food assistance. Our goal is to replace the income we received from sales to Chef & The Farmer and The Boiler Room restaurants, before Covid-19 shut them down, with income from merchandise sales. That;s not an easy task, we will need to increase t-shirt sales from 180 to 1300 annually.
We hope Chef & The Farmer opens again soon, but we really want the many people of our community that cannot afford to dine there, let alone afford to buy healthy, organically raised food at the grocery store, to enjoy delicious Pineywoods Heritage Beef. Merchandise sales in one way to reach that goal.
Mike Hansen lives and works at Ozark Akerz Regenerative Farm.
Your mamma's calls are tinged with longing, her panic sharp in the darkness.
The light lifts into grey. Mamma's cries carry a convoy of anguish, of ache.
It’s not right.
Mamma is distant from the strength of the herd. Homeless.
I walk closer, the light betrays mamma's storm. You are the eye.
It’s not right.
You neglect mamma's nuzzles, unmoved by her tenderness.
Mamma swings her horns at my intrusion, defending you from harm already afflicted.
It’s not right.
Mamma calls to the herd in the distance. The herd is silent. Your eyes are silent.
Broken, my heart reaches quietly to mamma through a tunnel of soft words. Her wails heave higher.
It’s not right.
Mamma cleans you, comforting you, waiting for you to answer her, to rise. Mamma moves to the herd.
Mamma bends her head to a sister, who licks her ears, returning the comfort she has given you. A companion in her loss, in her anguish.
It’s not right.
Mamma is incomplete with the herd, baby. Mamma is incomplete with you.
It’s time baby. I lift you. Your fatal cold suffocates through me. I carry you away.
It’s not right.
I build. A home for you baby. Near the youngest pear. My dream: that your alliance will grow a fresh shoot, your essence endless in this family tree.
A sunken home, the shape of you. I arrange you with family:
Cedar and quartz to protect, pecans in place of mamma's milk, grass. A feather from guinea, a playmate for chase and chatter.
I have only tangled whisper and voided word to bequeath, baby. Please accept the only gift I have to give, to wrap you in the arms of your new mamma. Earth