Our Quest to Create a Sustainable Farm

By growing our own food, installing photovoltaic solar panels, using a solar hot water heater, and encouraging carbon sequestration, we’re getting closer to creating a sustainable farm with a positive impact on the planet.

| October/November 2015

Welch Farm

This Kansas farm’s grass-fed sheep and barn-mounted solar panels harvest solar energy to produce healthy meat and electricity.

Photo by Bryan Welch

When my wife and I were in our early 20s, cash-strapped with our first baby in diapers, someone told me that the secret to financial security was to make a budget and live by it. So I made a budget.

My budget showed that we would have $11 per month in disposable income, if no one went to the doctor and neither of our decrepit cars ever needed repair. As if. It didn’t present a path to financial security. It did, however, demonstrate the value of a vegetable garden. By starting to grow most of our own food, we saved a few hundred dollars — and that summer, a few hundred dollars made a lot of difference. More importantly, our family established a collective vision, gestated in that garden, of efficient self-reliance.

We visualized a goal we’ve been working toward ever since.

Positivity Puzzle

These days, we’re no longer so focused on stretching grocery money. Instead, we’re fascinated by the idea that we can produce food efficiently — for us and a bunch of other people — and that our lifestyle can have a positive net impact on the global environment.

That’s right, a positive impact. Maybe.

We now live on 50 acres of tallgrass prairie in eastern Kansas. We raise sheep, cattle, goats and chickens for meat. With every passing year, our managed grazing makes the land more fertile. With photovoltaics (PV) installed on our barn roof, we generate more electricity than we consume. We do most of our driving in an electric car, also powered by our home’s solar system. A solar-thermal hot-water system provides plenty of hot showers. Our vegetable garden — the seed that started it all — remains.

11/1/2015 8:33:43 PM

Conversely, when my wife and I graze our animals in a carefully managed way on natural prairie, it has the opposite effect...really? http://www.ibtimes.com/cow-farts-have-larger-greenhouse-gas-impact-previously-thought-methane-pushes-climate-change-1487502

9/16/2015 2:43:04 AM

Its a pity that sustainable lifestylers are in the minority. I think people are slowly turning towards sustainabilty, but we need rapid mobilization to make it effective. We have almost past the tipping point as our planet cannot continue with what the majority is doing to it. !!!!

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