By Camille Jones and Lily Heritage
Hundreds of animals squeezed inside a small enclosure, daylight escapes them. The smell of feces so overwhelming that there isn’t anything else to focus on. Animals groan and squeal at the conditions. If you’re in Workun’s AP Lang class, you may have heard about these practices. That is not the way of Prairie Creek.
Prairie Creek Farm is 80 acres of regenerative farmland about thirty minutes from Jenks, in Kellyville, OK. It’s run by farmers Nate Beaulac, Peter Prulhiere, and Jason Ketchum. According to their website, the farm became a reality starting with a joke on a road trip with, then college buddies, about how they should buy some land and start a sustainable farm. 19 months later, the 80 acres were secured by the trio. And thus, the story of Prairie Creek Farm began.
To get a more in depth understanding of what it means to run a local, regenerative farm, the Trojan Torch decided to go and get a look at it for ourselves. Nate Beaulac lead us around the land, and gave us some insight into the inner workings.
Although industrial meats are easy on your wallet, they come with a different price. The most shocking (and disgusting) issue is cow fecal pollution. On an industrial farm, the huge amount of animals results in an equally huge amount of poop. So much, in fact, that the manure has to be moved into lagoons full of poopy water. According to Source Molecular, “close to one-third of the earth’s entire land surface is used to raise farmed animals such as cattle… Both intensive and non-intensive livestock operations have been known to impact the quality of surrounding water bodies… A number of high-profile cases of drinking water wells tainted by cow manure have been reported to cause the hospitalization and death of hundreds of people around the world. A high dose of animal waste in surface waters can also cause algal blooms that kill fish and other marine life.”
Regenerative farming is a different approach to the food industry that strives to, in layman’s terms, recycle the environment. Today’s most common farming practices strip the land over and over–to the point that the land may never recover. On a regenerative farm, all of the nutrients stripped from the land are given back by the animals. The cows eat grass (instead of being pumped full of soy and corn), and deposit manure on the pasture, fertilizing the land and makes the grass grow back beautifully. It’s a self contained system. No manure lagoons, no potential for sickness. And the benefits don’t stop there. The strain of E. coli that causes 265,000 illness, 3,600 hospitalizations and 30 deaths in the United States per year, is much more likely to be present in the stomachs of cows living on a diet of corn and soy, since the pH of their stomachs is actually closer to that of humans than a cow that only eats grass. This means it is already acclimated to the acidic environment, and can therefore survive and attack in the human digestive system.
The food from Prairie Creek Farm is different from the food you see in grocery stores because of how local it is. Prairie Creek is one of the few local sources of animal products in the Tulsa region. Many of the products you can find at Walmart travel hundreds, or even thousands, of miles to get to you. The time between processing and your plate is important when it comes to taste, nutrients, and just general freshness. The longer transit time, the more nutrients are lost and the likelihood of spoilage increases.
Local farms like Prairie Creek are very minute on a national level. Industrialized farms (also known as factory farms) account for 99.9% of chicken used for meat, 97% of laying hens, 99% of turkey, 95% of pigs, and 78% of cattle produced in the US. This, along with higher prices for local meat, leaves little room for farms like Prairie Creek to get into the market. But it’s not all bad news. Sale of organic food has grown 22% a year over the past decade. The tide is changing as people are starting to question where their food comes from and the impact of what they eat.
“At the end of the day, we are grass farmers. Grass is the center of every operation we have here, and the animals are our tools. The pigs are in the woods cleaning the place up; the chickens are on the pasture eating flies, fertilizing, and leaving us an egg when they’re in the mood; and the cows are mowing the lawn and trampling the weeds. Every animal at the farm has a really great life, and one bad day.” – Nate Beaulac