Bringin’ in the Oxen

We recently concluded a crowdfunding drive to bring oxen to the farm! Here is more information on the project:

Feed the People Farms believes that the future of farming in America needs to look a lot more like the rest of the world – not the other way around. Worldwide, the majority of food is produced by small farms; the majority of small farms have very little capital; and the majority of farmed acres are worked not with tractors, but by animals!

Small loans, angel investments, community funds, and crowdsourcing can fund small farms if animals replace machinery – more  specifically: OXEN.
And here’s how:

Inputs
Oxen are fueled by nothing more than grass; a 4 acre pasture can sustain even the largest breeds of oxen for most of the year, providing the potential for many farms to “grow their own fuel.”  Draft implements have few parts, and many can be made right on the farm or in the community. And it should go without saying that while you can’t replace oxen parts, they (like all animals) can heal themselves.

Fertility
Another trick that no tractor can pull off is fertilizing crops by itself. Cattle return up to 90% of what they consume BACK to the soil in the form of manure. And because the sun, rain, and air are free inputs for every farmer, cattle on pasture can actually increase soil fertility with no more inputs than a block of salt and some treats for the oxen. No fertilizer, no nothin’, just good soil.

Capital
While the walk-behind tractor was a revolution in machine cultivation for small farmers financially, requiring 85% less capital compared to the riding tractors, the capital needed to cultivate land with a team of oxen is up to 85% less than that! The small walk-behind tractor with implements costs up to $12,000, where a team of oxen and the implements needed can be from $5000 to as low as $2000.

Along with the above mentioned advantages, oxen provide a level of biodiversity, maneuverability, regeneration, self-reliance, and companionship that no tractor could ever provide.

As an added advantage of joining the struggle to save rare and endangered livestock breeds, Feed the People Farms will be welcoming the Pineywoods cattle ! This team will help train more new farmers in driving oxen. At a time when financial burden, not skill or ambition, is a main reason for the failure of new farms, oxen provide a “way in” for young people who want to farm, but can find little funding. This summer I took the Oxen Basics class at Tillers International , and have been doing some rudimentary calf training with a neighbor’s calves. Now I am ready for, and in need of, a permanent team.

So many people joined in offering support in the endeavor to save our future with folk-ways. The cattle and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts (and stomachs)!

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Slim driving the team at Oxen Basics. Photo credit: Rob Collins, Midwest Ox Drovers Association

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Slim with a Hereford calf. Photo credit: Max Chan

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