Finding ways to integrate livestock back on the landscape has the potential to significantly benefit farmers, the environment and rural communities. From creating opportunities for beginning farmers, to improving the soil, to helping make cover crops profitable, livestock are often a missing piece in Midwestern agricultural systems, where the grazing of vast herds of bison and elk were vital parts of the historical ecosystem.
But accessing land to graze, or finding livestock farmers to partner with, can be a barrier to expanding integrated crop-livestock systems. A new website by Practical Farmers of Iowa, Pasture Project, and the Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group – a network of grazing educators in the Upper Midwest – seeks to address this challenge.
The Midwest Grazing Exchange (midwestgrazingexchange.com) is a free matchmaking service that aims to connect graziers and landowners who live in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin. Graziers can search for forage to graze and landowners can search for livestock to graze their land.
The website lets users:
- search listings, including through an interactive map with filters for criteria like season, land or livestock type
- create listings of what land or livestock they have to offer
- create a free account to save listings of interest, add new listings, see contact details and message other users
- browse a curated list of grazing resources, including examples of grazing lease agreements and contracts
- explore the benefits regenerative grazing for both landowners and livestock owners
The website also lists grazing specialists and organizations offering grazing support for each state participating in the exchange.
“Integrating livestock on the landscape is a win-win-win for soil, animals and profitability,” says Meghan Filbert, livestock program manager at PFI who helped lead development of the new website.
“The Midwest Grazing Exchange is unique because it serves multiple states in the Upper Midwest and expands beyond cover crop grazing. All grazing scenarios, including woodland and urban grazing, are represented. We want to unlock the plethora of benefits that come with well-managed grazing, and created a space to do so.”
Farmers and landowners are encouraged to explore the site, and create an account to add livestock or land they have to offer. For questions about the website, contact Meghan at (515) 232-5661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Midwest Perennial Forage Working Group’s mission is to increase land used for pasture and perennial forage production in the Upper Midwest, and to improve the environmental performance of farming systems while maintaining agricultural production and profitability. The MPFWG is a branch of Green Lands Blue Waters, an organization that champions integrating perennial plants and continuous living cover in the agricultural landscape.
The Midwest Grazing Exchange is funded by the Cedar Tree Foundation, Regenerative Agriculture Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.
Source: Practical Farmers of Iowa Press Release