Fitness: 3 x 5 (Linear Progression)
Performance: 70% x 8 x 4
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AMRAP 8 Minutes
12 KB Swing 72/53
6 Hang Power Clean 155/105
3 Muscle Ups
Coach MeLo making the joyous face we all should when we mobilize
Happy Monday Reminders
- There’s a new post over on Inside the Affiliate called “Don’t Be a Cheerleader: 10 Pieces of Advice for CrossFit Coaches” and it’s all about our very own beloved Coach Fox. Even if you’re not a coach, we think you’ll enjoy it!
- Attention Herondale CSA members! If you can take about 7-10 minutes to fill out this anonymous survey, you would be doing your good deed for the week! Please respond by Wednesday, April 23.
- Margie is also looking for 2-3 people who would like to do a phone interview with her so she can dig into some areas a little bit deeper. It would take about 30 minutes and she‘d like to complete them by April 28. Please email her at lempert [at] wisc.edu if you are interested.
Why Join a CSA?
Are you curious to know why CFSBK supports the Community Supported Agriculture model? Our very own Margie Lempert, founder of the CSA program here and currently finishing a masters degree in agroecology at the University of Wisconsin, will approach that question from several angles in a short series of articles. The first outlined the differences between industrial agriculture and agroecology. In Part 2, she explored animal welfare in differing production systems. For our third installment, Margie explains how livestock agriculture impacts the environment, for good or for ill.
Aside from personal health, the environmental impacts of agriculture are where the rubber meets the road for a lot of consumers in terms of deciding what to eat. This is a pretty legit reason since agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to environmental degradation. You know that hypoxic zone on the Gulf of Mexico the size of Connecticut?
All that bright green represents farm impact on the Gulf. The red points are cities.
According to their 2013 report, The Food and Agriculture Organization (run by the UN) attributes 14.5% of human induced greenhouse gas emissions to livestock agriculture alone. Of that percentage, 65% comes from beef and dairy (cows are huge methane emitters, a problem across all farming styles).
So how exactly do farms destroy aquatic life thousands of miles away and change the climate?
It all starts with ground cover. When natural ground cover is disturbed, major problems unfold and reverberate. I’m going to focus on grasslands because they cover 30-40% of the Earth’s surface, are incredibly fertile, important for carbon storage/recycling, and provide habitat for diverse wildlife. In the US, they also happen mostly to have been replaced by farmland.
Nerding Out on Grass
Exposed soil causes big problems. Without something to hold it in place, it is subject to the mercurial whims of nature. So, we get tragedies like this:
Bare soil blows off with wind, but it also runs off in big rainstorms. With the soil goes phosphorus, a nutrient that promotes algal blooms in water, suffocating aquatic life. In an inefficient nutrient cycling system (i.e. monocultures of corn or bare ground), we lose nitrogen up into the atmosphere as nitrous oxide (a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2), and down into the ground water as nitrate. Nitrate is a very important fertilizer for corn in particular, but also toxic in excess for aquatic and human life (blue baby syndrome).
So, all that vulnerable soil and nutrients make their way to the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico.
A good stand of grass with deep, spidery roots holds soil in place, keeping phosphorus from running off during erosion. It’s super efficient at cycling nutrients, which keeps nitrogen in place rather than leaking up into the air or down into the groundwater.
If left alone, or managed correctly, grasses continuously slough off their roots, adding carbon to soil sort of like a stream trickling into a lake. The deeper the roots grow, the deeper the carbon is stored, which is better for long-term sequestration. (As long as it remains in place. If it gets dug up, or tilled, all that accumulation is lost.) This process improves soil quality and nutrient availability for grass growth. Organic matter feeds soil microbes, which are as important and mysterious as our own gut microbes. There is substantial interest in the natural resource management community to improve and restore grasslands with the hope that they can help to mitigate the excess carbon we’ve unleashed into the atmosphere by altering natural landscapes and using fossil fuel. This is a pretty complicated thing to measure, and highly variable geographically so we still have a ways to go in terms of understanding the real opportunities.
Bonus bit of geekery: bare soil promotes a rise in ground temperature. It’s called the albedo effect, and it’s the same principle behind why you would choose a white rather than black shirt on a hot, sunny. The darker the land cover, the more heat it absorbs. Grass’s lighter color reflects better than soil, and the varying angles of leaves diffuse light.
And Now Back to Farms…
Here’s what a typical CAFO looks like:
Not a lot of grass. Kind of like wearing the soles of your shoes down, there are just too many animals standing in the same place for too long. In a CAFO, there is also all that concentrated manure to contend with. Manure contains a lot of nitrogen, which is why it’s used as fertilizer. But it can’t just pile up because nutrient levels will become toxic on site, and there will be downstream damage when the bare soil runs off, taking nitrogen-filled poop and phosphorus with it. We already know of the health hazards posed to animals standing in their own feces, which then threatens people too. So, CAFOs must remove manure and re-purpose it elsewhere as fertilizer or for energy production.
Pasture-based farming can be as much a pro-environmental strategy as anything else. By managing the animal-grass relationship (also called biomimicry), the farmer is able to encourage thick ground cover with deep roots. If you remember in Part 1, I mentioned that pasture-based farmers never allow animals to eat grass down to the nubs because there must be enough leaf left for photosynthesis. This encourages roots to grow longer and leaves to grow taller.
Aside from erosion protection, pastures prevent or mitigate flooding since the ground acts as a sponge. Of course, we get tight nutrient cycling, carbon storage and organic matter build up as well. If managed intentionally, diversely seeded pastures also provide more opportunities for wildlife habitat than bare ground or monocultures, especially birds, insects and other small critters.
Here, manure is an effective fertilizer rather than toxic because animals are rotated before too much accumulation in one spot occurs, and the hoof action spreads and works it into the ground. Also, animal pastures are typically a mix of grass and legumes (for example clover); the legumes are able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere, which reduces or eliminates the need for a synthetic nitrogen fertilizer.
Improving grazing methods is an elegant strategy for improving grasslands. Allan Savory’s TED talk further elucidates the possibilities.
I want to be very clear: just like anything, grazing can be done well and it can be done poorly. This is where the farmer’s ability to observe and understand his or her animals, the climate, and the land makes all the difference. People in the Midwest, and certainly in the more challenging arid conditions of the West, talk about grazing for environmental stewardship. But, for various reasons, I don’t think we talk about it as much in the Northeast. You the consumer can make that conversation more salient by asking farmers about their practices, or better yet visiting farms to see for yourself.
(Blatant) Editorial Comment
The commodity livestock system is destructive. As a member of a CSA, you have the opportunity to directly contribute to improving (or at least not degrading) the environment. I’ve heard Jerry talk of his connection to the land as much as to the animals or business of farming. He seeks to learn more, such as through workshops with Holistic Management International, an empowering and environmentally focused organization dedicated to helping farmers improve their craft.
“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land… In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”
-Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac