Andre Voisin developed the theory of rational grazing. Darrell Emmick gave us prescribed grazing. Jim Gerrish coined the phenomenon of management intensive grazing. Greg Judy sparked the practice of mob grazing and Allan Savory fathered the worldwide application of holistic planned grazing. So what will the Grass Whisperer’s legacy grazing system be in Wikipedia? I’ve come up with a term that is long overdue: It’s called “Linger Grazing” or perhaps “Linger Farming Systems”.
This revolutionary idea came at the expense of my friend and fellow grazing aficionado, Nathan Weaver, on a trip to Holmes County, Ohio as I was set to deliver enough grazing knowledge to inspire 800 farmers at the North Central Ohio Grazing Conference. When farmers travel for any amount of time together, I’ve found we share stories, discuss global problems, brainstorm practical solutions and create an atmosphere that will benefit the travelers even after the mashed potatoes and gravy effect wears off.
So when the conversation turned to speaking about a message that would resonate or change the behavior and course of land practitioner’s stewardship, I blurted out that we should “linger” more. What transpired after that was a progression of nodding affirmation. We agreed that if we took the time to observe and linger longer in the fields, and in our lives, we would be able to see the things that truly matter. “Huh, it’s that simple,” I thought. I would have to incorporate this sentiment at the podium.
Author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek confirms my take on believing in the linger premise: “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe. The best ideas are the honest ones; ones born out of personal experience. Ones that originated to help a few but ended up helping many”.
Linger is a verb which helps me get over the “slacker label” when I’m lying in the grass looking for earthworm holes and not “working”. The dictionary defines it “as to stay in a place longer than necessary, typically because of a reluctance to leave.”
See if you don’t appreciate this action word: “I lingered in the pasture to watch the bluebirds swoop between the cows. I lingered over a decision. Your beauty gave me cause to linger. I lingered just long enough to see the work of the lord”. It’s a word that substantiates spending time observing and noticing subtle things or changes — critical for farmers to thrive.
The linger notion was brought into more clarity by Jerry D (for Dynamic) Miller’s presentation about getting back to the basics of grazing and the premise of timeliness. He said if we get the basics right the inputs will take care of themselves. But we need timeliness in our routines, to make a harmonious home and take time for personal commitment to romance our children about land, animals, people and God’s creation. This “lingering” idea was approaching a crescendo as I took the microphone.
I started my talk by asking how many linger in their field margins. Not many were takers on this action because as most of us know, lingering has a connotation of being construed as time-wasting. “What if I told you it was an absolute necessity to managing land and animals,” I bantered. “The great Voisin, father of managed grazing, would regularly derive great pleasure simply from lingering and observing his cattle graze the sward,” I continued.
After my soliloquy about noticing how cows stir up wildlife excitement, the speed at which dung beetles find fresh pies and seeing all the indicators of a healthy system by sitting with your granddaughter and lingering in the grass, I finally got the up and down nodding I was after. You see, to be a field craftsman or woman you need to see and experience the subtleties beyond the science and let yourself enjoy the art of grazing. It’s that linger effect that propels you beyond just a fence-mover or gate-opener in lieu of running to another J-O-B.
This back-to-basics belief was never really lost, just hidden by the majesty of inputs that masked the farmer’s eyes and took from the wallet. Inputs abhor lingering to solve problems because you need the time to keep on the squirrel cage of production.
Back in the days of Hugh Bennett, Aldo Leopold, Louis Bromfield, Paul Sears, Russell Lord and J. Russell Smith who founded The Friends of the Land movement from 1940 to 1954 favored, “the ascendant notions of ecology, environmentalism and intrinsic value of non-human life” and spearheaded the land ethic based on a lingering strategy.
Folks would come to Bromfield’s Malabar Farm in droves from all corners of the country to witness, discuss and linger over ideas to stop erosion and add real wealth from soil health. The observational skills of the friends were heralded in now, rare journals, which I got a chance to see under the flickering of an oil lamp. Never was I so impressed by a group of people that lingered and lamented over the thoughts, strategies and actions in saving our nation’s topsoil.
I’ve heard from conference organizers that “linger grazing” was a worthy approach to take and celebrated as a way for farmers to describe to their neighbors why they were just lying in the grass and not having a coronary episode. The idea also gave credence to frolic in the pastures as a family and enjoy the relationships between people, land and community.
For me, the linger effect of observing nature and learning from it is the best education a farmer could get and share with others. Try being a lingering grazier this year and see if you profit both financially and spiritually. “Knowledge comes, wisdom lingers” ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson.