My article “Farmers Go Wild” about conservation-based agriculture is in the Winter 2012 issue of YES! Magazine. You can read it here.
“Frogs are an indicator species,” Jack Gray explains, leaning over a small, muddy pond to look for tadpoles.
Here on the 170-acre Winter Green Farm, 20 miles west of Eugene, Ore., Gray has raised cattle and grown vegetables and berries for 30 years.
It’s a sunny April day, but water pools in the pastures, evidence of the rains this part of Oregon is known for.
Gray is in his mid-50s and agile from decades of working outside. He built this pond to provide habitat for native amphibians, because bass in another pond were eating the red-legged frogs and Western pond turtles.
Cows graze in a field behind him; wind whispers through a stand of cattails, and two mallards lift off. Gray points out the calls of killdeer, flycatchers, and blackbirds. Up the hill a flock of sheep chomp on long grass. “They’re part of a controlled grazing to try to control reed canary grass, which is an invasive species,” Gray explains. “It tends to smother areas. It makes deserts almost.”
Gray, his wife, Mary Jo, and two other families co-own Winter Green Farm. They are committed to something Jo Ann Baumgartner, director of the Wild Farm Alliance, calls “farming with the wild.”