• Jen

Sainfoin

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

I recently found myself caught up in a conversation with a local Veterinarian that has gotten the gears turning in my head, once again. A small-talk conversation with some light political innuendos, led me to make a comment about how "Dad says one day when the economy collapses again, we will all need to go back to the barter system. Being able to survive and sustain; grown your own food and livestock; and work with your hands, will all be necessary skills to survive. Those people will be the richest in having the knowledge and goods to trade".


The Veterinarian looked and me and confidently said, "your Father is a smart man", and from there we took a deep dive into a conversation about our lifestyles, and that quickly shifted the focus to growing our own food and raising a sustainable plot of land.


I was telling the Veterinarian my plans to start an apiary next summer. If you are unaware, an apiary is a bee colony, or a collection of hives.


"Sainfoin", he says. "S-a-i-n-f-o-i-n, Sainfoin...write it down and remember it". I instantly pulled my phone out and started typing the word into the notes page on my phone, without even having a clue what the heck it is. That led to my follow up question asking what it is and how does it pertain to this conversation?

Photo Credit: https://plantsofthesouthwest.com/products/sanfoin

Check out this link if your curiosity is peaked:

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_PLANTMATERIALS/publications/mtpmctn12043.pdf



He began explaining that sainfoin is a forage crop, much like alfalfa hay, but its nutrient density and quality is superior to alfalfa hay, and unlike alfalfa, you can harvest after its flowers bloom. If you harvest alfalfa after its flowers have bloomed, all the nutrient density gets sucked out of the stems of the plant, so it has much less nutrient availability for livestock. However, sainfoin retains all of its nutrients. The Vet told me it's the perfect crop for sustaining an apiary and also having it act as forage ground for livestock.


Instantly, my eyes lit up, and the "NERD ALERT" alarm started going off in my head, because I truly get excited learning about this kind of stuff. It's fascinating how our ecosystem works, and how so many different biological entities can thrive from one common source throughout different stages of the life cycle.


"So, if sainfoin is the obviously better choice, then why are more farmers and ranchers preferring alfalfa, soy beans, and corn as feed stuffs?", I countered.


The Vet fired back, "You try telling a farmer that the first year, the field can not be utilized for production in order to allow for growth and development of the plant, and then year two and beyond that, only 70% of crop will be yielded at harvest. BUT...100% efficiency of the feed breakdown will be achieved and the nutrient quality in that 70% yield will surpass an alfalfa field with 100% harvest yield."



The valley our farm resides in.

I understood exactly what he meant by that statement. It's not that farmers and ranchers are not stewards of the land and do not care for their animals...I am not maligning them in any way, shape, or form. Heck, my career exists solely because they exist.


The Vet had a deeper meaning to those words. The farmers and ranchers have been told that each year, every field they own needs to be tilled the same, planted the same, and harvested the same. It eventually becomes so ingrained into their mindset, that breaking the status quo is scary. It's scary because some of the risks are unknown, and in the current depression era our Agriculture sector is facing, unknowns can equate to financial risks, even if the outcome is better than anyone could ever imagine.


Imagine being able to plant natural forage that can support an entire micro and macro ecosystem, and keep soil healthy. Less land would ultimately be needed because the nutrient quality is so high, and it has multi-purpose factors. It's a no-brainer...right? No, it's a shift in mindset.


Our society has become so enamored by status quos and we have become defenseless in our abilities to think logically and outside the box because we have been told for so long what the "right way" is, that we do not challenge anything or remove ourselves from our comfort zones every once in a while.


People choose to live behind their phones and TVs, and think about food only coming from the grocery store, and never having to worry about shortages. If more people spent 1 less hour per day on their phones or watching TV, and instead spent that time touring a farm, reading a book, or even growing a few tomato plants on the balcony of their city apartment, we may have a few less defenseless thinkers.


The Vet pointed out to me that the town we were in at the time of our conversation, required trees to be groomed a certain way, not because it benefited the health of the tree (it actually hurt the health of the tree), but purely for aesthetics. He also told me that chickens were not allowed in the town limits because they are too noisy. I don't know about you, but I would rather listen to chickens over loud lawn mowers and weed-whackers any day!


Photo Credit: https://greatbasinseeds.com/sainfoin-as-a-hay-and-forage-crop/

After talking to the Vet for over an hour and a half, the conversation started to fade and I needed to be moving along. As he started walking away, he turned back and said, "When the economy collapses, bring your chickens and your eggs into town. You will have everything to give, and people here in town will have nothing."


I was once told something incredible by an elderly lady at a nursing home, during my "out of the comfort zone" experience in high school, taking a course to become a certified nursing assistant at the local community college. "One word can change a sentence", is what she told me. It's amazing how one little word, "sainfoin", could evolve into such a thought-provoking conversation.


If you are looking for a personal goal for the week, month, or heck...even the year, I challenge you to do something outside of your comfort zone. If you can put yourself into a situation where you are challenged to change your mindset, then you are living a valuable experience.


-J

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