The Bamberger Ranch has won the top voluntary land stewardship award for the state of Texas. The 5,500 acres ranch in central Texas has been owned and operated by Mr. Bamberger for 40 years. My uncle (a Texan) sent me the article, which can be found here. While it’s important for sustainable agriculture to come into the consciousness of mainstream America, there are some things about the article that bother me, and can be misleading to the average Joe.
The first page of the article describes how Bamberger started.
Bamberger, a former door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman who became a millionaire when he and his partner franchised Church’s Fried Chicken in 1969, bought the property 40 years ago…
This sentence is upsetting. Why? It implies that only independently wealthy individuals can start a ranch/farm. If I was an aspiring farmer/rancher, this would discourage me. If I was an average Joe, I’d think that the only viable way anyone could “conserve” land would be to first, acquire a lot of money, and then, that individual could actually start to make a difference in agriculture.
However, the next sentence goes on to say:
His goal? To show others that by removing invasive species, replanting native grasses and trees and managing livestock more carefully, even the most mismanaged land could rebound.
Good, so this gives people hope that it can be done. And the author also used a key word, mismanaged, not overgrazed.
The article goes on to talk about how the water has returned to the land. In essence, Mr. Bamberger has figured out how to keep the water that falls on the ranch there as long as possible. The list of water resources that developed as a result of his management are impressive.
…he describes how two streams now run through the property and 11 springs have been cased, or contained to catch water.
This is the power of properly managed grazing. However, Mr. Bamberger is also practicing permaculture, and he doesn’t even know it. He has created swales, or ditches that follow the contour of the land, to slow down water. Think of these ditches running perpendicular to the downhill slope. These swales are often filled with organic matter, which will absorb the water, and slowly release it. He has constructed about a mile of swales. This is really great to see, because I was wondering if creating swales on large acreage could be done.
I was also surprised that Mr. Bamberger only has 160 goats and 60 head of cattle on 5,500 acres of land. Even in a drought, this is an extremely low stocking rate. Is there anyone from Texas that can provide some validity to such a low stocking rate? This summer I grazed 20 head on 40 acres for a few months.
While there might be problems with the way the article was written, it’s good to see what private land ownership can accomplish.