Sun Prairie farmer embraces regenerative agriculture

With spring right around the corner, farmers are gearing up for farming season.
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 10:26 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - With spring right around the corner, farmers are gearing up for farming season. At one farm in Sun Prairie, you can find a farmer who’s been operating differently than many for over a decade.

Odyssey farm owner Ryan Erisman operates his land using regenerative agriculture.

Erisman raises hogs and feeds them on pastures, using the remaining land to grow crops as feed without the need for tillage or pesticides.

“My version of regenerative agriculture is to raise food in a way that is good for the soil, is good for the animals, is good for the environment,” Erisman said.

Mike Friend, a volunteer for 350 Wisconsin, a climate action organization, said regenerative agriculture is a response to the potentially environmentally harmful ways of conventional farming.

According to the United State Environmental Protection Agency, 11% of greenhouse emissions come from agriculture.

“Some of the practices that we use conventionally in farming that are widespread right now can be really hard on the environment, on the health of the soil and they can actually create a lot of greenhouse gas emissions,” Friend said.

A big challenge for Erisman and other farmers who use regenerative agriculture is profitability.

Since investing $19 thousand in his 32 acres of land, Erisman said his operation is trending up financially.

“The farm has managed to pay me back, increase the capacity to raise animals and crops, and upgrade the machinery at the same time,” Erisman said. “I would say that’s not a bad model.”

Erisman said a key to regenerative agriculture’s success is the community.

“When you purchase your food from a person with whom you can shake hands at the moment of the transaction, then you’re also supporting a regenerative agriculture because it’s helping the local economy,” Erisman said.

A farmer for the last 12 years, Erisman said his biggest motivator is learning.

“I want to get better at it,” Erisman said. “This farm is a living laboratory for me to test my convictions.”

Along with hogs, Erisman said he hopes to add cattle to his farm in the near future.

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