The Red Hills Rancher says there is an energy that flows between man, cattle, and forage – and if you get the soil in your soul, you’ll get that energy balanced to produce abundance from the land.
The energy flow all started in this story between Brian Alexander (a.k.a. Red Hills Rancher), his dad – Ted and what his dad called their “grass farm.” Alexander is taking that grass one step further and peering into the depths of the soil and its “soul” purpose for society in the Gyp Hills of Kansas.
What the Red Hills Rancher wants everyone who is a steward of the land in whatever form to understand is that the soil is everything, “America’s largest export from agriculture is not corn, soybeans or cotton – it’s topsoil. Collectively, we let 75 billion tons of soil blow and wash away a year. Have you ever tried to buy soil, and have it trucked around? I haven’t, but I’ve sold some at ten bucks a ton. Let’s just say you’re a good farmer who raised 50-bushel wheat on a 40-acre field – 3,000 pounds of wheat is what that comes to and during that year you lost between two and five tons of soil per acre. So now you want to replace that soil you lost – five tons per acre times 40 acres is 200 tons that I would be happy to sell you for ten bucks a ton. Now you must pay four bucks a mile for the semi to move the soil and finally you have to be able to spread it back out over your field. That wouldn’t be cheap. What would your profit margins look like if you had to replace the soil you lost every year?”
Alexander’s conservation mindset was seeded early on, “While all the rest of my high school friends were riding bulls and roping cows, I was riding around with my dad looking at grass and creeks and cutting trees.”
An art teacher, who decided to put his artistic mind towards his father’s ranch, Ted was a student of Allan Savory and Ranching for Profit. Alexander said he learned much from his father’s vision for the ranch and would later attend Ranching for Profit twice and also meet and learn from Savory as well as a multitude of other soil health enthusiasts.
After high school, Alexander said he was uninterested in going into debt for a piece of paper, so he joined the Navy where he was an engineer working on propulsion auxiliary machinery. In the Navy, Alexander had a vision issue that disqualified him for what he called the “cool stuff,” but as a Machinist Mate, and Gas Turbine Systems Technician, he sharpened his keen sense of detail and technical skills. The work ethic he developed as a child and in the military would also prove beneficial when applied to the hyper-focused soil health regenerative ag efforts he has continued on the 7,000-acre ranch he now leases from his family in South Central Kansas on the northern edge of the Red Hills.
“I got my discharge papers on Valentine’s Day in 2006 and moved back to Kansas that summer. In the winter of 2006, I attended Ranching for Profit for the first time. In 2008, I felt I was ready to do something and leased the south cell of the ranch from the family partnership and started my grazing business,” he explained. “The ink on the agreement was barely dry and I was a week away from receiving cattle when a wildfire swept through the ranch and burned about 55 percent right up the middle. Dad and I spent most of the summer rebuilding fence.”
“In 2010, I thought it was time to change things up a bit, so I took over the other two cells on the ranch and decided to not run pairs like dad had for the last few years, it was time to run some yearlings,” he went on. “So, I partnered with my neighbor Nate and we ran a herd of over 900 and another herd of just over a thousand. We had them all for 100 days and then we split between my place and his . . . Since then, I’ve mostly grazed pairs or replacement heifers.”
Alexander shared some of the “soul” and “sole” components of his dreams, “It includes a vision of time off for family, friends and fun. It includes a vision of a prosperous, local community that is much closer to growing its own food locally. I’d like to see multi-species grazing and more local markets. I understand global trade is important, but if we can’t feed our rural communities with local, home-raised food, we are living in a food desert.”
“The government isn’t going to help us get things better,” Alexander said passionately about the current paradigm. “We are being fed a nutrient deficient diet promoted by the government, based on lies and false research and motivated by corporate greed. If we can’t rebuild local food systems on the Great Plains, save the soil and create food oases, we will be lucky to get 60 more harvests.”
Learn more at: https://www.facebook.com/redhillsrancher/