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Rowe receives 2016 Watershed Award

GUELPH-ERAMOSA - John Rowe of Guelph-Eramosa, has a different way of relating to his land and his cows; a way that he’s been developing since the 1960s.

He received a 2016 Watershed Award from the GRCA for his environmental practices and for his willingness to educate people about them.

Rowe is the founder of Rowe Farms, which has a store in Guelph and seven more in the Toronto area.

The company also has a network of farmers producing a range of foods, while Rowe grows beef on his land north of Guelph Lake.

He is a longtime tree planter of shelter belts and windbreaks on his farm. He also uses farming methods that emphasize stewardship, natural cycles and limited inputs. Rowe started growing hormone-free and antibiotic-free beef decades ago due to health concerns.

Climate change

Now he is finding new ways of farming that he believes will help slow down climate change. He says agriculture has come to this place today for a valiant reason - to grow enough food to feed everyone. Now the issue of the day has shifted, so it is time to investigate new ways of farming.

“I started at a time when there was still starvation in the world due to lack of food ... now we need to farm to reduce the impact of climate change,” Rowe said. “Cattle can be part of the solution.”

Rowe thinks about energy efficiency, the water cycle and nutrients in ways that are different from traditional farming practices. He is taking old farming methods and making them new again.

“(Rowe) shows how raising beef can be good for the environment,” explained Greg Meredith, the senior interpreter at Guelph Lake Nature Centre.

Rowe says cattle digest grass better than corn and his animals are healthier and less stressed because of the food they eat.

There are no signs of water problems either. The fertilizer comes from the cows, but they are moved to a new field each day, so the manure breaks down and decomposes naturally, feeding the grass.

Resilient pasture

Many perennial species offer different nutrients to the animals. The roots of each species are at different depths, making the pasture more resilient during dry conditions.

Rowe believes that all of this combined has the potential to regenerate the soil and hold more carbon on the land in the plants he grows. The soil is never exposed, so there is no erosion.

This is farming in a different way with a different goal — “to enhance nature’s systems to feed ourselves,” Rowe said.

He knows he doesn’t have all the answers, but he always welcomes others to build on what he is learning.

By Janet Baine, GRCA communications specialist

April 21, 2017


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