What’s New in the Field? {Grow Your Garden}

Nicole SmallBy Nicole Small, Blogger of the Month for May

(Editor’s note: This post was supposed to run on Monday but got waylaid by technical difficulties. Sorry for the delay, Nicole!)

Last week, I spent a a few days listening to speakers at the Alltech Symposium. They talked about how we need to look differently at how we feed livestock and soils. I was very excited to think about new things in our fields. I loved learning how microbes, viruses, bacteria, plants, insects, and animals all work together to provide the food that we eat every day.

When I returned home, we had received a little bit of rain, but our soils were still dry. In fact, much of the state remains in a drought. I have friends who aren’t too concerned about it as long as they can water their lawn and flowers, but should they worry?

Dust Storm

My parents attended my cousin’s wedding while I was gone and made several new friends. My parents always seem to make new friends when they go places, but this time they sent me a new Facebook follower who messaged me the next morning. Apparently, they talked about the price of beef in the grocery store and how it keeps rising.

Cows in the fall

This is where we come back to the drought. The cow herd in the United States is the smallest it has been since 1950. Ranchers from Kansas to the west have reduced their cow herds. Why? When there is little grass, ranchers have two choices:

1. Buy feed.

2. Sell cows, so they don’t abuse the grass.


Have you noticed the beef prices seem to go up every time you visit the grocery store? It is simple supply and demand that we learned back in Econ 101. There are fewer cows, so the price is going to go up.


Grasses need to be grazed carefully. The native grasses in the Flint Hills of Kansas have been there for hundreds of years. Ranchers monitor the grasses and try to take only half of the grass height with grazing cattle. The plants need the leaves to rebuild their roots each year before winter. The ranchers in the Flint Hills care for these grasses to maintain the the ecosystem beneath our feet.

Calf in grass

Did you know that there is twice as much plant mass underground as what you see above ground?

With the farmers and ranchers looking for new ways to improve the soil, gardeners everywhere may be gaining from their research in the near future. I see products that we use in our fields often make an appearance at the garden supply stores.

Have you thought about what you can’t see in your flower beds? How do you care for the ecosystem under your feet?

Nicole Small is a mom, farmer, rancher, farm wife, volunteer, short order cook, baker and blogger at Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom.