A Healthy Eco-System

April 22, 2023

A group of nature loving folks gathered at our ranch Friday evening for a time of fellowship, education and exploration. The evening started with a meal featuring proteins from Grateful Graze and a special treat of freshly harvested Pheasant Back Mushrooms from our timber.


After dinner Monte introduced Brian Fox Ellis from Bishop Hill, Illinois. He is a nationally known author, speaker, and historian who has a passion for teaching through impersonating pivotal local historical figures.  He walked the ranch with us and discussed the work of John James Audubon and the Audubon Society as it relates to eco-system health. 

The weather presented some challenges with wind and cooler temps, but the group was eager to learn on our hike how healthy soil and managed grazing, to mimic nature, is making a huge impact on water quality, carbon sequestration, plant diversity and bird habitat.

The farm was purchased by Monte and Robyn Bottens in January of 2018. It had been in CRP for 18 years which has presented both pros and cons. On one hand it hadn't been farmed or had any chemical applications during this time, on the other hand it had been taken over by golden rod and other invasive weeds, trees and shrubs. 

Monte shared these two photos of the farm taken 77 years apart and below were his talking points for the evening.


The LAW of Context

The closer we can mimic the natural system, the less inputs that will be needed and the greater the outputs will be.

5 Soil Health Principles

  1. Minimize Soil Disturbance
  2. Keep Soil Covered
  3. Living Roots at All Times 
  4. Maximize Diversity
  5. Integrate Grazing Livestock

The Microbiome - Everything is Connected

  • Soil Health  = Plant Health = Animal Health = Human Health = Eco-System Health

Eco-System Health

  • Birds are and indicator species, much like earthworms are for soil health
  • DIVERSITY is the key.  The more species and the more uncommon the species present, the more complex and robust the ecosystem is.
  • Predators (Coyotes).  We farm with predators and DO NOT kill them.  Research shows that animal diversity collapses by >50% when predators are removed.


  • Delicious, nutrient dense food for our customers
  • A great life for the animals in our care
  • Environmentally friendly and soil improving
  • Opportunities for young families to return to agriculture.

The following is a list of birds identified in our pasture in a period of 15 minutes using the Merlin app and identifying their songs and the recording can be heard in the video:

American Robin
Baltimore Oriole
Brown-headed Cowbird
Carolina Wren
Common Grackle
Downy Woodpecker
European Starling
House Finch
House Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-winged Blackbird
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow

Robyn Bottens

We Bee Grateful

Jun 18th, 2022

Earth Day 365 Day a Year

Apr 12th, 2022

Chickens as "Teenagers"

Mar 16th, 2022