Green Being Farm is an organic farm and natural oasis in Neustadt, Ontario. In addition to our vegetable gardens, there are almost 60 acres of permanent pastures, which we use for grazing animals. However, several species of birds that nest on the ground in the spring are put at risk from haying and grazing.
In the spring of 2019, Green Being Farm welcomed researchers from BECO, Bird Ecology and Conservation Ontario. Their goal was to understand the habits of grassland nesting birds and attempt to find strategies for the birds to thrive while at the same time allowing farmers to make a living from the land. They spent the spring on our farm, and others, documenting the habits of the birds: when and where they nest, nest success rates, and so on.
Green Being Farm is home to a plethora of bird species, including the Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark. Both are categorized as Species at Risk in Ontario. These birds, and other grassland nesting birds need open fields of tall grass to build their nests. However, there are hardly any grasslands left in Ontario. We always think of "saving the forests," but grassland ecosystems are also in alarming decline, along with the animals who call them home.
We love having these Species at Risk on our farm. They are charismatic and the song of the bobolink in particular is like no other. However, it is not a safe place to be. With cattle grazing, and tractors haying, imagine how vulnerable the nests are. By the end of the study, BECO concluded that ultimately, the best way to protect these birds is to delay grazing and haying until after the birds have fledged (left the nest and learned to fly).
In Europe, farmers are paid by the government to set aside swaths of pasture for these birds. In Ontario, subsidies like these are nearly nonexistent. Without help, farmers can't afford to take land out of production to set aside for the birds.
We are proposing the creation of the Green Being Grassland Preserve, a place where grassland nesting birds like Bobolink and Eastern Meadowlark can come and lay their nests without them being trampled or flattened by tractors. We want to set aside a full 30% of our farm in the spring, and take it out of agricultural production until all the birds have fledged. Using data from BECO, we know when the birds nest, when the chicks fledge, and where on the farm they prefer to nest. These areas will be protected.
Taking the land out of production means we will be unable to raise the same number of animals and we will suffer financial losses which we can't afford to do. If we did, we would lose the farm, and the next farmer would in all likelihood plow up the permanent pasture that has been there for 10 years to grow corn. Which is why we need help!
We estimate that $2500/yr will cover the economic losses incurred by dedicating approx 20 acres as a Grassland Preserve throughout the spring and early summer. By this time, the grasses will be dead and dry and of no use to the cattle, so we'll need to clip the pasture to make it productive again, and so this is also factored into our fundraising goal. We are attempting to raise enough to keep the Preserve secure for 2 years to get us started, then continue our efforts on an annual basis.
If we raise more than $5000, the rest will be donated to BECO in the hopes that they can inspire other farmers to do the same.
All photos are taken on Green Being Farm, courtesy of BECO.