Don Jackson, along with his wife, Patsy, and eldest son, Patrick, raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW), Certified Grassfed by AGW Hereford beef cattle and goats outdoors on pasture at their 125-acre property in northwest South Carolina.
Don is an associate commissioner of the Laurens County Soil and Water Conservation District, President Elect of the South Carolina Forage and Grazing Lands Coalition (SCFGLC), NCDA Soil Health Champion, NatGLC board member representing NACD and commissioner for the South Carolina State Ethics Commission. In 2017, he was the winner of the Laurens County Outstanding Beef Producer of the Year and the district’s Conservationist of the Year.
In an article for the National Association of Conservation Districts, Don explains how he and Patrick have changed the farm management over the years to include more sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices.
“I slowly started to try some of Patrick’s suggested management practices, such as rotating my stock to avoid overgrazing a pasture, mainly to keep some peace between us!” Don laughs. “It wasn’t long before I could see improvements in the pastures simply by letting it rest for longer between grazing. In 2011, the ‘lights when on’: I realized the standard conventional management practices I’d been using in the past were not improving soil health, forage quality or my bottom line, and I made a 180-degree turn.”
In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Don and Patsy decided to become Certified Grassfed by AGW for their beef cattle and goats, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet, and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range.
Don and Patrick have worked closely with Lisa Good, the Laurens Country’s District Conservationist at the National Resources Conservation Service, to install permanent cross-fencing in the pastures, fencing around ponds and streams and other conservation measures around livestock watering areas, as well as introducing bale grazing in the winter to build organic matter in the soil.
“Staying focused was sometimes difficult due to the slow process of seeing good results, but each growing season we saw greater organic matter content in the soil, as well as improvements in forage quality and quantity, and livestock health—all with fewer inputs,” Don explains. “I have been using non-conventional grazing practices since 2011 and have seen a complete turnaround from where our farm was in 2008.”
“I’ve come to understand that I am a grass producer, not a beef or goat producer, and what is going on under the grass in the soil is key to being a successful grass producer. Neighbors and friends in the cattle business think I am crazy and have loss my mind. This is a good thing, because I know that I have left my old practices behind and I am moving in the right direction when I hear that!” Don adds.
For more information on Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW beef and goat available from Pompey’s Rest, contact Don Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org and 864-861-3490.