How can farming be more sustainable? Interview with Mike Gruber of SunFed Ranch

Published 1st July 2020

There’s a lot of general discussion about sustainable farming practices nowadays. In fact, it can sometimes seem like there are as many different ways to talk about the subject.

For instance, when we talk about sustainability in agriculture, we immediately think of the practical aspects – how to respect “the environment” or the welfare of the animals –, but there are more abstract aspects that must be taken into account when developing a sustainable framework on a farm.

The most basic principle of sustainability in agriculture is to ensure that land, nutrients and finances aren’t depleted over time, so that all these resources remain in good condition for future generations. That is obviously the goal of any successful farm, but it’s not always easy to achieve.

We interviewed Mike Gruber, Farm Manager at SunFed Ranch, one of the largest organic cattle companies in the Western States, primarily based in California and Nebraska.

Mike Gruber shared with us his definition of sustainable agriculture, and provided several examples that he’s put into practice on SunFed Ranch. SunFed utilizes progressive rotational grazing and regenerative agriculture, and they operate on a seasonal basis.

SunFed Ranch was founded in 2011 by members of some long-time ranching families from California with one simple goal: deliver domestically produced, consistently delicious grass-fed beef that is good for the environment and even better for human health.

“Today, most of the beef consumed in the US is not produced in the US,” Gruber said. However, for Gruber, locally produced meat is absolutely essential because it’s better for the environment and traceability, but also because it creates jobs and opportunities in local communities. 

Gruber explained that SunFed Ranch is involved in every stage of raising beef – from the first blade of grass to the consumer’s dinner plate. On their website, we can read that SunFed Ranch’s cattle “are grass-fed and grass-finished on pasture and treated with the highest level of care and dignity.”

According to Gruber, it is important that the American consumer regains confidence in livestock producers. Encouraging sustainable beef-operation is all about preserving resources for the next generations. At SunFed Ranch, the cowboys who care about livestock every day also monitor wildlife, fauna, and flora, by saving water, using manure as a natural fertilizer instead of chemicals, measuring quantity and quality of grass and putting the most suited cattle for the pasture.

Cattle production has three legs: environment, genetics, and health. “Although most beef producers are really good at monitoring the health of their cattle, a better work could be done on matching the cattle to the environment and improving the genetics,” Gruber explained. Buying and developing cattle which are especially good for a certain type of soil and grass is the key.

“With little effort, you can learn that. It sounds like a lot of work, but in reality, it makes things a lot easier,” Gruber concluded.

SunFed Ranch’s products are sold all across West America, and you can even find online retailers on this webpage.

Lance Paskewitz, Hustler Business Development – North America