Prescribed grazing: Family-friendly way of farming that offers flexibility

Tivoli Gough
Kirsten Jurcek  was looking for a better way to produce healthy food on their Jefferson County farm.

Like many success stories it started with a woman who recognized the need for change. Jump back to 1968 when Weenonah Brattset and her husband decided to take up farming as a better way of life to raise their growing family.

They found land in Jefferson County and through the years, successfully raised a family and a farm raising two children and growing 260 acres of cropland, pasture and forest.

Fast forward to 2007. Daughter, Kirsten Jurcek, began learning about organic farming and other alternatives to conventional farming methods. Up until 10 years ago, the farm produced row crops and the Brattsets did not manage their pastures for production.

Kirsten wanted a change from the continual flux in commodity pricing, wanted less equipment maintenance, and wanted a better way to produce healthy food, a good living and leave a cleaner environment for the next generation. That’s when she decided to learn more about prescribed grazing and grass-based beef production.

Kirsten heard about the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) through a local grazing network, which sent her to her local NRCS office. She began working with the NRCS staff on a prescribed grazing plan and the EQIP process.

The funding she received through EQIP financial assistance made it “financially doable” to install fencing, get the water lines established and manage forage production through species selection and moving the animals in and out of pastures correctly.

“EQIP can sometimes seem like a slow process, but it is well thought out to help the producer understand and develop a long-term commitment to the process of prescribed grazing,” said Kristen.

The prescribed grazing plan helped develop the vision for growth on the Jurcek farm, helping the family to become better stewards of
the land.

The prescribed grazing plan helped develop the vision for growth on the farm and has helped Kristen become a better steward of the land. As a land steward, Kristen has taken advantage of other NRCS conservation programs available.

In 2017, working with District Conservationist Kathy Turner, Kirsten enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

“CSP is cool,” says Kirsten, “there is a lot of work that goes into being conservation stewards and this program helps us maintain and reward those efforts.”

They also enrolled the farm in a NRCS agricultural conservation easement. This helped them ensure the farm will always maintain those strong conservation goals and standards for future generations.

"Working with Kirsten and her family is a great example of how NRCS can partner with producers for success,” said Kathy Turner.

In 2018, with 3 generations on the farm, Kirsten, her mother and family are most proud of how much they’ve learned about forage production and soil management, seeing the results firsthand in the animals.

What started with 15 animals has grown to 110 animals grazing on 146 acres; 100% grass fed beef, direct marketed to local businesses, restaurants and customers.

And it doesn’t stop there; Kirsten continues to gain and pass on her knowledge to promote and help others learn about prescribed grazing. She is a consultant and an educational instructor willing to share what she has learned by hosting individual trainings and pasture walks on her farm.

“Prescribed grazing is a family-friendly way of farming that offers lots of flexibility,” says Kirsten. “The way the farm is set up, we can do this long into the future.”