In writing an article for the Organic Trade Association I came across an interesting program that certifies livestock producers (ranches, farms) for having wildlife-friendly and even predator-friendly practices. They allow carnivores such as coyotes and foxes to co-exist with their agricultural practice. What a great concept.
The two labels you might see on products are Predator Friendly® and Wildlife Friendly® which are certifications under the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network umbrella, a global network created by carnivore- and wildlife-friendly producers.
Some info, examples of certified ranches/farms and products are below, along with a description of the two labels.
Why Protect Predators?
Predators play an important a role in controlling pests, which would otherwise attack the crops. As Predator Friendly‘s Program Director Abigail Breuer says, the carnivores importance as a keystone species is the reason for their program. “Without predators, it’s fairly well documented that other processes can fall apart,” she says. (Click here for more info on keystone species.)
Participating producers employ a mix of proactive practices and careful observation, and adapt their management in response to changing conditions to allow wildlife and livestock to coexist. Participants also value that their operations serve as habitat for wildlife, including predators and other key species. More than half the certified ranches/farms are certified organic – another reason to support organic.
Ayrshire Farm: East Coast example
Ayshire Farm in Virginia is “a tremendous example of a farm that is using its resources both to help build up the local food system and showcase how sustainable agriculture can also protect natural systems upon which human and wildlife communities both depend,” says Predator Friendly’s Breuer.
Founded by Sandy Lerner, a successful business woman and co-founder of Cisco Systems, Ayrshire practices include:
- The replanting of farm woodlands to provide wildlife corridors among the various habitat areas, with a re-introduction of native trees, plants and grasses.
- Following historic practices: Lerner’s research of practices in the 1700s and 1800 showed that early farmers, including Washington and Jefferson, were not keen on killing predators to extinction. When some animals were found with parasites, Lerner concocted a pharmaceutical grade turpentine-based product that was used in early American farming, now part of the National Organic Program.
- Adapting when necessary: Initially the farm employed rescue dogs to keep Ayrshire’s healthy deer population away — until the dogs and deer seemed to become friends. They now use electrified fencing around some areas, especially their chickens, which delivers a mild shock if touched but appears enough to keep deer and predators out.
- Carnivores sighted on Ayrshire Farm include bobcats, bears, coyotes, bald eagles, and hawks. When a rescue program approached them, they volunteered to have a bobcat released on their property
- The farm’s organic produce and Ayrshire’s Predator Friendly® certified beef, rose veal, pork, chicken, eggs, and honey and very popular heritage breed turkeys are available online (www.ayrshirefarm.com ) and at the Home Farm Store and restaurants in teh Washington D.D. area.
Old Creek Ranch: West Coast example
The organic farm Old Creek Ranch in Cayucos, California, is a family-owned operation handed down from the prior generation. It’s certified predator friendly. Their philosophy is “production in harmony with nature.”
- They rotate their cattle, sheep and goats to mimic the beneficial impact of wild grazers.
- Among the predators they support are mountain lions, coyotes, hawks and owls, while their guardian dogs protect the domestic livestock.
- Their products are found in store or farmers markets in San Luis Obispo, Templeton, Felton, Santa Cruz, Aptos, Scott Valley, Palo Alto and Live Oak CA, or you can pick up products at the ranch.
Breuer says Old Creek Ranch and some of their other certified producers are important examples of long-time ranchers that have adopted wildlife-friendly practices as a pragmatic option that works for their families. “They are the forebearers of predator-friendly, who determined to coexist with the wild as part of their daily practice. They help teach the rest of us that intact natural systems are essential to human health and well-being,” she says.
Popular examples of products
Some of these are meats and eggs available locally/regionally from farms in Montana, the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Others are clothing and the paper used in a popular company’s gift bags.
- Elephant Pepper produces two varieties of pepper sauces as well as spice grinders that mix chili peppers with a variety of spices – available at Whole Foods.
- The Animal Welfare Approved program– has grass-fed beef and other items in Whole Foods.
- Aveda holiday paper (in their green covered gift boxes) is sustainably sources, using a process 1000 years old, that employs 4900 people, mostly women. See this YouTube about the paper.
- Wildlife Works – A wildlife sanctuary with a eco-factory to produce casual apparel, employing 300 local jobs from the company’s conservation and fashion businesses.
- Brookfield Farm – A Washington based company that focuses on bee products, wildlife photography and handcrafted wooden furniture of historical design.
- Predator Friendly Wool Hats (available at Yellowstone Foundation)
- Hearts – sells products from 2000 artisans in 12 countries, what materials made of, it positively impacts world communities and what processes are used in its creation. See their Predator Friendly wool hat products
- Ayrshire Farm‘s predator friendly products, especially their Heritage Breed Turkeys, a popular and delicious turkey (by many accounts)
Similarities and Differences of the Two Labels – and Goals
Both Predator Friendly and Wildlife Friendly labels require a mix of proactive, non-lethal deterrent practices to protect livestock and make attractants off-limits, provision of quality habitat, opportunity for wildlife passage, and overall management for biodiversity conservation. Because of its broader name and consumer promise, Certified Wildlife Friendly is more restrictive. For example, if a ranch leases a pasture with others, while together, all livestock have to follow the the required practices to qualify for the Certified Wildlife Friendly label.
Predator Friendly’s Program Director Abigail Breuer said the program has received requests from producers in North America and overseas since they moved to an independent, third-party audit based system. The certification of about 40 long-standing members are being updated, with a goal of 100 producers by the end of 2014.
“Because our standards are high, we will never corner the market. Yet, by providing a ‘home’ for people who are using Wildlife Friendly practices, we can elevate their profile and improve understanding and uptake of non-lethal deterrent practices,” she said, adding that another goal is helping producers learn from one another. “The knowledge base of how to apply wildlife friendly practices stems is held by individual practitioners, in pockets across the country. By helping to showcase their know-how, we can enable others to learn from site-specific practices developed and adapted by peers.”