Lost Savanna Farm

Posted on Tuesday, 3 November 2020 under Featured Farmers

Situated in Black Creek, in the Comox Valley, Lost Savanna Farm is home to grazing animals and a variety of crops. Britt and Kris Arbanas own the 73 acre certified organic and biodynamic farm and strive to produce food that is both nutritious and farmed in a way that regenerates the land. Neither of them comes from a farming background but both previously studied regenerative agriculture and eventually decided to dive headfirst into farming 5 years ago. Now, they raise chickens, cattle, pigs, ducks, and geese – all with a purpose. Kris Arbanas explains, “Things are multipurpose. “Rather than just growing a product to sell, our animals serve multiple functions which provide benefits to our land. There aren’t too many things that we do to just make a product and sell – there are other beneficial aspects. We let each animal express their unique abilities or unique way of living. For example, herbivores are nature’s pruners, so we move our cows through our pastures and mimic what the large herbivores (bison), who were here before would have done.” At Lost Savanna, they rotate their herd of 15-20 cows daily, using quarter-acre rotations. Arbanas says they see “really good impact on a small piece of land. Too big of an area might not have as much positive impact on the land so we’ve narrowed it down to that size. We see a nice even pruning of pasture, eating what they want and trampling less desirable species” while also providing even manure distribution.
When managed well, herbivores have a positive impact on grazing land. Arbanas explains that impact, “When a cow prunes a plant above ground and doesn’t prune it right down, residue is left. Some of the growth is still there, root systems underground are left to contribute to the health of the soil. Moving them daily ensures they are pruning grass minimally to allow the root systems in the soil to stay healthy. We like to see one bite of each plant, and trampling the rest. What they trample becomes organic matter on the surface, which is easily accessible to life in the soil. You have to look at the soil food web, and feed that too. So, we don’t see trampling as waste, it’s only going to improve that soil down the road.”

At Lost Savanna, they experiment with silvopasture, a technique that integrates trees and grazing animals in a mutually beneficial way. Silvopasture increases carbon sequestration, protects herds from extreme weather, and acts as an additional income for farmers. Arbanas admits there are advantages and disadvantages, noting that there has been a lot of deer pressure over the years, resulting in more fencing work to protect the young trees. He is planting a variety of trees that are beneficial for their pigs and their land. “I don’t like to separate things on our farm, everything is symbiotic. I like to put animals between the rows of trees. We like to be as holistic as possible, which means a closed-loop system on our farm. So the long term goal with hazelnut and acorn [trees] is to finish our hogs on those nuts when they fall because that’s a premium feed for pigs.” They have planted a number of trees that are still very young, and hope that as they continue to grow up, they will act as both a food source for their pigs and an additional carbon sink for their land.