When we were invited, with three other Organic Valley farms, to be part of a bird survey hosted by Birds and Beans Coffee http://www.birdsandbeans.com/ we were excited to see what number and diversity of birds would be found on our farm. Their mission to make it easier for everyday tasks (like people’s morning cup of coffee) and to a make a real difference in the world we all live in resonated with us.

Buffer strips on Jaus Farm in Gibbon, Minnesota.

Buffer strips on Jaus Farm in Gibbon, Minnesota.

Farmers are observers by nature. We watch our cows for subtle behavior changes, evaluate the height and quality of grasses in pasture and hay fields and listen for any sounds in our equipment that may warrant maintenance or repair. Farmers are also great observers of nature and the activity in nature that surrounds our farms throughout the year – deer that flit across the pastures, geese and wild turkeys that feed in the hayfields, foxes that hunt on the edges of fields and many birds who fly around the farm and nest in our barns.

My husband declared his intention in second grade to be a poet/ornithologist/farmer and he has been able to feed all those interests over our years on the farm. Watching the activity of birds and identifying them by sight and song is something that gives him great pleasure.

A group of excited middle school aged students from a local nature center came to the farm with their leader to conduct the bird survey. Over the course of one day they found 46 different species of birds including Wood Thrush, Indigo Bunting, Ovenbird and six species of warblers, a nest of Phoebes in the eaves under the house, Kestrels in the far field and Bob-o-links nesting in the pastures. Bob-o-links nests are often disturbed by haying activity. Setting aside plots for later haying allows the birds to complete their nesting cycle.

As organic farmers we are aware of our dependence on nature’s generosity in providing what is needed for the growing of food and provision for our animals.  In return, our part in this relationship is the ability to be intentional in providing healthy, sustainable systems that can co-exist with nature and its inhabitants rather than displacing them.

Editor’s Note: The bird surveys done on Organic Valley farms have shown that these farms mirror the Birds and Beans coffee farms in that there is a lot of wood, marsh and other great bird habitat. It is actually possible that some of the very same individual birds on the Nicaraguan coffee farms spend their summers on Organic Valley dairy farms.

For more information:
Boyhood Birds: The Farms of My Youth and Adulthood
The View from Northern Nicaragua’s Highlands: Saving Birds with Coffee
Does Bird Friendly Coffee Matter? A Farmers Perspective
Help Save Wood Thrush – Drink Bird Friendly Coffee
Northern Climes to Nicaragua: Long-Distance Migrants on Shade Coffee Farms