By Kerry Hoffschneider
When Jacob Tejral first went to Chadron State College, he was still thinking along the lines of traditional ways of farming.
He grew up south of Pleasant Dale, Nebraka where he grew up raising feeder hogs and a few cows.
In his first semester at Chadron State he took a class with Dr. Ron Bolze, and the universe aligned in a different direction.
“I always liked the farm, but my real passion was hunting and fishing outdoors when I was younger,” Tejral said.
“Finally, I was exposed to a production model that made sense and that the next generation could invest in minimal investment in infrastructure and regenerate soils simultaneously.”
He went to Chadron State with the intention of getting a wildlife degree, not an ag degree, but it required him to major in rangeland management with an emphasis on wildlife. That’s how he ended up in Bolze’s class, his first day of teaching at Chadron State.
“A few semesters went by and I knew I wasn’t going to do the wildlife thing, I was going to go live with it,” he said.
It was Bolze’s influence and emphasis on regenerative agriculture that prompted the change, he said.
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“I was in Ron’s classes the rest of my years and never missed a field trip and was visiting his office a lot,” he said.
Tejral said his passion for wildlife also kept his mind open to new ways of thinking with his classes.
“I knew the traditional ways of farming were not good for the wildlife,” he said.
Then in his first semester he attended the Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition Conference and heard North Dakota farmer Gabe Brown speak.
“Gabe’s presentation was some of the most influential in the three hours of my life. I could tie his regenerative approach to agriculture back to the wildlife and being able to farm and ranch full time, “Tejral said. “It all made more sense to me.”
Tejral and his wife Maddy, who also attended Chadron State and shares her husband’s passion for grazing regenerative, were able to begin applying regenerative techniques after graduating back home near Pleasant Dale.
They had their own place with 25 to 30 cows. While their eastern Nebraska grazing lands were dominated by smooth brome and cedar trees, they worked to cut out the cedars and learned how to graze rotationally.
They started changing the grass species in their first year, going from smooth brome to warm season grasses.
“I had not seen warm season grasses except on the CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields,” Tejral said. “We knew we were doing something right when we started seeing those.”
Managing the grass at home for about four years has gotten more intense, Tejral said. They went from one or two grass species to 15 or 20, along with four to five different legume species. Tejral counted about 16 wildflower species, too.
They were able to graze more cows for six months rather than five months for the same amount of grass.
“We were leaving more grass in our pastures in November than some of the neighbors turning out in cows,” he said.
The Tejrals have since moved to the Sandhills where Jacob works for a ranching operation. They also run cows of some leased land on their own. The Tejrals are able to work continuously with the landowners as they do business with implementing regenerative practices that inspire them on so much new types of soil.
The land they live on has been constantly grazed for many years, Tejral said. Last year was the first year he was able to run the place he thought he should have the resources he had available.
They were able to convince the landowner to put in a new water line and tank so that they could rotationally graze one of the pastures. They keep records for how many cows we run each year and pay the landowner by the animal unit.
“At the end of the year, I pointed out to him that we paid for the new water line that pasture with the increased animal units because of rotational grazing,” Tejral said.
In last year’s drought, they took more animal units off than it could historically.
“The landowner comes and expects us to be grazing in the dirt and we are not,” he said. “All this has to do with our regenerative management, even in a drought.”
The Tejrals have a lot of goals for the future and have been willing to work hard on and off the farm to build the future they dream of.
“I just want to have enough farm ground and cows to make a living without being overly swamped by the number of hours it takes to run a place,” he said. “I want to have a healthy ecosystem and plenty of time to get the family to the point where we don’t have to work 12-hours-a-day, six-and-a-half days a week.”
Tejral said they appreciate the opportunity to apply regenerative practices where they are and are very adamant that there is a need for more acceptance of this approach to agriculture because it only improves the landscape, plant and livestock health.
“Regenerative ag is one of the biggest and easiest ways to take carbon from the atmosphere and put it in the soil where it belongs,” he said. “Don’t feel like you have to do it the way dad and grandpa always have done it.”
He refers to one of the sayings Ron Bolze repeated: “We’ve always done it that way is the most dangerous phrase in agriculture.”
“Just being able to feel free to do it the way you think it needs to be done is a big deal for the next generation,” Tejral said. “This whole regenerative agriculture thing is a God thing. I firmly believe God is using us to repair His creation and to teach others how to do the same. “
Editor’s note: This story is part two of a two-part series, featuring both student and teacher perspectives on regenerative agriculture. The first talked with Dr. Ron Bolze, a range management professor at Chadron State College. This story follows Jacob Tejral and his wife Maddy, who were both students of Bolze’s. Their instructor told them this way, “Jacob and Maddy … are a great example of a passionate, young couple with work ethic to burn.” One of their biggest hurdles is access to land. “
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