This year marked the beginning of our "Farm of the Month" series on the Tend Blog, where we highlight the amazing work and delicious produce and food that small organic farms are producing across the country. October’s featured farm is Tallowah Farm in Campti, LA run by 2 full-time volunteers. Check back each month for new features. To be considered for our series, please email [email protected].

Owner/Manager Name: Campti Field of Dreams, Inc.
Location: Campti, LA
Number of Employees: 2 full-time volunteers
Acreage: 25 acres
Specialties of the Farm: Goat, Sheep, Pigs, Chickens & Half Acre in Intensive Vegetable Production

How did you get into farming?
I grew up in Jamaica where growing some of your own food was a way of life. In Louisiana, folks were struggling to purchase fresh nutritious produce, so I started with a community garden and it has evolved.

Tell us about the story of your farm – how did you (and your farm) get started? What was that like? What challenges did you encounter?
Tallowah Farm started out of a casual conversation with other volunteers about the difference we could make if we had more land. They mentioned that they had land and were willing to lease it to the organization. It was a fateful conversation because the 3-acre community garden we were working in flooded within 60 days of signing the lease agreement. Then it flooded two more times within a twelve month period. While we were moving from adversity, the 25-acre parcel was fully wooded, hilly, without water and the soil was extremely acidic (5.26). At that point, the only redeeming factor was that there was no chance of the Red River flooding impacting the site.

The first task was to clear a portion of the land. Waylon Breaux walked into my life, by way of two friends. Every day I remind myself, God does not give you what you want, he gives you what you need. Waylon armed with a cutlass, a visiting teacher from Georgia with a small chainsaw, and about 30 youth missionaries from Texas set out to clear about a quarter of an acre to serve as an outdoor classroom. With limited resources, a lot of sweat equity, and sheer persistence we began Tallowah Farm.

What are some important things you’ve learned since you started at your farm?
I have learned a lot from folks on YouYube and the farming community, but the most valuable resource to a farmer is a good neighbor. They have lived on and with the land and have a wealth of knowledge to share. They may not be organic farmers but they have done everything from sharing literature on livestock diseases to watching my animals when I am away to pulling me out of a ditch when things go awry.

What is the most challenging aspect given the location of your farm?
Other than simply clearing the land, we faced two critical challenges: soil health and water or rather, the lack of water. The fact that we are on a dirt road approximately 12 miles from a city with a population of just under 20,000, in a parish faced with persistent poverty pales in comparison to not having water and good healthy soil, because without those two things, we cannot grow anything. While we used basic permaculture principles to get us growing, the hot humid summers took its toll. It took us two years to get a well, but in retrospect while it was challenging to get good yields, it provided an opportunity to learn how to grow with limited resources. Today, I can affirm that Waylon and I are better farmers because of those two years spent working with the land.

What do you love about your community that makes it a special place to farm?
The people! Our neighbor, Tommy Dale Perot, will come over in the middle of the day, pull up a stump and drop a little, "philosophy" on us. We love our critters and enjoy working the land, but it is the laid back country life where someone will walk up, ride up or drive up and tarry a while that makes it very special. I remember one day when weather was blowing in and I was trying to finish staking the peppers to give them a chance and up drives Ms. Winnie, I might add that she 80+ years of age. She gets out of her truck and starts to help me with the peppers, said she was passing by, saw me and figured I needed a hand. The community might be financially poor but it is rich in spirit which makes it a wonderful place to live and farm.

Name something you would love to grow that you haven't tried or been able to grow yet?
I haven't tried, nor for that matter even researched the possibility, but if I could have a small tropical orchard right here in central Louisiana, then I would be in paradise. I love mangoes! My fondest childhood memories revolve around being out of the house from dawn until dusk playing and foraging for food. I recall many hot summer days spent sitting under a mango tree biting into the fruit's sweet juicy flesh. Those were the days! So if anyone knows of a variety of mango that does well in zone 8a, please share.

Where do you see your farm 10 years from now?
In 10 years, I see the farm as a fully functional sustainable agriculture demonstration farm growing both food and farmers, implementing permaculture principles and stacking industries, based on models developed by Joel Salatin, Jean-Martin Fortier and Geoff Lawton.

What are a few of your favorite farming pro tips?
Other than by bringing in rich soil, nothing beats hugelkultur beds for building soil health. Granted it is a lot of work to build them, but the results have been phenomenal from day one. I have habanero peppers that have overwintered in our high tunnel in hugelkultur beds that have survived both the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter and are going into their third year now.

Who are your greatest farming influencers?
Joel Salatin told me, "You Can Farm," and JM Fortier showed me how to become a "Market Gardener," which are the two models I am using on the farm but I must admit to being a YouTube junkie and enjoy all of the folks sharing their knowledge online. I lived vicariously through Justin Rhodes and family as he took us with him to all 50 states on his Great American Farm Tour; Curtis Stone as he incorporates fatherhood into farming; and Geoff Lawton as he changes the world, one desert at a time, to name a few.

How has Tend helped your business?
We are new to Tend but use it to keep us organized. Coordinating activities on a farm are challenging but when you combine that with varying numbers of volunteers with differing skill levels then it is close to impossible. Using Tend allows us to plan our crops and markets and keep track of everything virtually so that we will be prepared for the unexpected.

What are some of the greatest challenges, for your farm, that you have overcome? How?
The greatest challenge that we have to overcome, other than those pesky weeds, is the financial resources to get the appropriate technology to get to scale. Starting a farm, or any other business for that matter, without money is difficult, doable but difficult! We are currently seeking funds to put in a barn, packing shed, tractor and tools but until then palettes will be a highly utilized building material and dumpster diving a worthwhile pastime.


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