Organic Producer Profiles (Louisiana)
A Louisiana local, Russell Roy began with a degree in agriculture and chemistry and a dream of distributing only the freshest, highest quality produce. Pastime Farms, on 105 acres, is now the largest certified organic farm in Louisiana and produces from May through November. It has 95 linear miles of 35 different vegetables, 2000 berry bushes, and 1200 fig trees, all certified organic by Quality Certification Systems. Russell Roy claims not only the most organic produce in Louisiana but also the freshest. Pastime Farms’ pledge is, “The only way that they’re gonna get it any fresher is by going out there themselves, picking it off the trees, and eating it.” Pastime Farms was started in 1998 with a handful of employees, has grown significantly since then, and is currently growing exponentially.
Russell does his own marketing through his Web site (www.nolaorganics. com), TV, 17 magazines, 6 newspapers, newsletters, educational programs at local schools, developing a school age coloring book for students, and an agri-tourism program at the farm. Produce is marketed to restaurants and wholesalers, at farmers’ markets and a produce stand, and through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. Customers can find the farm on-line at www.nolaorganics.com and purchase shares to receive an allotment of production, with fresh produce delivered weekly within 36 hours of harvest. The CSA currently has 400 members and a 70% renewal rate. Russell’s goal is 500 members.
Russell makes compost based on local chicken litter. He reports minimal use of off-farm pest control inputs, relying primarily on garlic extract. No plastic mulch is used. One-row cultivation is used to control weeds. Russell also rebuilds antique Allis Chalmers tractors, which he uses on Pastime Farm. Over the years he has amassed one of the largest working antique Allis-Chalmers tractor collections in the country.
Produce sales contacts:
New Orleans and North Shore area
Matt, Field Sales Manager
Sean, Restaurant Sales Manager
Baton Rouge area
Paul Davidson had a dream 29 years ago when he and his wife, Maria, bought a worn-out farmstead in the rolling hills of East Feliciana Parish, in southeast Louisiana. EquiTerra Farm continues to be “a work in progress.” With both Davidsons employed full-time as wildlife biologists—Maria as a Biologist Manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and Paul as the Executive Director of the Black Bear Conservation Committee— the farm sometimes takes a back seat.
From the onset, Paul sought to manage his crops and land “in concert with nature.” In the early 1980s, he planted more than an acre of Rabbiteye blueberries and managed them, and his market garden, using organic methods, but was not officially certified. By the time Baton Rouge’s Red Stick Farmers’ Market opened in 1996, Paul was ready to apply for organic certification from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry. They classified Paul’s blueberry fields as “transitional organic” and his market garden as “organic.” With the advent of the NOP, the Davidsons had to recertify their farm. In the summer of 2005, they were completing their paperwork to become certified organic with the Louisiana state program.
Over time, the Davidsons have expanded and added new components to the farm, evaluating each for future planning. The high demand for their produce at the farmers’ market allowed them to expand their market garden from 0.5 to 1.75 acres. Produce includes beans, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, okra, cucumbers, squash, strawberries, eggplant, and herbs in the summer, with lettuce mixes, high quality greens, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, and other crops grown in the fall and winter. A mixed-power farm, much of the land management is done using their three Belgian draft horses. Besides produce, they also raise and process about 400 pastured broilers each year, with plans to expand. They also maintain about 50 laying hens, selling the eggs directly from the farm and at the market.
In 2004, they fenced an additional nine acres of pasture and crossfenced to accommodate meat goats and Katahdin sheep. They plan to expand their herd by keeping female kids and lambs and selling the males until they have 20 ewes and 20 does. Their goats will be bred to include Spanish, Tennessee Meat Goat, Kiko, and Boer bloodlines, with breeding does being no more than 50% Boer. Sheep will be upgraded by purchasing better stock and using first-class rams. Besides having access to pasture, the sheep and goats are allowed to browse on privet and Chinese elm in the understory of the 75 acres of forested land on the farm.
In 2005, eight CSA shares were sold to investigate CSA marketing. Intentionally starting on a small scale to evaluate potential problems, the Davidsons are happy with the way it worked and will probably expand to about 20 shares in 2006. The overall objective of EquiTerra Farm, LLC, is “to be a model sustainable farmstead to show others, especially young farmers, that a decent and honest living can be made on a small farm, working with the land and not against it.” To encourage young farmers, the Davidsons regularly have interns working on the farm. They are also making their farm available as an outdoor environmental and agricultural classroom for students in a nearby Montessori school that their twoyear-old son, Mark, will be attending when he gets older.
Paul and Maria Davidson
12798 Muse Lane
Clinton, LA 70722