Over time, Rusty became more interested in natural ways of maintaining and preserving his Louisiana land. He and his wife Tina started growing gardens and orchards, which have become richly abundant over the decades. They developed a road system, transitioned to no tillage practices, opened some fields for cattle and hay, and worked to improve the habitat for wildlife. But the property was still primarily managed for timber and wildlife.
He immediately knew that was the direction he wanted to take the farm in. Rusty began reading everything he could find on soil health, regenerative practices and its overall ecological impact, how to produce nutrient dense foods, etc.
In 2020, Rusty met with Dr. Allan Williams of Understanding Ag. Not only is he on the leading edge of everything we wanted to accomplish, but being born and raised in the south, he has a great understanding of our unique deep south ecosystem.
Working with Dr. Williams, we created a plan to light up the soil on every square foot of the farm, a plan to constantly improve the healthy functioning of the soil. This meant fully embracing regenerative practices, incorporating multi stacking enterprises as robustly as possible.
They introduced animals on the farm in late 2021. Now, Kohl and his wife run the day-to-day farm operations.
We are now on the ever expanding journey to make a powerful contribution to human health, enhance the totality of the ecosystem we have been blessed with, make a contribution to our human community through education and application, and celebrate a holistic regenerative lifestyle with a successful economic model for all to see.
Our cows are 99.9% grass fed and finished. We don’t feed any grains. The cows graze from a diverse blend of grasses, forbs, and legumes. Additionally they have access to plenty of browse in the woods. Sometimes we choose to feed supplements to our animals. During the winter, we have periods where the quality of our forage isn’t good enough to meet the nutritional needs of our animals. When this is the case we have 2 options. We can purchase hay which is expensive and damages the soil if the ground is wet at all (often is the case here), or we can feed small amounts of nutritional supplements to make up for the nutrients that are missing in the forage. The purpose of supplementing is to give the animals just enough so that they can effectively utilize and digest the forages that we already have, but no more. These supplements contain soybean meal or cottonseed meal. They are fed in small quantities making up less than 10% of their daily diet for 1-3 months each year.
We deeply respect the animals that we work with on our farm. We view them as partners in this great work of healing the soil and creating a regenerative food system. Our respect for them carries into everything we do, from birth to death. All of our animals live outside year round in the open air and sunshine. We believe this is the most humane way to raise animals. We use practices that allow our animals to live stress-free lives. When the day comes for us to slaughter our animals, we do everything we can to make it as humane as possible.
We do not give our animals routine antibiotics or hormones. Sickness is rare with our animals. This is because we work hard to create an environment in which they are able to thrive, but also it is because the types of animals we work with are adapted to our hot and humid environment. In the rare case that an animal falls ill, we will treat it with the appropriate medication or treatment to help it regain health. If an animal is given antibiotics, it will be recorded and will not be used for food.
We are focused on optimizing soil health. The soil is a community of living organisms. Herbicides and pesticides harm and kill the most beneficial members of the soil community. For that reason, we only use them if we think that the benefit outweighs the damage we know they will do to the soil. There are two instances where we will use herbicides on our farm. We will use herbicides every other year, along with other mechanical tools, to keep vegetation from overtaking our permanent fences. The other instance in which we may use a herbicide is to prevent tallow trees from overtaking the farm. These trees are a beautiful part of the plant community on the farm, but unfortunately they have a tendency to completely take over if allowed to. When they do, it is nearly impossible for any other plants to grow underneath them. We try our best to control them by browsing them with herbivores. If that doesn’t work then we try to control them mechanically using a mower. But if they are in an area that we can’t reach with the mower, we may choose to use an herbicide. Again our focus is on optimizing soil health and creating conditions for life to flourish on the farm. As our soils continue to heal, we hope that our need to use herbicides to control tallow trees will diminish with time as the plant community evolves. We never use pesticides.
At Baker Bayou Farm Market, regenerative farming starts with nourishing the community of living beings within the soil. It means that we use management practices which allow the soil to be more productive and more resilient year after year. It means that the farm becomes healthier and more vibrant year after year, and that the food produced on the farm becomes more nutrient dense year after year. We do this by creating conditions on the farm for life to flourish and by working with nature rather than against her. By nourishing the soil, we create a foundation of health that makes everything else we do easier. The farm produces more each year with less and less inputs from us.