Meet the Farmers
Jon and Cathy Payne left their suburban life in the Atlanta area in order to grow nutritious food and improve a small plot of land with managed grazing. They strive to inspire others, help preserve heritage livestock, develop interest in new young farmers, and become a model of self-sufficiency. After settling into their new digs, Jon decided to open a locksmith business. Cathy is sole proprietor of Broad River Pastures.
Our Values and Guiding Principles
At Broad River Pastures, we strive to be a homestead model that benefits not only our family, but others who want to be more self-sufficient and sustainable. Many of the projects we do on the farm can be adopted on much smaller or much larger scale. We raise American Guinea hogs, promote biodiversity, and apply eco-agricultural and biodynamic methods to grow nutrient-dense food. Below we explain more about each these principles and how they shape the decisions we make on the farm and in our lifestyle.
At Broad River Pastures, we are learning about and applying principles of permaculture design. This is the science of applied ecological design. In permaculture, we try to work with nature rather than strive to conquer it. An example would be to plant trap crops that lure pests away from produce rather than spray the produce with pesticides to kill the offending insects.
How is permaculture design implemented at Broad River Pastures?
- Consideration of water conservation, energy inputs and biodiversity in decision making
- Planting of native species to attract and provide habitat for native wildlife
- Start enterprises small, observe, collect data, and improve before taking to a larger scale
- Reduce waste by purchasing used items and re-using and re-purposing items on the farm.
- Preserving and increasing biodiversity of native plants and wildlife, heritage livestock, and heirloom produce
- Maximizing food production in small spaces using biointensive methods and edible landscaping
- Manage the grazing of pastures, move poultry, and move ruminants to deposit manures and prevent over grazing
- Composting of manures, kitchen waste, and yard waste to enrich the soil for gardens and pasture
- Use of vermiculture to speed up composting, produce rich castings, and provide protein supplement for poultry
- Rainwater collection off the roof of our barn to water our livestock and perennial garden
Eco-agriculture, sometimes called biological farming, works with natural laws, not against them, like permaculture does. This kind of farming improves the environment, reduces erosion, reduces disease and insect damage, and reduces invasive weeds while working in harmony with nature. Eco-agriculture holds that to be economical and sustainable, agricultural pursuits should be ecological. Life begins in the soil, so we focus efforts to keep it rich and healthy before anything. If the soils are balanced and rich in minerals, this will translate to the health of the pasture and gardens and the health of the livestock and people who eat from the pasture and garden. The end result will be healthy people with strong minds and immune systems.
Our guide for learning about eco-agriculture is Acres USA - the magazine, conference presentations, and selections from the book store. These resources are focused on successful farm models that do not focus on monoculture but do produce nutrient dense foods that are delicious and healing.
The Role of Biodiversity
Since 1900, 94% of seed varieties have been lost, threatening agrodiversity and putting our food system at risk for disaster. Likewise, many traditional livestock breeds have lost popularity and are now threatened with extinction. Even the historically popular, all purpose farm collie has become a rare sight on small farms and rural properties.
At Broad River Pastures, we value and encourage biodiversity in linked species, niches, and habitats. Our farm includes pastures, woods, and wetlands. We raise American Guinea Hogs, Gulf Coast Native Sheep, American rabbits, and Silver Fox rabbits. Each of these breeds is of American origin and monitored by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The hogs and sheep are also of Southeastern origin and specifically adapted to this area.
Consider the following: 190 of the more than 7,600 breeds listed in FAO's Global Databank for Farm Animal Genetic Resources have become extinct in just the past 15 years, and another 1,500 are considered "at risk" of extinction. And at least 60 breeds of cattle, goats, horses, pigs, and poultry have been lost since 2002—in other words, one breed is being lost each month. The breeds that are being lost are suited for their local environment in ways that modern "improved" breeds will never be.
We choose primarily open-pollinated heirloom seed varieties for the vegetables and herbs we grow. We are learning to save and preserve seeds for future generations.
We keep an English Shepherd, Cody, as a working farm dog and companion. These old fashioned farm collies have been working on American farms for hundreds of years as generalists that herd, guard, and hunt. Cody is assisted by our Livestock Guardian Dog Belle, a Great Pyrenees who stays near the flocks at all times and Buddy, a Great Pyrenees cross. In addition, we have two barn cats, Miss Kitty and Althea, who work with Cody to keep the vermin population under control.
Nutrient Dense Food
Jon and I started farming in order to produce nutritious, nutrient dense foods. Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients available in a given volume of food. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and enzymes.
Food that is fresh, local, and eaten seasonally will be richer in nutrients than food picked before ripening, boxed, and shipped thousands of miles to be eaten weeks later. To grow higher quality food, we monitor our soil quality, supplement pastures and livestock with minerals, and use compost to add microbial activity to the soil. We are learning the fine balance of making minerals available to plants and livestock.
We also choose to grow food items that supply rich sources of fat-soluble vitamins A and D. These include free range eggs, pastured pork, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. If the soil is farmed ecologically and mineralized properly, the plants will be healthier and more resistant to insect attack and disease. The people who eat this healthy food will likewise be blessed with greater health. Jon and I choose nutrient dense food for the way it promotes our good health, for the unbelievable great taste. We prefer traditional foods similar to what our ancestors thrived on for multiple generations until recently.
American Guinea Hogs
We are particularly excited about the addition in late 2013 of American Guinea Hogs to our livestock breeding program. We are very interested in preserving heritage breeds of livestock in the Southeastern United States, and this distinctive little hog is well suited to our small homestead set up.
Cathy is in the process of interviewing American Guinea Hog breeders across the country, as well as chefs who enjoy their meat and lard. After interviews are completed and transcribed, she will publish a series of books about the breed that will assist and guide future breeders and consumers who want to support conservation efforts.
In the process of her research, Cathy helped to recover genetic lines of hogs that were thought to be lost from the gene pool. She formed a network of like minded conservationists to preserve these genetics for future generations.