Why did you begin farming?
I have loved working with animals since childhood and have always been fascinated with genetics and breeding. My husband Jon and I became foodies and locavores and spent a lot of time on farm tours and at farm conferences because of our interest in quality food. We started promoting farm businesses on the Our Natural Life podcast, and woke up one day in October 2009 with the idea to move to the producer side. Eleven weeks later we owned a piece of land, and I retired from 33 years of teaching six months after that.
What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?
Our biggest hurdle was learning everything from the ground up, focusing on a niche market, learning business skills and the cost of implementing our infrastructure. Now we have systems, procedures and daily patterns on the farm that help keep things flowing smoothly.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
Working with the livestock, educating others on the advantages and importance of saving heritage breeds, the wonder of new birth on the farm, providing my own healthy and delicious food, seeing the animals thrive, the fresh air and clean water, sunshine and bird calls and the privilege of improving a piece of land. And beyond all that are the wonderful relationships I’m building with customers, interns and other farmers.
What is your biggest current challenge?
Our biggest current challenge is layering enterprises to the point of profitability with the time, resources and energy we have to put into the farm. We strive to work smarter, not harder, without cutting corners in quality or humane treatment of livestock.
Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?
Eco-farming is the only way we have farmed, but this is a new career for me. We are learning concepts from biodynamics, biointensive and permaculture methods.
Broad River Pastures
Elbert County, Georgia
Farmer: Cathy R. Payne
Farm size: 11.2 acres
Year established: June 2010
Number of years farming? 4
Years reading Acres U.S.A.? 9
Products: Heritage-registered breeding stock — American Guinea Hogs, Gulf Coast Native Sheep, American blue and white rabbits, Silver Fox rabbits, furs, pelts, wool fiber, lamb meat, rabbit meat, pork, herbs, vegetables, pecans, dehydrated dog treats, farm scene note cards, pastured eggs
Certifications: No certifications. Eco-farmers using no herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers
Contact: www.broadriverpastures.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 706-283-7946
What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming?
I believe that we are really at a huge tipping point with regard to sustainable agriculture. More and more people are doing their share with what they have, whether it be 1 acre or 100, to grow food and adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
What learning opportunities have helped you become a better farmer?
I am a life-long learner. I read books and magazines almost daily, listen to podcasts, visit other farms, join Yahoo and Facebook groups and attend workshops and professional conferences. Georgia Organics chose me to participate in a mentoring program in 2010.
This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.