Home Grown Grows Green$$$

Campti Field of Dreams Hosts USDA NRCS Conservation
Field Day for Farmers, Ranchers and Value-Added Producers

Campti Field of Dreams is excited to announce its USDA NRCS Conservation Field Day, July 27th from 4:00 – 8:00 pm to promote sustainable agriculture, agri-business and agri-tourism in the Red River area.

12 year old Cameron Churchman is not new to farming. His parents, Ryder and Hope Churchman farm 1,000 acres in corn and soybean.  Cameron can operate the 200 horsepower tractor, 1000 bushel grain cart, and often loads the big truck with grain. He did not plan to start an agri business either.  He just wanted to earn enough money to purchase an Xbox.  His mom suggested that he grow some vegetables and sell them from a farm stand.  Cameron was given a small area near the road to start his vegetable garden.  He tilled the soil, hoed the grass, picked produce and sold it at the farm stand with a little help from his sister, mom and dad.  His stand consisted of a small table and his radio flyer wagon filled with squash. At the end of the summer, Cameron had earned enough money to buy his Xbox, “and then some,” he says with a big grin.  An agribusiness entrepreneur was born.  Encouraged by the response to home grown vegetables, his mom helped him expand the garden the following year and added a tent.  Now into its third year, they have quadrupled the vegetable farm to a total of 2 acres and added a permanent produce stand with a container which they plan to convert to a refrigerated unit.   Under the new Cottage Food Law (HB1270 August 1st, 2014), Hope can also sell up to $20,000 per year of a wide variety of products including candies, jams and jellies, preserves, baked goods, sauces, seasonings, spices, and honey to name a few without a license from the health department.

Last year Hope invited a group of students to tour the farm.  The tour began with each student getting a bottle of water.  They used some to plant a seed on the farm and consumed the rest while on tour.  Hope explained that the bottle was still usable.  She had the students cut off the top of the bottle, gave them soil and seeds and explained that each of them now had their own plant to nurture. Hope had gone beyond agribusiness to agritourism. Agritourism is a business venture located on a working farm, ranch, or agricultural enterprise that provides an “experience” for visitors while generating supplemental income for the owner.  Agritourism ventures feature:

  • Something to see
  • Something to do
  • Something to buy

Agritourism is growing in our state according to Dora Ann Hatch, agritourism coordinator for the LSU AgCenter. “The latest statistics compiled by the Agriculture Census, showed that agritourism in Louisiana more than doubled from 2007 to 2012,” said Hatch. Some farmers and ranchers are hesitant to bring visitors on their farm due to the increased risk and liability.  However, the state of Louisiana has enacted the Agritourism Limited Liability law which provides liability insurance to farmers.  “Many agritourism operators in Louisiana are not taking advantage of the agritourism limited liability law passed in 2008 by the Louisiana Legislature which limits the liability of an agritourism professional for injuries that occur through no fault of their own,” said Hatch.

“It is not easy to get into conventional farming,” Ryder points out, and “The uncertainty of next year is the worst thing about farming today because we tie millions of dollars up in these crops quickly. Technology assisted farming is different. Now we have combines that drive themselves and drones to monitor crops but not knowing how you are going to come out at the end of the year is stressful.” Given all of that he admits, “I don’t know of anything else I would want to do. The labor is the love.”

To attract female, minority and families with limited resources there has been an emphasis on growing “specialty-crops” such as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture) as well as serving niche markets such as certified organic fruits and vegetables and grass-fed meat and poultry. Sustainable agriculture utilizes a systems approach which fosters crop diversity and when farmers sell directly to the consumers they can generate a larger profit-margin making this a viable option for beginning farmers or ranchers with limited resources.

“Home Grown fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy and value-added products provide supplemental income, create jobs and help to build our local economy,” explained Donna Isaacs, executive director of Campti Field of Dreams.  “By partnering with USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service we can help to educate farmers, ranchers and value-added producers about the financial and technical assistance available to improve productivity and grow their agribusiness. If you are interested in starting or growing an agribusiness then this is the event for you. The conservation field day will begin at the Campti Historic Museum, 211 Edenborn Street, Campti, Louisiana on July 27th at 4 pm.  After a presentation on Soil Health by Dr. Michael Lindsey, State Soil Scientist, participants will tour the farm at 681 Campti Bayou Road with State Agronomist, Chris Coreil and Area Rangeland Specialist, Chris Ebel. Dr. Lindsey will perform a rainfall simulation and discuss soil impact.  The event is FREE and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

The Churchman Farm Stand: Seasonal Hours

Oaklawn Plantation, 2888 Highway 494, Natchitoches, LA 71457

For more information about the conservation field day, visit www.camptifieldofdreams.org or contact Donna Isaacs, (318) 332-7791, donna@camptifieldofdreams.org.

For more information about USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, contact Dexter Sapp, (318) 473-7688, dexter.sapp@la.usda.gov

To learn more about the agritourism law contact Dora Ann Hatch at (318) 927-9654 x 229 or email dhatch@agcenter.lsu.edu

Conservation Field Day Flyer