Some big plans are growing south of Alexandria.
Inglewood Farm, in operation in some form since the 1940s, is transitioning from a commercial farm to a sustainable agriculture operation, growing fruits, vegetables and nuts. It’s also USDA-certified organic and a new booth at the Red Stick Farmers Market. The farmers, who work seven acres, have ambitious expansion plans. They want to more than double the acreage by the end of the year.
“We believe we can do it,” Chief Operating Officer Corwith Davis said.
The farmers are planning to open up more acreage as business grows. Right now, they have about 130 vegetable varieties under cultivation, along with a total of 800 chickens and 75 acres of pecans.
“We’re all about growing the healthiest plant we can,” Davis said. “That starts with healthy soil.”
And healthy soil at Inglewood starts with chickens. Davis said the farm uses chicken litter as a fertilizer instead of a commercial chemical fertilizer. The litter in the soil, along with “more sophisticated things” punch up the soil’s nutrients. Inglewood also practices crop rotation and, for certified-organic crops, also eschew any other synthetic chemicals, like pesticides.
“What we try to do here with this food is create a natural environment that is healthy,” Davis said. “An actual healthy crop that has a whole range of micronutrients that you’re not going to get in a conventional system. There’s some of nature’s magic that your body needs.”
But Davis doesn’t mean to denigrate the commercial farming industry that still relies on chemicals.
“It’s been a very efficient system,” he said. “But there’s been something lost to that efficiency.”
One of the things Davis hopes to do at Inglewood is to create Community Supported Agriculture, where consumers can pay an up-front fee and the farm pays them back in produce. Davis and his fellow farmers are looking at possibly doing two 20-week sessions per year. Davis said Inglewood would probably pack boxes with a variety of produce rather than let consumers select their own, then bring those boxes to pickup points in the community, possibly at churches. Inglewood also is considering letting people come work on the farm in exchange for joining the CSA.
“For me, I’d like to be able to do that and break the stigma of this local, organic stuff being fancy food for rich people,” he said.
But the farm’s operators want to take their time and make sure they can deliver quality produce.
“First off, we have to make sure that we can follow through on the deal,” he said. The farmers pulled in their first crops in November, and Davis said he wants a year of organic farming under their belt before they launch any other plans.
Inglewood’s chickens don’t just help the soil, they also contribute to the farm’s bottom line. Davis said the farm has been bringing eggs to the Red Stick Market, but they sell out quickly. Right now, the farmers are hauling in loads of greens, and also expect some tomatoes and peppers. He said they “kinda missed the ball” on strawberries, but hope to bring in blueberries and raspberries next year. Their pecans should be certified organic by 2014, Davis said. They also plan to have piglets by year’s end and start offering pork in 2013.
At first, Inglewood just came to the smaller Thursday Market in Baton Rouge. This spring, it joined the larger Saturday Market downtown.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” Davis said. “Growing this stuff and seeing the appreciation folks have for it.”
Davis also sells to a few restaurants, mainly in Lafayette, and would like to continue at the Red Stick Markets.
“My hope is we can have a great time selling there,” he said. “It looks like now, Saturday sales can justify a trip to Baton Rouge on their own.”