Improving Soil Health with Organic Crop Production and Grazing Livestock
Alfred Farris from Orlinda, Tennessee, Robertson County is our 40th Profile of Soil Health Heroes. I had the privilege to visit Alfred's farm along with Nathan Hicklin, NRCS, Springfield, Tennessee on December 18, 2017. Alfred and his lovely wife, Carney, began farming in the 1960s. Alfred shared that his family had been in the lumber business. They owned some land west of Nashville in Kingston Springs. Alfred and Carney began farming in a conventional method with cattle and corn. The Farris family are devoted Christians. Alfred said that they were practicing community Christian living with approximately 250 people who worked and lived on the farm over the years in the 1970s. There was a question asked that changed their farming strategy. The question went something like this "if the land belongs to God,and we are His stewards, why are we using toxic chemicals on His land?" Also, there was a young student living on the farm who was sent to the University of Missouri for an agriculture degree, where Dr. William Albrecht was considered one of the pioneers of modern organic movement. Alfred also visited the Rodale Institute and totally changed his mindset. He wanted to adopt principles that build the soil and cut out chemicals. Compost and cover crops along with livestock were his strategies
Alfred and Carney moved to Uganda in 1980 and spent many years doing mission work and working with displaced refugees. In 1986, they returned from Uganda. They sold the home farm and bought their current farm in Orlinda, Tennessee around 1986. When they bought the farm, they wanted to lease it out to a person that would farm it organically. The Farris family was still traveling back and forth to Uganda as they were transitioning the farm. They began growing cover crops, planted rye prior to soybeans. To bring back life in the soil, they began making compost.