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Organic Transition – De La Terre Permaculture

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OTI Transition at De La Terre Permaculture

De La Terre Permaculture Farm in Louisiana is transitioning to USDA Certified Organic, with financial and technical support from the USDA's Organic Transition Initiative. The farm aims to establish a thriving ecosystem and market certified organic produce.

For most, it’s pretty easy to dream about a final goal or the finished product. Taking a dream and making it a reality… That’s usually where most of us get bogged down. Without a good deal of grit and determination, it’s equally as easy for many of us to get lost or discouraged along the way. Those typical challenges can seem far larger when the folks around us are following a very different path or doing things that don’t align with our own dreams and goals. Having an example to follow can give us inspiration, ideas, and encouragement.  

Here in Louisiana, we have very few USDA Certified Organic producers. So you can imagine that trying to transition an operation to become USDA Organic is challenging to say the least. Lucky for us, we have a real-life example to follow. De La Terre Permaculture Farm, a 43-acre diversified farm, is nestled in the piney hills of Jackson Parish just off Highway 34 in Eros. Donna Isaacs and Waylon Breaux have recently begun navigating their way through an organic transition for their operation that may prove to be as long and winding as the highway running through the farm.

OTI Transitioning

As a woman and a minority farmer, Donna is no stranger to challenges. She doesn’t let challenges or naysayers keep her from her goals, though. In fact, she and Waylon seem to be energized by the opportunity ahead. They fully intend to realize their vision of creating a complete and thriving ecosystem on their property that will allow them to not only become self-sufficient, but also to market certified organic meat and produce to local restaurants, value-added producers and direct to customers in Monroe as part of the St. Francis Medical Center Farm-to-Work program. They hope to serve as living proof that certified organic production is possible in Louisiana, encouraging and inspiring others to follow them along a path to a more sustainable agricultural future. 

NRCS has a vested interest in helping producers like Donna and Waylon in their organic transition as organic standards are closely aligned with conservation practices. Our new organic management standard under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) supports producer education and mentoring and includes many of our “bread-and-butter" practices including cover cropping, crop rotation, field borders and hedgerows, high tunnels, micro-irrigation, nutrient management, mulching, and residue management. Organic production is enhanced by several of the Conservation Stewardship Programs (CSP) including the Crop Bundle (Organic) Conservation Practices: mulching, nutrient management, integrated pest management, filter strip and tree/shrub establishment.

Last year, Donna and Waylon applied for assistance through USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative (OTI). The support – both financial and technical – will help them make the changes necessary to become certified organic producers. Working with their local NRCS representative, Madelyn Cheatwood, they set up an initial transition plan that spans four years. One of the first steps they’ve taken is to create a pollinator habitat as required by USDA organic standards. We visited them earlier this month as they broadcast the seeds for their pollinator habitat. As they begin implementing their plan, we’re going to follow them along to share their successes, the challenges along the way, and the impact of their work on their farm, themselves, and their community. 

Stay tuned for updates from De La Terre.

Interested in learning more about how NRCS can help you with your own organic transition? Call or visit your local NRCS office. 

 

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