Leah Gibson and her husband have always been avid gardeners, but their dream was to have a farm where they could raise pastured pork and turkeys. One year ago, they took their first step towards realizing that dream by purchasing an 11 acre farm in Maxwell, Texas, about 30 miles south of Austin.
Boxcar Farm and Garden proved to be a challenge from the beginning. The land they purchased had been overgrazed for about 20 years and was filled with noxious weeds and non-productive plants. As a beginning farmer, Leah realized she needed help to reverse the unhealthy, unproductive condition of her land.
After some initial and discouraging research about prairie restoration, a friend who had participated in Holistic Management International’s (HMI) Beginning Women Farmer and Rancher program recommended that same program to Leah.
“Through the program, I now understand soil health much better – why it’s important to focus on soil and microbes.”
“From the beginning, I was encouraged to use animals to help improve the pasture,” says Leah. “At the time, it didn’t make sense that the solution to improving overgrazed pasture was to graze it.” But the mentorship she received in the program taught Leah the ins and outs of portable electric fencing and intensive grazing. Today, those pigs have proven to be the best and most affordable tool they have on the farm to root up the unwanted vegetation, while also adding organic matter to the soil. Leah and her husband have planted cover crops such as millet, sunflowers, grazing corn and sun hemp to add additional organic matter and increase biodiversity within the soil. “Through the program, I now understand soil health much better – why it’s important to focus on soil and microbes. Start with healthy soil, and work your way up,” says Leah.
“What I’ve found most helpful was that the classes were not just about farming – but about running a business and making the right decisions for that business.”
However useful the planned grazing has been, Leah is equally impressed with the rest of the program. “What I’ve found most helpful was that the classes were not just about farming – but about running a business and making the right decisions for that business. The classes encompassed all of the parts of running a farm.”
Another valuable part of the training was learning how to use a holistic goal as a tool for making important decisions. “As a new farmer, being equipped with a tool that can help with making important decisions, like how to prioritize expenses, solve problems and manage time really helped us direct our efforts and energy towards projects that helped us move forward with our vision,” says Leah.
“HMI equipped us with the tools that have helped us prioritize the way the farm develops.”
The future looks bright for Boxcar Farm and Garden. “HMI equipped us with the tools that have helped us prioritize the way the farm develops. We can reuse those tools over and over to ensure that we don’t stray too far from achieving our goals.”
Just recently, Leah and her husband added turkeys to Boxcar Farm, putting them another step closer to realizing their dream. “It’s a wonderful program,” says Leah. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.”
HMI has training for everyone, no matter where they live or how long they’ve been farming or ranching. Check out our various affordable training programs here.