Despite Uphill Battle, Environmentally-minded Texas Farmer Plows Ahead
July 1, 2013 | Minnie Payne
Paul Magedson, owner of 175-acre Good Earth Organic Farm in Hunt County, near Celeste, Texas, is hopeful that his organic farm will be profitable enough that his now 13-year-old son, Andrew, and 15-year-old son, William, will want to carry on the tradition.
“There’s so much to put into organic farming, and generally speaking, people don’t realize the important difference between eating large-scale commercially grown products and organically-certified products,” Magedson says.
Magedson, 67, who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, bought his farm outright 30 years ago after selling several homes in Dallas and profiting from a former contracting and tropical plant maintenance businesses.
“I saw the benefits of not spraying poison on the tropical plants that I serviced and since my wife is a fourth generation farmer and because I believe in practicing good environmental policies and improving people’s health, I started organic farming,” he relates.
Good Earth Organic Farm sells seasonal organically-grown vegetables, free-range eggs and grass-fed lamb to conscientious consumers. These products are currently being sold at the Celeste farm as well as the McKinney, Coppell and White Rock farmers markets.
Because of a four to five year Texas drought, Magedson had to temporarily stop farming, so he started raising Katahdin Sheep to stay in business. There was also a three-year bout with grasshoppers.
“Raising sheep works out well,” he says. “I also integrate sheep compost as a fertilizer for our vegetables.”
The lambs are 100 percent grass-fed, no antibiotics, no feedlots and an Animal Welfare Approved processor is utilized. Katahdin Sheep provide a practical option to producers who are primarily interested in raising a meat animal, with great lamb vigor, mothering ability and don’t want to shear.
Magedson says that it’s important to do things the right way and that a lot of farmers at the farmers’ markets say that their products are organic, but they really aren’t.
A total of five farmers, including Magedson, plus his two teenage sons, make up the payroll, so every minute is precious.
“Some intern/volunteer people would really be helpful,” he says.
Almost all equipment was bought used including A 23 horsepower Kubota Tractor, a Far mall C Tractor, two tillers, a 14-foot disc, a 10-foot shredder, and four planters services the farm.
Insects are controlled by planting weeds such as thistle, and herbs such as rosemary and mints. A spray made of teas is also utilized.
“If you keep the soil in good shape, it can fight off a lot of insects,” Magedson says.
Fish emulsion serves as a fertilizer, along with micro organisms being sprayed into the soil.
Plants are watered by flood irrigation, whereby a water pump is attached to an approximately three-acre pond and the pump floods the entire garden.
Free-range hens on the Good Earth Organic Farm enjoy spent vegetables from the garden, insects, grasses, seeds, forbs and wildflowers, legumes and non-GMO, non-Soy feed supplements, when needed. Because they are not confined in a barn or cage, they get plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Heritage breeds listed with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy are utilized, which helps preserve rarer varieties of chickens. Herbicides, pesticides or fungicides are never used on the hen’s pasture, and oil coatings, pasteurization or detergent baths are never used on eggs.
He says that the more you farm, the more you realize that you don’t know that much about it.
“It’s a learning process, and the more you learn, the more you need to learn. You have just got to be lucky. A hail storm can wipe you out,” he says. “It’s like playing a game of backgammon, in that you have to know what you’re doing, but you still have the roll of the dice.
“With luck, you can win,” he says.
Magedson compares environmental farming to a runaway train, in that he doesn’t see how we can stop it.
“We need sustainable farmers like me to get the government involved in helping us,” he advises. “It seems as if the government is helping large farming. I don’t think the general public realizes what an uphill battle it is to organic farming.
“I started off with a little bit of money, but it’s dwindling out. It’s really a hard deal to fight the government in organic farming.”