At Hardy Hills Farm, AJ Hay and Alicia Arding seek out natural ways of integrating plants and animals. Together they own 152 acres and farm using regenerative livestock management, no-till planting, and silvopasture. They are not certified organic but the farm is free of pesticides, fungicides herbicides, and chemical fertilizer.
Hay takes a holistic approach to the farm, looking at what nature has done for centuries. They have ruminants that mow through their grasslands, building up soil organic matter through their activity. They keep chickens and turkeys to lightly till the soil’s surface and reduce parasite load on the land, and pigs to help build back the degraded parts of their land.
Hay says the animals work together to keep the land healthy. His birds follow his cows in rotation and “they clean up after them. They pick through the manure, help spread it out, and help eliminate parasites and worms..” And, “What they do for the soil is just phenomenal,” he says.
In addition to the animals, they grow a small variety of crops for market. To Hay, a well-balanced ecosystem consists of a variety of plants and animals. They plant high, medium, and low canopy trees, shrubs and bushes, grasses, and cover crops. They increase biodiversity on the farm by establishing as much plant and animal diversity as they can. Hay says, “You just have to look to nature when you farm, everything has to work together.”
They have big plans for the future. They continue to plant trees, expanding their silvopasture model which integrates ruminants with a variety of trees. Their goal is to mitigate climate change by creating a natural environment on their farm. Hay explains, “Look at what happens in nature, look at the elk, look at the bison, look at the buffalo. Of course, you have to adapt to it, because you would need a lot of land to [mimic] that, so we concentrate it and use nature as the guide.”