Bobby and Bronwyn Tucker, 34 and 33, are the farm entrepreneurs at Okfuskee Farm. They live on the farm in Siler City, where they own 20 acres and manage almost 50 total acres with livestock. Alongside seasonal vegetables and salad greens, the Tuckers harvest crops like sunchokes, pears, Southern peas, hard white wheat, and sweet sorghum (which is made into syrup). They also have sheep and hogs, a sustainable addition thanks to their forage-based feeding patterns. Here’s a more detailed look at what they do.
Bobby has been growing at the Tuckers’ current site for almost 8 years, although his interest in sustainable farming began decades ago. He also works as a consultant engineer focused on water resources, which affects the couple’s approach to farming. “This farm has been a continual experiment,” Bobby says. “We are learning how to effectively integrate landscape water management with perennial agriculture.” And they’re not just talking plants: “we utilize livestock as a vital land management tool.”
That aforementioned livestock plays into the Tuckers’ broader mission. “Our longer-term goal is to scale our agroforestry and strategic grazing systems onto other farms, as a low-cost alternative for preserving working farmlands and building ecosystem services within our community.”
It’s a farming-as-lifestyle kind of approach. For weed control, Bobby and Bronwyn practice “acceptance,” they say. “Also, reduced tillage, hand tools and sweat equity – our exercise – cover crops, strategic grazing, and densely planted mixed perennial systems designed to outcompete undesirables.” A holistic method bodes well for other parts of the farm. Pest management isn’t too much of an issue, because “we’ve worked hard to establish an ecosystem that provides an abundance of habitat and food for beneficial insects.” The only Okfuskee crop ever sprayed with an organic-approved product is kale, for worms – and even that is rare.
The farm’s layout is evidence of Bobby’s engineering career. It emphasizes Keyline design, which maximizes the beneficial use of water resources through a variety of active and passive approaches. Among those at Okfuskee are distributed landscape storage – like micro-ponds and swales – rainwater harvesting for greenhouse irrigation, and a high-elevation pond with solar pump.
Bobby couldn’t not farm — it’s as simple as that. “Genetics moved me in a constant direction back to something that makes a lot of sense for me.”
WORTH THE HASSLE
Although onions “involve a fair amount of post-harvest handling, curing, and storage,” the Tuckers always have them on hand. “We love having a year-round supply for daily cooking.”
In October, Bobby and Bronwyn welcomed daughter Holland Claire. Bobby says she’s added a whole new dimension of fulfillment to Okfuskee. “The birth of our first child helped solidify the relatively vague, long-term vision I’d been struggling towards for many years. My wife helped make farming more enjoyable a few years before that.”
The family plans to be on their land for many years to come. “It comes down to the continual wonderment and experiential learning of how to efficiently work with nature –plants, animals, and fungi – to maximize net productivity, while at the same time improving the soil and banking more carbon in the ground,” Bobby says. He calls it the ultimate search for “the fine balance of work, play, and purpose.”