Humanity and agriculture often clash with the elements of ecology, and it is often at ecology’s expense. At Two Brooks Farm, we work for compromise that allows for coexistence of the two. We study nature's dimensions to draw the blueprints for our rice, and the final design balances nature with need by maximizing wildlife habitat and food production in an ecological system that benefits each. Our production has evolved as we have learned to farm with nature's rhythms. Unique to Southern rice acreage, most of our fields are long term aquatic environments that are ecologically farmed with a continuous rice production system that provides many ecological services to physical and biotic components on our place. Years in the making, these wetland habitats and the biota they have spawned have fueled a biological bonanza that in many ways mimics the benefits of yesteryear’s southern floodplains ecosystems.
Before we utilized our nature friendly rice production system, most fields were devoid of much microbial and animal activity and our farm made limited environmental and ecological contributions. Today our place is home to or an important stopover point for numerous bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species. Through enlightened treatment of our soils and natural areas and reductions in our carbon footprint, our farm has evolved into a living, breathing bio-system with elevated carbon sequestration and soil renewal capabilities. After partially reintegrating our farm back into nature from which it was extracted, it has become part of a thriving, biotically dynamic ecosystem that fulfills obligations to man and nature, while improving our terrestrial and aquatic resources by building an organic system that transcends the store shelf use of the word without the linked ecological externalities.
A great link in our farm’s chain of life begins in the mucky, biologically flourishing soil where rice is continuously produced. Our soil biota's base organisms are fungi, bacteria, and algae that help support invertebrate populations, all of which help compost straw and detritus, filter water, and supply food to higher orders of animal life. These invertebrates include crustaceans, many shapes and sizes of mussels, mollusks, snails, slugs, annelids, etc. Insect inhabitants include many species of dragonflies, mosquitoes, gnats, flies, mayflies, water beetles, and many other arthropods that, along with their extensions, help support an array of amphibians including numerous frog species, reptilians ranging from garter and common water snakes to increasingly rare moccasins, and fish ranging from minnows and carp to small catfish. All of the aforementioned help sustain increasing populations of migrating and non migrating birds that are rarely seen in other Mississippi Delta locales but regularly check in and out of our wetland hotel. These include all sizes and shapes of egrets, herons, rails, bitterns, pelicans, and a personal favorite--the prim and proper tuxedo clad Black-necked Stilt that feeds from a smorgasbord of food possibilities that can only be found in long term aquatic environments.
This food chain stretches beyond harvest. Our farm is centered in the greatest of North American waterfowl migration paths--the Mississippi Flyway--and yields plenteously to the waterfowl’s nutrition and habitat needs. Waterfowl is an integral part of our producing a bounteous, environmentally sustainable and efficient crop. Great quantities of waterfowl annually use Two Brooks for nutrition, shelter, and breeding habitat. Our farm makes home for dabbling and diving ducks such as Mallards, Mergansers, Gadwalls, Teal, Northern Pintail, Northern Shovelers, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Canvasbacks, Coots, and Black Bellied Whistling Ducks. Thousands of Canada, Lesser Snow, Blues, and Ross’ geese also find refuge here. This waterfowl feeds on water bound invertebrates and lost seeds rendered un-harvestable by fowl weather or harvester discharge. Also, due to our commitment to ecological farming, there are invariably sums of grass, sedge, or red rice seed unintentionally growing that become part of the food chain.
All these lost seed make for a rich diet for waterfowl. As harvest ends, fields are plugged until next years’ harvest. That timing coincides with the annual waterfowl migration. Then, in rain flooded fields, nature does much of our tillage and fertility work. Vast numbers of ducks and geese dabble in the standing straw foraging for seeds or micro animal life not found in conventional rice growing systems, and work that straw perfectly into the mud while smoothing the land’s surface. Additionally, they deposit much of the nitrogen required for the coming crop, and all of our other macronutrients and micronutrients. This saves much expensive fertilizer and on the transport of many tons of organic fertilizer sources with their associated carbon costs. Thus, waterfowl save us much on tillage, fertilizers, herbicides, fuels, and emissions, while helping protect our environment.
In essence, we borrow from nature to feed you, and give back to nature to support its needs. Ours is a true food chain and an organic system of significant and unique dimensions.
Other diverse wildlife residents include white tail deer, cottontail rabbits, cane-cutter rabbits, river otters, squirrel, raccoon, mink, beaver, nutria, muskrats, skunks, loggerhead snapping turtles, common snapping turtles, soft shell turtles, bobcat, coyote, hawks and owls of all sorts, scores of migrating birds, and bald eagles. We plant milkweed for the benefit of migrating Monarch butterflies, and roads often go unshorn which benefits many creatures. All these creatures make home along the river and bayou that meander through or around the farm, and around the lakes and in the woodlands found on the place.
Using our continuous ecologically farmed rice system, we strive to meet equilibrium between nature's and man's needs. It is a pipe dream to turn our rich soil back to nature: It and many of our planet’s lands are needed to help feed an ever-increasing human appetite in as calorically and nutritionally efficient method possible so that man's further deforestation and encroachment on our planet's remaining natural areas won't be necessary.
However, those lands can also serve the needs of nature by feeding nature’s multitudes, providing wildlife habitat, filtering its water, and ensuring threatened species of plant and animal life have a home. We respond to those needs. Our rice production system provides combined benefits to humans and wildlife: To humans, it yields full production and calories that multi-year rotated conventional or organic systems generally can’t match: For an array of wildlife, it provides hard to find habitat for many species and the food sources necessary to sustain them in an ecosystem seldom seen in conventional or organic agricultural settings. We strive to make these benefits to humanity and wildlife come affordably from our planet’s resources and be a stronger and vital link in earth’s chain of life.