Fields to Futures: Texas Mesquite Field Farms' Journey of Growth and Giving Back - American Farmland Trust

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June 4th, 2024

Fields to Futures: Texas Mesquite Field Farms’ Journey of Growth and Giving Back

By: Eva Morgan

Doug Havemann, owner of Mesquite Field Farms in Texas

As I drove past the double gates of Mesquite Field Farms, I was met with an amazing sight. Just feet away from his front porch, Doug Havemann is sipping a cup of coffee while standing in the middle of his cow herd. Mothers and calves patiently await their turn for a cuddle or chin scratch, so docile I can walk up and do the same. Doug and his wife Melissa run Mesquite Field Farms in Nixon, Texas. Just 55 miles south of San Antonio, the operation is home to a closed cow-calf herd, broiler hens, an impressive greenhouse, and a multitude of amazing programs put on by the family.

Twelve years ago, the Havemann’s purchased 20 acres here in hopes of turning it into their own space to farm and ranch and help others learn how to do the same. They run their operations without the use of chemicals and using regenerative farming practices like rotational grazing, no-till fields, and cover crops. On top of normal Texas farm operations, Doug runs collaborative learning programs for beginning farmers, military veterans, and active-duty military. Melissa works a full-time corporate job while hosting various homesteading classes. A look at their shared calendar is dizzying, yet they manage to keep it all in check with the help of Melissa’s amazing organizational skills. She utilizes technology to her advantage, creating interactive schedules, to-do lists, and instructions for every event. Bookkeeping is the most important part of keeping any agricultural operation financially viable, and Mesquite Field Farms is no exception.

They are dedicated to continually diversifying their operation for the health of their agroecosystem and a diversity of income streams, not limited to but including a beef and poultry operation, vegetable greenhouse, and beehives. In 2023, Mesquite Field Farms received a Brighter Future Fund (BFF) grant from American Farmland Trust. BFF is a grant program launched in 2020 to assist farmers in successfully launching, growing, and sustaining their farms and ranches in the face of the many challenges impacting the food and agricultural sector today. Doug and Melissa applied for the grant on a whim, but with its help, they were able to purchase essential resources they needed to aid their thriving operation. With the BFF, they were able to begin purchasing a Prairie Schooner, a mobile chicken coop. The coop will allow Doug and Melissa to run a successful and safe poultry population that rotates across their land, stimulating soil rejuvenation.

It is evident that their commitment to agriculture extends beyond normal Texas farm practices. The farm partners with Battle Ground to Breaking Ground, a four-phase educational farming and ranching program available to veterans, active-duty military, their families, and other beginning farmers and ranchers. They invite cohorts of students to their farm, identify their interests, teach them skills, and give them experience in a variety of agriculture topics such as planning, business management, funding, and technical. During my visit, I heard multiple stories about the over 900 different kinds of students who have gone through training at the farm, as well as successful stories of where they are now. Doug also serves as the president of the  Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, and is an instructor for the Council for Healthy Food Systems program that supports agriculture and the wellness of veterans and others who have chosen agriculture as their profession.

During my visit, it was apparent how the BFF grant is supporting producers who are making every effort to do the right thing. As I praised Mesquite Field Farm’s commitment to agricultural advocacy and sustainability, Doug chuckled, saying, “We’re not perfect, but we’re not stupid either.” The Havemann’s hope is that other farmers can draw inspiration from them and strive for continuous improvement, innovation, and sustainability in their operations. By adopting regenerative practices, embracing education and collaboration, and seeking out resources like grant programs, farmers can enhance the viability of their own farms and contribute to the health and resilience of the broader agricultural system. The story of Mesquite Field Farms serves as a ray of hope and inspiration for farmers everywhere, reminding us that with dedication, innovation, and community support, a brighter future for agriculture is within reach.

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