‘A life-altering change’: Bien-Aime’ Farm owners from oil field to full-time farmers – Daily Advertiser

‘a-life-altering-change’:-bien-aime’-farm-owners-from-oil-field-to-full-time-farmers-–-daily-advertiser

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This article is part of an ongoing weekly Friday series about the vendors at the Lafayette Farmers Market.Underneath the Lewisburg water tower sits 100 blueberry bushes, 13 acres, 11 chickens, and two farmers — Katie and David Baird.Bien-Aime’ Farm, an organic farm between Church Point and Opelousas, is a pillar of the Lafayette Farmers Market. The couple has been setting up at the market for the past two years.What started as a half-acre project turned into full-time farming. The Baird’s recently expanded their land by 2,640% and the learning curve of a new adventure. ‘A life-altering change’Bien-Aime’ Farm started six years ago with bell pepper seeds.”We started growing some peppers from a pepper that we bought at the market, like the grocery store, out of a little egg carton,” Katie said. “And when they started to sprout it was just like the coolest thing ever.””So we decided to put a four by six raised bed in our backyard and then it just kept getting bigger and bigger until it took up the entire backyard. We got bitten by the bug.”The half-acre backyard of the couple’s Arnaudville home was soon filled with variants of vegetables and fruits. In the beginning, they were both working in the oil field and growing organic food was a hobby.But they didn’t start their farm with the goal of being organic. That came down the road, the passion for “better food.” As they continued to grow and research farming, the hobby rapidly developed into a large part of their lives. “It was this passion. It was very God-given. Everything that was given, God was putting it in steps,” David said. “Everything that was happening, like we had really bad success on crops, but everything from farming itself was such a life-altering change for us.”As their love of farming grew, so did their garden. Quickly their half-acre of land was taken over but they stayed in Arnaudville for almost six years. They were living in Katie’s childhood home, with her grandparents right next door.She has fond memories of picking and shelling purple hull peas with her grandparents during summertime. Her grandfather had his own large garden. When he passed away, the Baird’s acquired his gardening tools and use them on the farm.Eventually, they made the leap to become full-time farmers. When they were deciding the name, they wanted it to be something that was really meaningful to them.”Before we got married, I had a silver band that I wore on my ring finger and it has a scripture in it that said ‘I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine,'” Katie said. “When we started dating, I was looking at the meaning of our names and the meaning of his name, David, means beloved. I was like ‘Wow,’ it was a big sign for me.””So we went with Beloved, and connected with the culture so we did it in French Cajun.”Lewisburg upgradeAfter five years of full-time farming on half an acre, the Baird’s decided it was time to expand. In December of 2020, they moved to their current location in Lewisburg, a small town between Church Point and Opelousas.The land they purchased had gone through multiple metamorphoses. In the 1980s it was a pecan farm. A dozen of the graphed trees still stand in the center of the property. The couple looks forward to sipping coffee under the shade of their pecan trees in the summer.The land has a two-year-old fruit orchard with apples, pears and pawpaws. Blueberry bushes were added and eventually turned into a U-Pick farm. The Bairds plan to continue this tradition once blueberry season begins, usually around late March.The land also has what used to be a schoolhouse. The Baird’s are planning to turn it into a store for just Bien-Aime’ Farm items.”This place so perfect,” Katie said. “We wanted a place to have a store. We wanted the house … And just lots of room to be able to expand the farm. The blueberries were a perk, that extra lagniappe.” Having been at the farm for just a few months, the couple is focusing on germinating seeds and making the land their new home. The farm has simple rules it abides by: No synthetic fertilizer, no pesticides, no tilling and permaculture is king.This takes time and trial and error. The goal is to create a rich environment that leads to rich, healthy food.”You’re eating what you grew, you’re making a difference,” David saidThe Baird’s govern their land this way to create a healthy thriving mini eco-system. It involves planting native plants – flowers, fruits, vegetables, legumes – and weeds. “We’re learning that weeds say a certain thing about soil,” David said. “You could be lacking nitrogen in certain areas, you could be lacking other things. Once we got out of the bubble of, ‘Oh, I just want to grow vegetables,’ let’s make it a lifestyle and really understand because the stuff that we put in us is what gives us life.”They’re working with natural resources . Welcoming birds – nature’s pesticides – while keeping beneficial insects – the micro lives in healthy soil – and animals that help balance the eco-system. New Zealand rabbits and third-generation Rhode Island White chickens were brought from their Arnaudville property. They anticipate adding sheep to act as natural mowers.They try to reuse material on the farm as much as possible. Their rabbit runs were made with old fence boards.”If we can make it, we’re going to before we buy something new,” Katie said.Being full-time farmers means slow seasons during the cold months and between planting new crops. In order to make income during the slow times, the couple created one of their best known products — whiskey syrup.With the extra room at the new farm, they hope to grow purple sugar cane and harvest it for the syrup.But the Baird’s are more than just farmers. They have what they call the “homesteader mindset,” making soap, canning foods, even creating wood carvings. With their own store, they can regenerate their love of making things, like roux spoons.And with more property, the opportunities to expand are abundant. A distant end goal is to teach classes on how to grow your own food, even if it’s just half an acre.  “It leads to loving South Louisiana more because you have more of a connection to it,” David said.Contact Victoria Dodge at [email protected] or on Twitter @Victoria_Dodge
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