Jay, Mary, Marshall and Mead Hardwick
Tensas Concordia Soil Conservation District
Jay Hardwick farms with his wife Mary and sons Mead and Marshall on a portion of his family’s Somerset Plantation and Timberland in Northeast Louisiana. They produce 8,100 acres of cotton, corn, grain sorghum, soybeans and wheat. Thirty-five percent of Somerset is in managed timber, wetlands, forested buffers, bayous and lakes.
Their production mission, Jay says, is to “achieve a viable, profitable farm enterprise that strives for the ethical stewardship of all habitat and production resources with minimum impact upon the overall farm ecosystem.” They work diligently, using many different soil health practices, to improve soil quality and health which will, in turn, improve their overall farm ecosystem.
The family utilizes less aggressive best management practices, including minimal tillage, crop rotations, cover crops and residue maintenance. They have also implemented surface water and irrigation tail water recovery retention ponds and grade stabilization structures. Using precision technologies, they are working to restore and enhance the quality of their water, air, soil, wildlife habitat and crop production economics.
To support local wildlife, the Hardwicks have planted grass field borders and forested riparian areas. Deer, turkeys, neo-tropical birds, migratory waterfowl, turtles, alligators and black bears are just some of the wildlife that are commonly seen on the plantation. The bottomland hardwood timber that they maintain provides crucial habitat for the Louisiana Black Bear, a formerly threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Hardwick family has received many awards for their conservation and stewardship work, including the Goodyear Award for Outstanding Resource Management, National Cotton Achievement Award, National Award for Environmental Sustainability and Private Landowner Stewardship Award.
Jay was chosen as one of three national cotton producers to represent the United States in Cotton LEADS, an international program committed to the social, environmental, economic and regulatory factors required to produce cotton responsibly in a global environment. He was also honored as Field to Market’s 2018 Farmer of the Year for his outstanding conservation efforts and leadership in advancing sustainable agriculture.
Mead and Marshall were awarded the 2018 Agricultural Achievement Award by the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show for promoting innovation efficiency, quality, safety, conservation and environmental practices in agriculture. The brothers are currently partnering with the Taylor Foundation and Louisiana State University Ag Center to develop, test and showcase best management practices for farmers in a multi-year, on-site model aimed to reduce or eliminate nutrient runoff.
The family continues to push to improve their conservation efforts on their farm, as well as encourage others to employ their practices.
Updated September 2019.