TAC Farm Resiliency

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Dennis Hutson (right) and brother-in-law Kayode Kadara are building biodiversity into their farm and community despite recent water challenges

Dennis Hutson and Kayode Kadara, co-owners of TAC Farm, recently walked the length of their 2,700 foot hedgerow and windbreak with WFA Executive Director Jo Ann Baumgartner and Sam Earnshaw of Hedgerows Unlimited. Together, they had the unfortunate task of examining plant resiliency in the face of limited water availability and high salt concentrations.  

Four years ago, TAC Farm received a Healthy Soils Program Grant from the California Department of Food and Agriculture to install windbreak and hedgerow plantings. In the first years, they were able to use water to flush through the salts that accumulate in the soil. But with a receding water table that led to higher salt concentrations and recent state water board regulations limiting the amount of water that can be used each year, many of the plants died.

Some plants of TAC Farm’s original hedgerow and windbreak have survived, so Dennis, Kayode, Jo Ann and Sam examined the species to identify which ones thrived in the harsher environment. They found Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis), Deer Grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), Great Basin Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), Fourwing Saltbush (Atriplex canescens), Mulefat (Baccharis salicifolia), California Buckwheat (Erigonium faciculatum) and Valley Live Oak (Quercus lobatastill growing. Additionally, Dennis and Kayode have successfully planted several Honey Mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa) throughout the farm, which are surviving and growing. 

Coyoto Brush with Great Purple Hairstreak butterfly

The farmers at TAC Farm have been working to revitalize the land and spur the economy in Allensworth, California. Allensworth is the first town in California established by African Americans in 1908, named after Colonel Allen Allensworth, a former slave who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Allensworth and four other men created a community where African Americans could escape oppression from Jim Crow laws and become self-sufficient. They chose Tulare County where land was fertile, plentiful, and inexpensive.  

Dennis Hutson decided to start TAC Farm while visiting his mother’s home in Allensworth. The town was struggling in an economically depressed region, and Dennis had a vision for a farm that would provide jobs, healthy food choices, and economic stimulus for the community.  

By planting cover crops, native plant hedgerows and windbreaks, and applying compost, TAC Farm has been boosting healthy soil, sequestering carbon and providing habitat for beneficial wildlife. But the new water challenges have been a hit for the farm.  

TAC Farm is researching options, including a deeper well where the salts would not be as concentrated. With a solution to the irrigation, the hedgerows and windbreak may be replanted with the resilient native species they have identified and Dennis and Kayode will continue their diligent work to build an operation that stimulates the health of the local ecosystem and community. 

Read more about the history of Allensworth and TAC Farm in this blog post.

Learn how to install hedgerows in our Installing Habitat to Increase Farm Diversity publication.