Joel Francois is a self-proclaimed “city slicker turned farmer”—a decision he made for the benefit of his family.
“We wanted to give my daughter a memorable childhood being raised on the farm,” says Francois, who now helps run Lane Creek Reserve and Lane Creek Hemp in the Pacific Northwest after relocating from New York City.
“As a family, we can enjoy being outside and feeling safe, playing in the rain, teaching her work ethic from a young age all while letting her choose what path she wants to take in her adult life,” he continues.
“If she wants to be like her mother and adventure into the big city, we will support that, too. But for now, it’s time to make memories and mud pies!”
Inspired by the photos on his Instagram account, we spoke to Francois about moving cows between pasture and incorporating biodiversity into his farm. We also got into what it’s like living with goats.
The Importance of Biodiversity
Biodiversity plays a key role in Francois’s approach to farming.
“We practice permaculture with an emphasis on regenerative practices,” he explains. “Currently our model and grow spaces for food, flowers or industrial hemp are all grown in Hügelkultur beds. Our hemp crop is set on a contour for the preservation and retention of water, all the while collecting and sequestering carbon into the soil.”
Francois adds that planting crops including comfrey, garlic, fava beans, legumes, onions, daikon radishes and potatoes also “contributes massively to the nutrient and microbial life of the soil.
“Not only are these crops beneficial for the farmer, but they sequester carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere, cleansing the air and feeding the soil,” he says.
Living With Goats
On a day-to-day basis, Francois finds himself surrounded by goats.
“It’s like having a caged area of playful horned children,” he says affectionately. “We watch the kids grow into their own personalities, head butt to prove who is stronger than who and to see the pecking order change with the wind.”
When it comes to naming the goats, Francois says every animal’s personality comes into play.
“We have Princess Lindi Most Perfect In Every Way, along with Gizmo, who ate all the door fixtures, wires, play toys and did her best to break out of anything, and Lady Gaga aka Star who would climb on you and get to the highest point possible and pose like she was in front of ten million people [and] she also has a white third eye that looks like a star.”
Getting to Grips with Moving Cows
When it comes to moving cows between pasture, Francois says “the ranching movies make it look easy. Jump on your horse, have a lasso and a dog, and the cows just do what you want them to.” He adds, “So not the case!”
Moving cows for grazing can be easier. “You open the gates to green grass and it’s like the doors being opened on Black Friday. But should you try to take them off the green grass, you will need five or six humans who are ready to rodeo.”
Introducing Lane Creek Hemp
Alongside Lane Creek Reserve, Francois also tends to Lane Creek Hemp. “Our hemp division is the heart and most fertile part of the land,” he says, adding that the whole team have set up a system where everyone helps support each entity.
“Farming is full time, seven days a week. So our focus is on the crops regardless of if they are for CBD or medicinal use; food for us, our animals and community; or fresh-cut flowers for daily sale.”
Farming as a Safe Haven
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Lane Creek Reserve is a family owned and operated regenerative farm located in the Rogue Valley. We grow in Hugelkulture berms set on contour for water retention. At @lanecreekhemp, we layer carbon and let the biodiversity of the soil do the work for us. Permaculture and Hugelkulture creates a rich and living soil and although we are not certified organic, our practices and agricultural footprint have set a healthy foundation for creating life and more importantly an environmentally sound growing space. 🌳🏡☀️🌲 #HomeSweetHome #SunrisesAtTheFarm
Asked about the most rewarding part of embracing the farm life, Francois says, “Given the current state of our country and the world, we are safe. Being isolated on our land has been a true blessing. We can vertically support the needs of our family with little support from the outside world.
“We have a thriving bubble of fertility, fresh air, sun and clean water,” he adds. “As farmers, you can’t ask much more than that.”
Follow Joel Francois and Lane Creek Reserve at Instagram.