developed at the Lazenbys’ farm.
Creative thinking has been the driver behind the creation of each of their enterprises, all of which serve to spread risk. Especially on the cropping side of their operation, the Lazenbys have imagined ways to reduce risk further.
To safeguard against drought stealing their crops, they developed a pond-based irrigation system. “We’ve built water-storage reservoirs on the farm,” says Lazenby. “We pull the water out of creeks and streams that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.”
Focusing on building health in their soils further reduces risk in crop production. Crops grown in healthy soils tend to be more resilient and thus better able to withstand either wet or dry conditions. “We try to give soil organisms a diverse diet of living roots,” says Lazenby. “We plant legumes and cover crops. We also use no-till and strip-till to minimize soil disturbance.”
Their concentration on building soil quality adds another chapter in their farm story that they’re able to share with visitors to the farm. “We’re trying to teach people about soil health,” he says.
While there’s no ques-
tion the multiple farm enterprises increase management and labor, the Lazenbys manage the hefty work load themselves, along with the help of one full-time employee, farm manager Andrew Sparks. They also have a part-time helper. Dawn manages the hosting of the weddings and drives a school bus in addition to caring for their three children, ages 10, 9, and 8.
“We work some crazy hours, but I really don’t think about how busy we are,” says Lazenby. “Like a lot of other farmers, we’ve always had a can-do attitude. It’s our faith in God’s care and my wife’s sacrifices that really make the diversification of our farm successful.”
In his view, finding ways to diversify a farm makes a natural fit for most farmers. “Farmers are always looking to try something new,” he says. “Farmers are entrepreneurial at heart. We’re the most self-motivated individuals on the planet.”
INSIGHTS FROM AN INSIDER
After nearly three decades of building increasing diversity into a farming operation to reduce production and marketing risks, Lazenby has learned a thing or two about the process. He offers these suggestions to others looking to diversify.
• Focus on enterprises that make a natural fit. “Do a personality assessment and find enterprises that are a natural fit for your personality,” he says.
• Start small. Stick to just one or two new enterprises or management changes to begin with.
• Commit to a time line. “Though things always happen that you can’t foresee, set a time line and work extra hard to meet it,” he says. “It’s important to see something through to the end before you decide whether or not to continue with
• Overcome fear. “Many people are fearful of change,” he says. “Remember that diversity is all about managing risk.”
• Push the boundaries. Finding the right path for a new enterprise begins with having the courage to step outside a comfort zone. Imagining and working toward new goals may lead to an outcome that’s either right or wrong for you. “The only way to find that out is to push the boundaries,” says Lazenby.
This is the playset that Mitch Lazenby built from an old cotton picker.
The Lazenby family includes (clockwise from top left) Dawn; Mitch; Jamie Claire, 10; Jonah, 8; and Jamison, 9.