Joseph Ballard and Paul Speros own and operate SB Farms of Malone. Their operation was one of only three farms from across the state recognized as Innovative Farmers at the 2013 Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference, held in Kissimmee in August.
Ballard grew up on his family’s 2000 acre row crop farm in Alabama. In 2008 he and Speros started a new venture, moving to Malone and creating a Certified Naturally Grown livestock and vegetable farm. Currently they are working to upgrade and become a Certified Organic farm. SB Farms has an all-natural herd of sheep and goats that they have been selecting for natural pest resistance. They plan to expand into the organic pork and poultry markets in the near future.
One of the real challenges with organic livestock production is the need for organic hay and feed supplements. SB Farms currently produces organic perennial peanut hay, with plans underway to also produce their own organic grain. They hope to be able to not only produce enough certified organic feed for their own livestock, but enough to sell to other organic farms as well.
In addition to the livestock, SB farms also produces organic vegetables. They use no-till, minimum till, cover crops, and trap crops to boost production. They compost all their livestock waste for use as fertilizer. The partners raise their own bees to serve as pollinators for the crops. They have even built most of the equipment they use on the operation. They have even have started saving their own seed from the best adapted vegetable varieties they have used.
SB Farms is unique to the region, so they have hosted tours to show potential customers what they are doing. They market their products to chefs in the region, and provide free samples with tours to help to grow their customer base. Ballard and Speros hope to expand their operation in the near future, based on the success they have had the past five years.
The Florida Small Farms Innovative Farmers were selected by members of the UF/IFAS and FAMU Small Farms Extension Team.