Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Scott and Kathy Railey of Goodwater, Alabama are two great friends of our family. Together, they have built Railey Farm & Field, where they are dedicated to teaching people about self-sufficiency through sustainable agriculture. Scott is a mountain of a man with a humble heart, who currently pastors three growing, small-town churches in the area. Kathy is a gentle soul, who loves her pet chickens and currently works as the Human Resources manager for a large printing and promotions company.
The Railey farm is a beautiful little place located in the Appalachian foothills of Alabama, and they take pride in their home. Out front, one can see a large corn crib built in the style of the old days, that we personally had the pleasure of cutting lumber for. The corn crib is the center of Scott and Kathy's business, where they are selling heirloom seed that is intended to help their fellow man learn to feed both himself and his family.
During the Spring, they have a busy garden filled with fresh produce and a crowd of honeybees doing their duty. Dominique and Rhode Island Red hens cackle throughout the day as they lay fresh eggs, always on the lookout for Mrs. Kathy to bring them a handful of tasty treats. Scott can be found out in the fields on these sunny days, tending large plots of corn atop an antique 1959 Farmall 140 tractor. Winter months bring a slowed pace, but they've been managing the wildlife, and it's time to hunt deer and turkey.
We wanted to sit down and ask Scott and Kathy a few questions about their farm, allowing us to introduce you to this wonderful couple, while also sharing their enthusiasm for heirloom crops, hunting, and family!
Fala: Scott and Kathy, it's a great privilege to interview you both and to share Railey Farm and Field with the readers here online at Mother Earth News. Firstly, would you tell us a little bit about who, or what, has inspired you to live this life of self-sufficiency?
Scott: Fala, thank you for your interest in Railey Farm and Field. I became interested in heirloom seed due to my 36 year background in the AgChem , fertilizer and seed industry. I worked in the field as a Certified Crop Adviser, as well as sales and management for a very large chemical company. I also managed a wildlife seed company for five years. When you spend that many years in the Ag business, you see a lot. After I retired from the Agricultural Chemical business, we bought the farm in Alabama. We planted fruit trees and started a large garden- even built an old style corn crib. As you know I'm a big hunter. I love Gods creation; His outdoors and the wildlife. I started planting food plots to increase the nutrition level to our local deer. I planted Hastings’ Prolific corn in the spring and a wheat, clover, and turnip mixture in the fall. Here is what got my attention- I planted the old famous Hastings’ Prolific, which was close to extinction, and a neighbor planted a RoundUp Ready corn (this was for wildlife consumption, not seed saving, due to their closeness). My Hastings’ was devoured by deer once it dried; the RU Ready was untouched. Now, the RU Ready was eaten later, but only after the Hastings was gone. This happened the next year! Today, I fence our Hastings’ Prolific field that is planted for seed. We use electric tape and still lose 1/4 of the field. We have the same issue with Jimmy Red corn. So, my question is this, does wildlife know something that maybe we don’t?
Fala: You made mention of planting an heirloom corn that really drew the attention of the deer! Your farm raises a variety of heirloom, non-GMO crops like this. In your opinion, why are heirlooms so important to consider feeding our families?
Scott: Many heirlooms have a higher protein level, and there is the fact that nothing, no molecule has been spliced to our heirlooms varieties. Now, I made a living selling modern technology to the American farmer for over 30 years- God Bless the farmer! They are roughly 2% of the population in America, and they feed 98% of the nation and 14% of the world! All I’m saying is this, for the gardener or small farmer, that feeding their family heirloom corn is something you need to consider in a strong way! There is something else. These old varieties fed America for many, many years. Do they produce more bushels per acre compared to GMO? No. Are they as easy to control weeds as RU Ready corn? No. But make no mistake, heirlooms like Hastings are much more drought resistant (growing to 14ft) And the taste? Well, you have to try it yourself. I have done a 180 in the Ag business when it comes to feeding my family and friends in our community. A Non GMO, heirloom corn, in my opinion, is the healthy choice for families.
Fala: I have to agree that these heirloom varieties can be quite tasty! We've really enjoyed planting them, not only for ourselves but for our livestock and wildlife as well. Other than a few corn varieties, what other kind of heirlooms do you plant?
Scott: We have concentrated on corn, especially Hastings’ prolific. There are few in the nation that have the original, pure Hastings’. It is truly a corn that could feed your family in rough times. We will also start growing a new corn variety given to us by the Thomas Jefferson museum, located at his former home, “Monticello”. I’m a descendant of his mother’s side of the family, and the Museum has kindly given us a variety of corn that was dear to him. We gave them a pound of Hastings Prolific. I’m also working on growing a grand old tomato called “New Stone”. I found an old pack of seed in my wife’s Grandfather’s old homeplace; the home was built pre-civil war. There was a pack of New Stone that was dated 1945. We couldn’t get the old seed to germinate, but I found seed from another source that is the same variety that had been saved. We planted 20 plants from seed we started inside, and all but two died from wilt/blight after the first harvest. The two plants that did not die lasted until fall and provided a lot of tomatoes. We saved seed from these two plants, and will plant more this year. I’m also excited about the rare "Clay County Yellow Meated Watermelon". A fellow pastor has helped keep this variety alive. It is a local Alabama watermelon that is delicious, and very disease resistant. There is a climbing bean that is somewhat rare- it’s the very old Alabama #1 bean. It was given to me by an elderly lady who saved it for 50 years, and it reminds me of the Cherokee Trail of Tears bean with a sweet flavor.
Fala: It sounds like you stay very busy during the planting season indeed! You and Kathy currently have a small flock of chickens, but have talked about expanding to possibly raising goats and cattle. Before we close this interview, would you mind telling us what your future goals are for your farm and business?
Scott: Kathy loves the chickens- those are her girls. We have 12 Rhode Islands and 4 Dominickers, and we let them out every day for several hours to free range. The eggs are great! We are planting 3 acres of Bahia Grass in the field next to the house to raise a couple of cows and a goat, and we also plan on free-ranging a Berkshire hog as well. We love the farm; it’s a place where some folks come to just get away. We have friends that come here to recharge their lives and to get away from the city. The reason we started Railey Farm and Field was not only to sell a pure, uncontaminated corn seed like Hastings’, but to teach people how to feed themselves, how to tend the earth, and teach them about legumes and cover crops in the garden. People need to know about the micro-organisms in the soil, and why they are so important in healthy gardens and small farms. When your micro-organism count is healthy, you actually spray and fertilize less. We are also excited about our corn crib, and a new addition we will start soon to house our next adventure- a Meadows Grist Mill. Fresh corn meal from Hastings’ is what fed the south during the Depression, and corn bread from Hastings’ is fantastic as well. We are also excited about the wildlife side of our business. We are promoting the Three Sisters way of farming in the food plot industry. Kathy and I are coming out with Man & Wildlife- a food for wildlife, but families can eat it to. So, we are busy here at Railey Farm and Field. If anyone is interested in learning more please visit us online! God Bless!
We sincerely appreciate the time taken by the Railey family to participate in this interview. Along with a growing online store that includes some of their heirloom corn, they also have many good articles and videos on their website about hunting, sustainable agriculture, and family values. If you are interested in learning more, please check out Railey Farm and Field online!
Fala Burnette is a homesteader with her husband at Wolf Branch Homestead in Alabama. They have finished building a small cabin using lumber they have milled themselves, along with raising chickens, Khaki Campbell ducks, and goats. Read all of Fala'sMOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.