Brian and Dawn Gotreaux and their 10 (!) children breathe new life into a fading agricultural model.
Brian and Dawn Gotreaux and their 10 (!) children breathe new life into a fading agricultural model. By Tyler F. Thigpen
Friday, May 2, 2014
Photos by Tracie Fontenot
Brian (above) and Dawn Gotreaux apply time-tested techniques to
Sustainability in agriculture is becoming an increasingly popular preference among the smaller scale farmers and producers who grow almost exclusively to feed the members of their own communities. And consumers as a whole have started to not only pay attention to the taste of fresh-picked, pesticide-free produce and hormone/additive-free meats but also the health benefits and environmental ethics of sustainable farming practices. Locally grown foods have become a brand for environmental consciousness as the fruits, vegetables, herbs and meats are grown using best management practices that produce less waste and use fewer resources. Gotreaux Family Farms in Scott is the picture of sustainable, small-scale community agriculture.
"The Gotreauxes care about food more than anyone I've ever met. It's inspiring. They never take shortcuts," says Jonathan Kastner, local foods advocate, food coach and executive chef at Brick & Spoon Restaurant. "Everyone should have access to eat the best tasting and most nutritious food available. The Gotreauxes' products cover both of those criteria."
Gotreaux Family Farms, owned and operated by Brian and Dawn Gotreaux, was established in 1999 on the parcel of land on which it still resides. Throughout the years as their products have become more popular, the Gotreauxes have expanded the farm's footprint by leasing nearby parcels and acquiring adjacent lands.
"The farm has evolved from a very small garden and raising chickens to what it is today," says Dawn. "We began growing our own food for the safety of our family - free from hormones and chemicals."
The Gotreaux family, which comprises Brian and Dawn as well as their 10 children - Miguel (17), Isaac (16), JulieBeth (16), Simon (15), Juliana (13), Christiana (13), Camilo (13), Nathanael (13), Noble (12), and Ariana (12) - live on the farm and tend to its animals and, now, extensive gardens.
"We value working as a family and do so with the garden," says Brian. "We each have our individual chores. The children's chores are age appropriate and range from picking eggs and feeding chickens to animal husbandry. It is beautiful to see our children love on their animals, care deeply, take responsibility and understand the rewards of it."
The amount of energy and care the Gotreaux family puts into creating its meats and produce is apparent in the taste of its products. The family's mission is to grow nutrient-dense food by employing sustainable farming practices and ongoing research into what works best in South Louisiana's climate, soils and hydrology. By learning and using the techniques that work best for our region, Gotreaux Family Farms offers the largest repertoire of fruits, vegetables and herbs in Acadiana. The family grows everything from gita beans to purple potatoes to daikon radishes to squash and zucchini flowers and most everything in between. In addition to produce, the Gotreaux farm stand boasts natural, hormone-free fresh eggs, chicken, turkey (at Thanksgiving) and tilapia.
The Gotreauxes raise their tilapia using customized, environmentally friendly practices. The fish are raised hormone- and antibiotic-free in an indoor, climate-controlled greenhouse using a proprietary greenwater circulating system that is continuously oxygenated.
"[The fish] are fed a diet of pelletized Menhaden fish meal, North Atlantic kelp [seaweed] meal and live plankton, which is cultured in the tank in which they live," says Brian. "Being that we do not use antibiotics or hormones, our water quality has to be nearly perfect constantly. The demand for our fish has long surpassed our production limitations, but good news - we are planning to expand production in this upcoming year."
Gotreaux Family Farms' tilapia, chicken, eggs and produce are available year-round from 2-6 p.m. at the Gotreauxes' Tuesday stand at their farm in Scott and Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon at the Hub City Farmer's Market in the Oil Center. The family also offers a 12-week seasonal community-supported agriculture (CSA) share in the spring and fall of each year. Patrons have the option of adding eggs and meat to their CSA subscription. The CSA is available for delivery, farm pick-up or farmers market pick-up.
In addition to the Gotreauxes' nutrient dense CSA, produce and meats, the Hub City Farmer's market, established by Brian and Dawn Gotreaux in 2011, offers pork, beef, cream top milk, soft cheeses, butter, ethnic foods and more. The market is not only a place to purchase healthy local foods, but it serves as a venue for education and for families to spend time on Saturday mornings. The Gotreauxes have been successful in bringing their passion for family and locally grown foods to the market.
"My favorite thing about raising our family on our farm is the time we get to invest into their lives," says Dawn. "We eat three meals a day together at the family table. It's a lot of food preparation all the time. To sit down and eat together and listen to each one talk about their day, the status of their responsibilities, the laughing and kidding between the boys is priceless. Then there is that beautiful plate of food that we have all had a part in growing from the starting of seeds to transplanting to weeding to harvesting to preparing it. We have been able to pass on the passion of caring about what we do. Nothing is taken for granted and all is worked for and appreciated. There is much investment, passion and love that goes into growing our food. We believe in the nutrient density of our food. Being able to offer our customers the best of what we grow and raise is fulfilling. We have customers who are battling cancer, cancer survivors, parents who need clean foods for their children, athletes, business owners, that depend upon real nutritious food. We have great customers and we enjoy being personable so they can get to know us and trust us as their farmers."
Tyler F. Thigpen is a wetland ecologist, past president of Acadiana Food Circle (www.AcadianaFoodCircle.org) and co-coordinator of Pig & Plough Suppers, a slow foods dinner series celebrating our Louisiana foodways by promoting chef collaborations that feature foods grown and raised in South Louisiana.