Champions of Sustainability
Southall Farm is situated on 325 acres in Williamson County, Tennessee, just outside of Franklin’s city limits. It is unlike any of the other Cumberland River Compact River Friendly Farms in that its primary purpose is to supply the “Inn”– an upscale resort with 62 guest rooms and 16 cottages– connecting guests to the source of the food they enjoy during their stay.
As founder Paul Mishkin describes , “Southall is a resort, of course, but it’s still a farm at its core. It’s a place we envisioned as somewhere people could come and stay to share the farm and all it has to offer—to fully enjoy a deep dive into a culinary seed-to-table experience.”
Peyton Cypress leads the farm team, overseeing everything from compost production to a small broiler chicken operation. Fruits, flowers, and vegetables are grown over three acres, but the production space also includes orchards with rare apples and an apiary of over four million honeybees.
Sustainability is a key tenet of Southall Farm & Inn. For example, kitchen scraps are composted along with farm waste, and rainwater is collected from the rooftops and gutters to drain into the man-made lake at the center of the property.
“I’m passionate about water conservation,” says Mishkin. “I insisted from early on that Southall remain self-sufficient for its irrigation, disconnected from the municipal water supply whenever possible. I’m happy to say that Southall has achieved that goal, watering the crops and landscape through this natural cycle, and turning to town water only when absolutely necessary.”
Jack’s Creek and Riparian Buffers
You can’t miss the picture-perfect creek that flows through the property, affectionately known by the Mishkin Family as “Jack’s Creek.” Jack’s Creek meets up with Polk Creek and empties into the Harpeth River just over a mile away.
The creek has maintained its pristine condition because it is protected from the impacts of human and animal activity. Bridges, natural plant barriers, and fencing serve to guide vehicles and animals to intentional creek crossings. These barriers and bridges prevent contamination by animal manure and the disturbance of aquatic life.
The strip of plants surrounding the creek, known as a “riparian buffer,” helps shade the creek, protects it from the impact of adjacent land use, and filters any pollutants before they reach the water. The roots of the riparian plants hold the soil along the creek in place, reducing the amount of sediment entering the waterway. Lucious and inviting, the riparian buffer along Jack’s Creek is proof that a healthy riparian zone full of native plants is both beautiful to the eye and functional for the ecosystem.
All of these actions serve to keep the stream and its aquatic critters thriving and healthy.
Closed Loop Farm Systems at Southall Farm
Regenerative farming is best defined as a closed loop system, or one in which nutrient inputs and outputs stay on one piece of land. Nutrients cycle into the soil in the form of compost, cover crops, fertilizer, or manure; they cycle out of the soil in the form of food, giving us nutrient-rich produce.
An extensive composting system is a crucial piece of the farm’s regenerative system. Composting windrows– essentially long lines of decaying matter that are turned with a tractor bucket– are used to compost dead plant matter and chicken litter. Located elsewhere on the property, a forced air composting system is used to process food scraps from the kitchens, plant material, and anything else that needs to “cook” at a high temperature.
Importantly for our waterways, composting areas are kept at least 100’ from creeks to ensure that excess nutrients, sediment, and other refuse stay out of the creek, which can cause an issue known as “nutrient loading.” Nutrient loading leads to an excessive amount of algae, which in turn lowers dissolved oxygen levels in water.
The use of cover crops is another key part of Southall’s regenerative farm system. Cover crops are plants that are grown to keep the soil covered while replenishing and mining for nutrients. They are typically worked back into the soil, providing carbon to feed soil microorganisms. They are not eaten or sold, but are strictly used to enhance the soil’s health.
Cover crops provide the vegetable farm’s main source of nutrition. Crops that require a lot of fertilizer, such as tomatoes or cauliflower, are typically followed by a cover crop. The cover crop puts carbon back into the ground and provides a several crucial benefits:
- Provides nutrients to the following plants through mineralisation.
- Improves soil structure, which is more resilient to physical degradation.
- Increases microbial activity in the soil, which delivers the plants everything they need.
- Increases the soil’s water holding capacity.
- Resists erosion, so valuable topsoil stays in place.
Rotating Chickens for Improved Pasture Management
Another soil health helper at Southall is pastured-raised chickens kept both for eggs and meat. Using portable fencing and a movable chicken house, the birds are moved daily to fresh grass to hunt for earthworms, bugs, and seeds.
The chickens’ concentrated presence creates disturbance in the soil and integrates their manure before they are moved on. Then the soil and grassy forage have time to rest and replenish. This cycle of disturbance and rest mimics nature and is one of the best ways to build healthy pastures. A healthy pasture absorbs more rain than a degraded one and reduces runoff into adjacent waterways while providing habitat and forage for pollinators and wildlife.
Like with the composting system, animals are kept 100’ or more away from waterways. Animal manure is high in a type of phosphorus that happens to be highly water soluble. If animals are kept too close to waterways, this phosphorus can wind up in the water, leading once again to “nutrient loading.”
By keeping the poultry away from waterways and on fresh grass, the chicken’s manure is able to sink back into the ground where it provides a nutritious boost instead of polluting waterways.
River Friendly Farm Certified
In 2023, Southall Farm was certified as a River Friendly Farm by the Cumberland River Compact. Farm manager Peyton Cypress says,
“We chose to apply for River Friendly certification because we believe that responsible water management is an essential part of respecting the land that we steward. By promoting a healthy water cycle on our farm, we hope to encourage more biological diversity above and below our soil in order to farm alongside nature.”
The River Friendly Farm certification program with Cumberland River Compact recognizes farmers who are good stewards of water and land resources, connecting them with consumers who value a healthy environment. As a River Friendly Farm, Southall Farm is ensuring cleaner water, healthier soil, and a more resilient climate for the people and creatures living in the surrounding environment.
How to Support Southall Farm
Southall Farm & Inn is available not only to guests of the resort, but also the community at large. Check out their Community Page to sign up for a honey tasting, an open-fire dinner under the stars, or a gardening class with Farmer Peyton. Their flagship restaurant, Sojourner, is open by reservations only.