The Black Warrior River region was host to the most thriving Native city in North America: Moundville. These Native peoples, called Mississippians by modern anthropologists, made their civilization in and around the black warrior, utilizing various pieces of rich farmland to support their large population. Belle Meadow Farm, situated in the very beginning foothills of the Appalachian range, located in southern Tuscaloosa county, is one of the fields in which indigenous peoples most certainly farmed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years before white settlers came to what we now call Alabama.
Andrew & Laurie Beth Kesterson now call this farmland theirs, with the utmost respect for those that were rooted before them, and those that will grow after, by choosing not to use any chemical pesticides or weed killers. According to most modern records that Andrew can find, the thirteen-acre pastureland that is now known as “Belle Meadow Farm” was used extensively for cotton production in the mid 30’s and 40’s, soybeans in the 6o’s, and was purchased by Laurie Beth’s grandfather in the mid 1970’s with the purpose of raising his own garden along with show horses.
Albert Taylor or “Daddy Bo” was LB‘s grandfather’s name; he and his son “AL” raised thoroughbred show horses, managed the small community of Belle Meadow Loop Rd, and kept a family garden there, until his tragic death in 1995. The thirteen-acre, prime farmland designated field lay fallow for over twenty-years, being maintained by quarterly bush hogging from AL, who didn’t have the heart to continue farming the way he once had with his father, until Andrew’s interest was sparked! AL was then more than willing to teach Andrew the ways of the land and how to operate a tractor, and well…
The rest is HISTORY!
Andrew Kesterson - Farmer
Andrew graduated in 2011 from the University of Alabama with a degree in history, a minor in English literature, and a passion for organic gardening. Throughout Andrew & Laurie Beth’s first formative years, they found solace and joy in keeping a small garden at Laurie Beth’s home. He began by growing potted peppers, herbs, and even tomatoes. Then one year he asked “Mama Peggy”, Laurie Beth’s grandmother, if he could borrow her tiller to break up Laurie Beth’s hard back yard, a thing she laughs about remembering how their dogs would tear through the yard with no care at all for Andrew’s precious garden.
Each year Andrew would experiment, learn, and be absolutely enthralled in the miracles of growing food naturally, using all natural fertilizers, and employing the latest in small- scale techniques pioneered by organic growers across the globe. Andrew always thought this would be one hell of a way to make a living, but the idea of running a farm almost seemed to be a far off fantasy.
And then adulting occurs.
While studying in college, the economy suddenly takes a turn for the worst and upon graduation (2010-11), Andrew & Laurie Beth, whom are both liberal arts majors, found it nearly impossible to find employment without committing to furthering their educations. Andrew seriously investigated and prepared for applying to obtain his masters in history, and hopefully down the road his PhD. But during the preparation process many things occurred, one being the April 27th tornadoes, which re-focused the couple on what they really wanted out of life.
Instead of committing to a decade (or more), in pursuit of his PhD, in a state very far away from Alabama and Laurie Beth’s home, Andrew decided to take the big leap and become an organic farmer here in Tuscaloosa. Laurie Beth’s family was ecstatic that they would be making Tuscaloosa their permanent home.
With the blessing of Mama Peggy, Andrew broke ground on Belle Meadow Farm in the Spring of 2012, a few months before he and LB were married. He started with just a small 60 x 100 plot garden. Uncle Al did all the tractor work for him that first year affording Andrew the opportunity to learn various farming techniques.
Laurie Beth Kesterson - Manager
Concurring with the fast growth of the farm, Laurie Beth has fully committed herself back to the farm life. she could not be more elated to get back to her roots and down in the dirt. After working her way from a sales associate, to a manager, and ultimately an owner of Surgarfoot’s, a local Nursery Design Boutique. Laurie Beth is now in charge of the day to day finances and marketing aspects of the farm.
In the past couple of years, LB has really found her niche for farming through herbs & florals, and has been absolutely humbled by the delight they bring to others! You can find her at Tuscaloosa River Market every Saturday from 7am-Noon & Tuesdays 3-6pm (April- November), The 5th Street Vintage Market, and various corporate locations. For more information on wholesale purchases of sunflowers, zinnias, or inquires about scheduling a market at your location, please email;
Planting the Seeds:
2012- small 60 x 100 garden plot
2013- plot grows to an acre and a half
2014- expands to a little over 2 acres
2015- doubles to a little over 4 acres
2016- 6 acres
2017- 6-8 acres
2018- 8-10 acres in full production and our orchard has started producing peaches
2019- we are at full production during most of the year at this point
The best Characteristic of Belle Meadow Farm is that we know no matter how far we have come, there are always opportunities for growth. we are constantly striving for ways to evolve every aspect of our operations and enjoy hearing input on ways to improve. It is one of the principles that guides the farm: Daily Growth!
Our strongest trait, that we emphasize over all, is Quality of Product. Scouring through seed catalogs, we aim to find the most unique, best tasting, and healthiest growing that are also well suited varieties for our harsh Southern region. Over our short farming career, we have grown nearly 8 different okra varieties alone! just to see which ones exhibit the best combination of yield, flavor, tenderness, etc. This kind of commitment to finding the very best product is evident in everything Belle Meadow Farm grows. We have designated areas for washing and packing, as well as an on site cooler in order to preserve the freshness of our harvest, until it is delivered to our customers at markets or a restaurant. We believe attention to detail is what has contributed to our success!