The Farm Site

The Challenge was fortunate enough to partner with the Hardwick Family and Hardwick Planting Company in Tensas Parish, where the Top Finalist Teams will be implementing their innovations in a real-world setting during Phase 2 of the Tulane Nitrogen Reduction Challenge. 

Somerset Plantation is approximately 20,000 acres consisting of 14,000 acres of farmland and 6,000 acres of hardwood timberland located in Tensas Parish in northeast Louisiana along the Mississippi River near Newellton, LA. Hardwick Planting Company partners Jay, Mary, Mead and Marshall Hardwick produce 9,000 acres of cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and sorghum on the family’s historic plantation. Agriculture production, primarily cotton in the early years, dates to 1814; and the property has had only two owners since that time. Somerset has been in Mary Hardwick’s family for nearly 100 years and is currently in its fourth generation of ownership.

Jay and Mary Hardwick have been farming since 1981 on Somerset Plantation. Jay is the past chairman on Cotton Incorporated, National Cotton Council, American Cotton Producers and former secretary of the National Peanut Board. He is the current chairman of EWR, a national custom software provider for agriculture and other industries. Mary is Somerset Plantation’s managing partner of the extended family owner partnership and oversees all aspects of management of the 20,000-acre property. 

Mead and Marshall, advisors to the Grand Challenge, are partners with their parents, Jay and Mary Hardwick, at Hardwick Planting Company. Mead obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Finance from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX in 2004, and Marshall obtained a Bachelor of Agriculture Business in 2011 and a Masters of Science in the School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA in 2013. Both are currently enrolled in The Louisiana Master Farmer program and are working toward certification. 

The Hardwick family has been extensively involved with conservation and restoration efforts in the area for many years. Almost 500 acres have been removed from agriculture production and restored to their natural existence along with the continued preservation of 3,000 more acres. In addition, approximately 6,000 acres of hardwood timberland are maintained which provide habitat for the Louisiana black bear. 

The Hardwicks firmly believe it is crucial to combine productive agricultural operations with maximum natural resource protection and a comprehensive conservation plan for the farm. Hardwick Planting Company’s mission is to achieve a viable, profitable and sustainable farm enterprise that pursues the ethical stewardship of all land resources with minimal impact upon the farm ecosystem. To pursue this mission, they have implemented conservation practices and systems such as extensive crop rotation, minimum tillage, filter strips and wetland restoration and preservation. Hardwick Planting Company was recently awarded the 2015 National Wetlands Award for Landowner Stewardship for their effort of blending production agriculture and conservation.


Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000