This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
• A GUIDE TO THE STaTE'S FaRMS, FOOD aND COMMERCE •
Given a choice, consumers want U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish
FAMILY HAS fOUND HOW TO MIX LIfE ON A DAIRY WITH AGRITOURISM
Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce // www.MSagriculture.com // 2014
Mississippi Agricultural Aviation pilots are skilled professionals ready to cover your farming needs north, south, east or west.
Helping Mississippi Farmers Feed the World
TABLE OF CONTENTS
• A GUIDE TO THE STATE’S FARMS, FOOD AND COMMERCE •
9 Commissioner’s Welcome Letter 10 Mississippi Agriculture Overview 14 Making Their Mark
Women bring fresh perspectives, great work ethic to agriculture industry
18 Good to Go
Mississippi’s agricultural exports make a big impact
Livestock & Animals
22 Rulers of the Roost 26 Farm Living
Broiler industry heats up in Mississippi Family mixes life on a dairy with agritourism MSU Edam cheese celebrates its 75th anniversary Given a choice, consumers want U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish Mississippi’s pork industry has a big economic impact Quality cattle management makes great Mississippi beef
29 A Cheese Celebration 30 American Made 33 Hog Heaven
34 Beef Business
2014 EDITION, VOLUMe 2 JOURNAL COMMUNICATIONS INC.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Mississippi AGRiCULTURE 2014
Crops, Plants & Forestry
38 Plant Life
Mississippi horticulture sees tremendous growth Growing acreage demands more inspectors Mississippi farmers use cuttingedge technology in the field Market Bulletin still delivering what farm community wants
72 Going Local
Mississippi restaurants take pride in farm-to-table movement Natchez Farmers Market provides more than fresh food Program promotes link between local producers and consumers
Project Manager LISA SCRAMLIN Agribusiness Content Team RACHEL BERTONE, HANNAH PATTERSON, JESSY YANCEY Proofreading Manager RAVEN PETTY Contributing Writers KERI ANN BEAZELL, CAROL COWAN, MATTHEW D. ERNST, CHARLYN FARGO, LAURA FERNANDEZ, JILL CLAIR GENTRY, SUSAN HAYHURST, KEITH LORIA, KAREN MAYER, JOHN MCBRYDE, JESSICA MOZO, JOANIE STIERS, BLAIR THOMAS Senior Graphic Designers STACEY ALLIS, LAURA GALLAGHER, JAKE SHORES, KRIS SEXTON, VIKKI WILLIAMS Graphic Designers JACKIE CIULLA, LINDSEY HIGGINS, KACEY pASSMORE, MATT WEST Senior Photographers JEFF ADKINS, BRIAN MCCORD Staff Photographers WENDY JO O’BARR, MICHAEL CONTI, FRANK ORDOÑEZ, MICHAEL TEDESCO Color Imaging Technician ALISON HUNTER Advertising Production/Sales Manager KATIE MIDDENDORF Ad Traffic Assistants KRYSTIN LEMMON, PATRICIA MOISAN Chairman GREG THURMAN President/Publisher BOB SCHWARTZMAN Executive Vice President RAY LANGEN Senior V.P./Agribusiness Publishing KIM NEWSOM HOLMBERG Senior V.P./Agribusiness Sales RHONDA GRAHAM Senior V.P./Operations CASEY HESTER Senior V.P./Journal Digital MICHAEL BARBER V.P./External Communications TEREE CARUTHERS V.P./Sales HERB HARpER Controller CHRIS DUDLEY Senior Accountant LISA OWENS Accounts Payable Coordinator MARIA MCFARLAND Accounts Receivable Coordinator DIANA GUZMAN Agribusiness Marketing Director SARA QUINT Sales Support Coordinator CHRISTINA MORGAN IT Director DANIEL CANTRELL Web Creative Director ALLISON DAVIS Web Services Team DAVID DAY, NELS NOSEWORTHY, RICHARD STEVENS Photography Director JEFFREY S. OTTO Creative Services Director CHRISTINA CARDEN Creative Technology Analyst BECCA ARY Executive Secretary KRISTY GILES Human Resources Manager pEGGY BLAKE
41 Peanut Inspection 42 Smart Farms
75 Valued Market
76 Make Mine Mississippi
47 Read All About It!
78 Passing Inspection
Weights and Measures ensures accuracy on products sold in Mississippi MDAC plays important role in safeguarding honey bee industry
48 Small Producers Mean
Demand for local produce is booming in Mississippi
79 Bees in Need
51 Agricultural Renaissance
Agriculture comes back to the reservation
for Choctaw Indians
52 Branching Out
On the Cover Mallory Ard feeds a calf at Ard’s Dairy Farm in Ruth, Mississippi.
PHOTO BY MICHAEL CONTI
Multiple stakeholders invested in forestry industry Mississippi is the perfect place for this root crop
56 Sweet, Sweet Potatoes
Mississippi Agriculture is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
60 The Future in Their Hands 63 Riding High
Ag education prepares students for career leadership Therapeutic Riding and Activity Center helps citizens with disabilities bond with horses Farm Families of Mississippi bridges communication gap between farmers and consumers MSU’s REACH program provides the science behind conservation
MISSISSIppI DEpARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND COMMERCE:
Commissioner CINDY HYDE-SMITH Director of Marketing PAIGE MANNING Special thanks to all Department staff for their support. For more information about the Mississippi Department of Agriculture, contact: Paige Manning, Director of Marketing and Public Relations 121 N. Jefferson Street, Jackson, MS 39201 (601) 359-1163 or by email at email@example.com No public funds were used in the publishing of this magazine. © Copyright 2014 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member Member The Association of Magazine Media Custom Content Council
64 Giving Agriculture a Voice
66 Land Stewardship at its Best
Visit us online at
A LOOK INSIDE
OpTIMIZED fOR ONLINE
Each article can be read online, as a web article or in our digital magazine.
DEAR R EAdERS,
Welcome to our second edition of Mississippi Agriculture. In our first edition, we shared a glimpse of Mississippi agriculture through the eyes of those that live it each day in the hopes that you would gain a greater understanding and appreciation of our state’s leading industry. This edition gives you an even closer look into the lives of those that sacrifice to ensure that you and I have safe and affordable food on our tables. As you read the stories of our hardworking and dedicated producers, you may notice that many of the farming operations and agribusinesses throughout the state involve entire families and, in some cases, multiple generations. It is encouraging to see younger generations interested in remaining involved in their family’s business. For example, my husband and I are currently raising a fifth generation farmer, Anna-Michael, and know the importance of maintaining a strong farming operation over time so we can continue to provide food, fiber and fuel for our citizens. You don’t have to look very far to realize that agriculture touches the lives of all Mississippians in all corners of the state from the Delta to the Gulf Coast to the Northeastern Hills, but it doesn’t stop there. Commodities grown and products made in Mississippi, some of which you may not even be familiar with, are making their way across the globe. Through the use of innovative techniques and cutting edge technology, our farmers and agribusinesses are providing for the world. I hope that as you read these stories you become more knowledgeable of the importance and the diversity of agriculture in the state. I would like to thank the advertisers for supporting the publication as well as those who shared their stories with us. Without your continued support, this publication would not have been possible. Sincerely,
SHARE THE CONTENT
Easily share an interesting article, stunning photo or useful advertisement via Facebook, Twitter or email.
HAVE A BLOG OR WEBSITE?
Embed our digital magazine in your website to offer compelling information about Mississippi agriculture to your site visitors.
Read on the Go
The digital magazine is available for tablet and phone viewing.
Visit us online at
Cindy Hyde-Smith Commissioner Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce
Mississippi’s agriculture industry is as rich as its soils
deposited by the Mississippi River. Many farms are located in this area because of the rich land. But agriculture in Mississippi is more than crops and livestock. Forestry, fishing, hunting and wildlife have a significant impact on the state’s economy by providing revenue and jobs. Mississippi forests cover 19.6 million acres which constitutes 60 percent of the state. Forestry-related jobs employ 25 percent of Mississippi’s manufacturing workforce. The value of production for Mississippi’s No. 3 commodity was more than $1 billion in 2012. Fishing, hunting and wildlife have a $2.7 billion annual economic impact and provide 66,171 jobs. Wildlife abounds in thousands of acres of streams, ponds, lakes and reservoirs. The most profitable wildlife endeavor is hunting, earning $1.14 billion a year. As a whole, agriculture is responsible for 29 percent of the state’s employment and 22 percent of statewide income. Mississippi’s rich soils nurture a diverse agricultural industry and make a large impact on the state’s economy. – Hannah Patterson industry is not only vital to the growth and well-being of the state, but also plays a significant role in the national economy. The Magnolia State has become an important producer nationwide with 15 different commodities ranking in the top 20 nationally. Farms in the state cover a total of 11.2 million acres. These 42,400 farms are located in all parts of the state and grow a variety of products. Broilers, chickens raised for meat, are the top commodity in the state. They are raised primarily in central Mississippi but can be found on 1,478 farms statewide. The value of production increased by $149 million from 2011 to 2012, totaling $2.32 billion. Soybeans, corn and cotton are three of the top five most valuable crops grown in Mississippi, and they also rank in the top 20 nationally. Soybeans are grown on 2,695 farms, and corn is grown on 2,113 farms, most of which are located in or near the Mississippi Delta. In 2012, 940,000 bales of cotton were produced, also predominately in the Delta. The Mississippi Delta’s fertile soil is enhanced by silt
Mississippi is ranked No. 7 nationally in peanuts and produced 187 million pounds in 2012.
MississiPPi SOYBeans Were Valued at
layer farms in the state with more than
Access more agriculture facts at MSagriculture.com.
piglets are born in Mississippi annually.
The state’s horse industry is responsible for 39,500 jobs.
hundredweight of rice in 2012, equivalent to more than
broilers in 2012. Mississippi produced
tHe Value OF SWeet POtatO PrOductiOn in 2012 Was
catFisH OPeratiOns in MississiPPi.
Mississippi has 19.6 million acres of forestland with 125,000 forest landowners.
milK cOWs in MississiPPi in 2012.
Mississippi’s top commodities, based on cash receipts
Broilers are the No.1 commodity in Mississippi, earning $2.32 billion in 2012. Mississippi ranks No. 5 nationally for broiler production.
Mississippi Top 10
6. cattle and calVes
Cattle and calf value of production in Mississippi increased from $237 million in 2011 to $ 329 million in 2012.
2012 was a record-setting year for soybean production. This crop earned $1.16 billion from a yield of 42 bushels per acre.
Ranked No.1 in the U.S. with 51,200 acres of catfish ponds. According to Mississippi State University, catfish generated $165 million in 2012.
With a $74 million increase in production value since 2011, forestry generated more than $1 billion in 2012.
A total of 750,000 acres were harvested in 2012, earning $145 million.
Corn production generated $ 891 million in 2012, a $ 304 million increase from 2011. Mississippi growers harvested 165 bushels per acre.
In 2012, 345,000 acres of wheat were harvested. The 19.7 million bushels produced generated $134 million.
Ranked No. 6 in the nation, cotton production in Mississippi contributed $ 397 million to the state economy in 2012.
As the No. 6 rice-producing state in the country, Mississippi earned $124 million in 2012.
Women in ag
Women bring fresh perspectives, great work ethic to agriculture industry
Story by Jessica Mozo
WHEN VISITORS TO A LCORN
State University’s swine production unit drive onto the property, they often ask Libby St. Amant where to find the manager. “I love seeing their faces when I tell them I am the manager,” says St. Amant, of Union Church, who spent many years managing a dairy farm and working in animal research before taking her current post in 2011. “It’s intriguing, because men never expect to see a woman in my position – females aren’t supposed to know about these things. But once I start talking with them, they realize I know what I’m talking about.” St. Amant is one of many Mississippi women making valuable contributions to the agriculture industry and filling roles traditionally held by men. “Women bring a different perspective to agriculture because
we don’t look at things the same way a man would,” St. Amant says. “Having spent more time on the consumer end of things and raising children, we bring new ideas to the table.” St. Amant grew up as one of six children on a beef cattle farm, so her appreciation for agriculture started young. “We were taught it was very important to produce livestock to help feed our nation,” she recalls. “It doesn’t matter how big or small you are – if you’re helping feed our nation, you’re important. That always stuck with me.” Mississippi’s first female Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce, Cindy Hyde-Smith, also gained an appreciation for farmers early on. “I grew up in rural Mississippi, and I learned to drive on a Farmall
Libby St. Amant with a piglet at the Alcorn State University Swine Development Center in Church Hill, Mississippi, where she has been the manager since 2011.
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
Left: Libby St. Amant, Alcorn State University Swine Development Center manager, feeds pigs at the facility in Jefferson County. Right: Commissioner Hyde-Smith with her husband Mike and daughter Anna-Michael, who plans to be the family’s ﬁfth-generation farmer.
Cub tractor,” Hyde-Smith says. “Every summer, my family filled our freezer with vegetables we planted, harvested and canned ourselves.” Hyde-Smith married fourthgeneration cattle farmer Michael Smith, and the couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Anna-Michael, plans to be the family’s fifth-generation farmer. “I feel very confident my daughter will have a future in agriculture, and her gender won’t be a deficit – it will be an asset,” Hyde-Smith says. Hyde-Smith was elected to the Mississippi Senate in 1999, where she served for 12 years and was chair of the Agriculture Committee. She made Mississippi history in January 2012 as the first woman to be elected to her current position. “People called my husband ‘senator’ many times, and he just smiled and said, ‘My wife is the senator,’ ” Hyde-Smith recalls. “As a woman, people want to question your knowledge and your ability, and that’s okay. I’m very comfortable in my skin and in my position.”
As a senator, Hyde-Smith led the fight in the legislature to defend private property rights and pass a statewide referendum, which she called one of her proudest accomplishments. “Women are good at looking at the big picture. They can size things up and go into plan mode,” Hyde-Smith says. “Women also listen with their hearts. They’ve always played vital roles in agriculture. For every man on a tractor, there’s usually a woman who is the billpayer, the bookkeeper and the one who goes after parts.” Jan Holley turned part of her family’s corn, soybean and wheat farm in Fulton into an agritourism destination that opened to the public in 2008. Every fall, Holley Farms hosts thousands of visitors who spend hours exploring a corn maze, pumpkin patch, giant slides, corn cribs, farm animals and more. “My husband will tell you his quote was, ‘Nobody is going to pay money to come out to some old cornfield,’” Holley says. “But after
the first year, he had to eat his words. For people who have never had the opportunity to live on a farm, it can be the adventure of a lifetime.” For Holley, the “ag-adventure” combines her two passions: farm life and education. “Telling the story of farm families is one of the best ways to improve the image of agriculture. I enjoy watching the eyes of children light up when they learn how everything they eat, drink and wear comes from a farm,” Holley says. “The public likes to know where their food comes from and how it is grown. Farmers, especially women, need to be that voice.”
COMMISSIONER HYDE-SMITh: JOhNNY SMITh
To see more photos of women in agriculture visit MSagriculture.com
Good to Go
Story by John McBryde
Mississippi’s agricultural exports make a big impact
WHEN IT COMES TO LEADING
agricultural commodities exported from Mississippi, it’s easy to see why cotton is at or near the top of the rankings each year. It’s an important product in the world’s expanding textile industries, and demand for the crop is growing in an increasing number of countries. The tremendous need for cotton certainly holds the attention of officials at Staple Cotton Cooperative Association, or Staplcotn, headquartered in Greenwood. Staplcotn was founded in 1921 and is the oldest and one of the largest cotton marketing cooperatives in the United States. “Cotton is of great importance in growing the world economy,” says David Camp, vice president of sales operations for Staplcotn. “More people in the world mean the need for more textile goods. Also, as the standards of living increase, particularly in emerging
markets, the desire for better quality textile products also rises.”
Mississippi is a leading exporter of many agricultural products. According to the latest USDA figures from 2011, cotton led the state with $492.7 million in exports, followed by soybeans ($387.8 million), chicken meat ($385.7 million), rice ($143 million) and corn ($118.1 million). Total agriculture exports for 2011 were more than $2 billion. The numbers should continue to grow, says Barbara Travis of the Mississippi World Trade Center. “The world’s population is growing by leaps and bounds, which means there will be more food needs to be met and more markets for exports,” says Travis, executive director of the nonprofit that assists Mississippi businesses with all aspects of international trade.
GROWING bY LEApS AND BOUNDS
Above: Cotton, which is harvested in the fall, is Mississippi’s largest agricultural export. Below: Blooming ﬂowers from Van Zyverden, one of the largest wholesale distributors of ﬂowers bulbs in the country.
“Mississippi farmers are going to have all kinds of opportunities to meet that global demand. Worldwide need, demand and preference for U.S. products can translate into significantly increased sales for our agricultural industry.” The growing population will also increase the need for more animal protein throughout the world, and that means more demand for chicken meat. Mississippi’s export value for 2011 was second highest for chicken meat, second only to 2008 figures. “The export of chicken meat is very important,” says Lampkin Butts, chief operating officer for Sanderson Farms in Laurel, who served as chairman for the National Chicken Council. “It is more so now than ever before, not just to Sanderson but also the whole industry. About 15 percent of what Sanderson produces is exported, and the industry is exporting about 20 percent.” Most of what is exported is dark meat, as well as products such as chicken feet. “U.S. consumers prefer white meat,” Butts says, “so we’re left with an imbalance of dark meat. Being able to export it takes that protein out of the states and helps us get better pricing.”
BARGE ON OPENING SPREAD AND cOTTON hARVESTER: JOhN MONTFORT JONES
Thomasson Company of Philadelphia, Mississippi, exports utility poles (pictured above), as well as crossties and lumber.
Worldwide need, demand and preference for U.S. products can translate into significantly increased sales for our agricultural industry.
– BaRbaRa TRaVis, Mississippi WORLD TRaDE CENTER
Mississippi agricultural exports are valued at more than $2 billion annually.
In addition to the major commodities, Mississippi also has an array of internationally marketed specialty products. A prime example is Van Zyverden, one of the largest wholesale distributors of flower bulbs in the country. Headquartered in Meridian with facilities in Holland and Washington, the company ships more than 350 million bulbs and plants annually in the United States and Canada. Another niche market for exports is wood products, and international sales are a promising market for Thomasson Company of
FLOWERS AND WOOD PRODUcTS
UTILITY POLES: COuRTESY OF WINDI COPELAND
Philadelphia. The wood products company which has exported utility poles, crossties and lumber, has seen a higher demand for products in the past four or five years. “We see a lot of opportunities in export for the products we sell. It’s a great way to diversify our business and grow our sales,” says Pat Thomasson, company owner.
Find out more about Mississippi agriculture exports at MSagriculture.com
THe numBer One agriculture eXPOrt is cOttOn, Valued at
animals & liVestock
Rulers of the
Story by Karen Ott Mayer
Broiler industry heats up in Mississippi
IF BIRdS OF A FEATHER FLOCK
together, then it stands to reason chickens rule in Mississippi. Whether the birds are layers or broilers, poultry still ranks as the state’s leading agricultural product. “The almost 800 million chickens per year raised on Mississippi’s 2,000 poultry farms bring $5 billion in annual income from around the United States and the world into our state’s economy,” says Mark Leggett, president of the Mississippi Poultry Association. According to Leggett, Mississippi’s poultry and egg industries have grown from a group of small family businesses into an integral supplier of protein for a growing world population. “We raise enough chickens for ourselves in this country and growth will come in our exports,” says Leggett. Broilers, which are chickens raised for meat, continue to make up the vast majority of poultry sales. Layers, chickens raised for laying eggs, constitute about 7 percent of the market. Even though layers are a minority, the production numbers are staggering. Alan Andrews, director of marketing at Cal-Maine Foods, says the company works with 42 laying operations. “We are very optimistic about the future,” he says. In fiscal year 2013, Cal-Maine sold about 948.5 million dozen eggs which represented about 21 percent of domestic shell egg consumption. Cal-Maine Foods, headquartered in Jackson, is the largest producer and marketer of shell eggs in the U.S. The industry leader sells most of its shell eggs primarily in the Southwest, Southeast, Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions. With a company Staff Photos by Michael Conti
MississiPPi POultrY PrOductiOn Was Valued at
Cindy Tucker holds a chicken while granddaughter Alysabeth Bryant feeds it at the Tucker family broiler houses in Bay Springs, Mississippi.
like Cal-Maine in the state, it is no wonder Mississippi poultry production was valued at $2.53 billion in 2012. For growers like Cindy Tucker of Bay Springs, who has been raising broilers for Peco Foods, Inc. for nearly two decades, poultry has given her a rewarding lifestyle and career. “I started in 1995 and was really scared. Although I came from a long line of farmers, I was a hairdresser for 23 years!” says Tucker. Even as a complete beginner, Tucker found a truism that has held over the years. “Everyone from Peco to our association wants to see me succeed. I’ve always felt supported,” she says. Today, Tucker manages four houses, each with 20,000 birds, and she reflects on how the industry has changed. “Technology has improved so much, and everything is computerized. It’s more modern and energy efficient. Our job is to keep the birds happy and comfortable.” In about seven weeks, the broilers are ready for market. “We can grow larger birds, much faster today.” Tucker explains that growers and companies are keenly aware of consumer preferences for safe, healthy food supplies, and she works closely with many different agencies to ensure quality. “We work with health and environmental experts all the time and keep more records than we ever have,” says Tucker. Through legislative support, the poultry industry now has another option for growers like Tucker: selling chicken litter. Previously, high transportation costs prevented market entry. It’s this type of tight collaboration that keeps the industry strong. “The industry is good at finding and correcting inefficiencies,” says Leggett. Likewise, the commercial and research sectors work together to keep the industry on the move. Looking to the future, Leggett says more U.S. chicken could be heading to China with the settlement of a recent trade dispute before the World Trade Organization. The poultry industry in Mississippi seems only set for continued success and growth, which is good for birds and people.
The almost 800 million chickens per year raised on Mississippi’s 2,000 poultry farms bring $5 billion in annual income from around the U.S. and the world into our state’s economy.
– MaRK LEGGETT, Mississippi POULTRY AssOCiaTiON
animals & liVestock
Family mixes life on a dairy with agritourism
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
Story by John McBryde
NOT LONG AFTER dECIdING TO
open their dairy farm for tours, Julie Ard-James and her father, Pat Ard, wondered about the risks. Would enough people visit to make the venture worthwhile? Are children and their parents really interested in knowing more about how a dairy farm operates? Were they doing the right thing for their business, Ard’s Dairy Farm? The answers to these questions, in a sense, came from a small child. “On the very first field trip that came out here,” Ard-James says, “a little boy told me he had never drunk cow’s milk before. I thought maybe he drinks goat milk or something, and I asked him, what kind did he drink? He said, ‘I drink the kind out of the cafeteria.’ “I just chuckled and later said, ‘Daddy, we’re doing the right thing.’” Since combining their dairy business in Ruth with the growing industry of agritourism in 2011, the Ard family is busier than they could have ever imagined. The farm, which started in 1894 when Pat Ard’s grandfather purchased 211 acres of land, has grown into a fully functioning dairy that produces Grade A milk from more than 200 Holstein cows on 1,200 acres of land. And now it’s a place where children and adults alike learn that milk doesn’t originate in a cafeteria or a grocery store.
The Ard family walks through a corn maze in progress at their farm in Lincoln County.
Pat Ard with his daughter, Julie Ard-James, and grandson, Cash James, at Ard’s Dairy Farm in Ruth, Mississippi.
The value of milk production in Mississippi was $40 million in 2012.
“It was a way for me to get involved in the daily activities of the farm and a way to bring in more income,” says Ard-James, who worked seven years as a marketing executive for Sysco Foods before returning to the family farm. “It was also a way to educate children, and even their parents, who may have never been on a farm. A lot of people have no idea how to milk a cow or how we milk a cow. “We started very small,” she adds. “And in the sense of agritourism, we’re still very small and new.” Agritourism takes on many faces in Mississippi. It is defined as a business on a working farm, ranch or other agricultural enterprise that offers an experience that is both educational and fun for visitors, while generating supplemental income for the owner. Examples include U-pick farms, petting zoos and pumpkin patches. As one of the state’s fastest-growing tourism markets, agritourism generates around $150 million annually in Mississippi. Dairies can be seen as a prime target for commingling with agritourism. The state’s dairy industry is small but active. Figures
from Mississippi State University show 109 Grade A dairy herds, 14,000 milk cows and $40 million in milk production for 2012. Farms are scattered throughout the state, with the heaviest concentration in Walthall and surrounding counties. With decreasing numbers of dairy farms in Mississippi, agritourism could make sense. The Ard family thought it did. Pat Ard oversees the farming operations with help from his son, Jason. Ard’s wife, Bonnie, and ArdJames handle the touring business of the farm. Activities include tours of the farm, a playground and a fall festival each October with a corn maze, bonfires and wagon rides. Ard’s Dairy Farm even has a ranch house open for weekend getaways. “Folks can come out and do as much or as little as they want,” Ard-James says. “If they want, they can fish or swim in the creek that’s behind the house. They can go to the barn and really see the day’s activities. Some people don’t want to do anything. They come to relax and to get away from the busyness of life.” To learn more about agritourisim in Mississippi, visit www.msagritourism.org.
MississiPPi is HOme tO
grade A dairY Herds.
A Cheese Celebration
In 2013, Mississippi State University (MSU) celebrated the 75th anniversary of its popular Edam cheese. Edam cheese, a semi-hard cheese that originated in the Netherlands city of Edam, was introduced to Mississippi State in 1938 by professor F.H. Herzer. He was head of the Dairy Science Department at the time and was able to order 10 teakwood hoops (molds) from Holland just before the start of World War II. The department began making its own Edam cheese using milk from Mississippi State’s dairy herds. Today, MSU is still raising dairy cattle and producing cheese. The dairy herd, made up of Jersey and Holstein cattle, produces more than three million pounds (369,000 gallons) of milk annually. Every drop of the milk produced by the MSU dairy herd is either sold on campus or used to make cheese, butter or ice cream at MSU’s Dairy Manufacturing Plant. In the beginning, nine Edams were produced per day. Now, six full-time workers and six part-time student employees at the self-sustaining Dairy Manufacturing Plant produce 400 3-pound cannonball Edams per day, as well as three other cheeses — cheddar, Vallagret (a 2-pound baby Swiss developed by an MSU graduate student) and a jalapeño pepper cheese block. The plant also makes jalapeño pepper and cheddar spreads. In all, more than 320,000 pounds of cheese is produced annually at MSU.
MSU Edam cheese celebrates its 75th anniversary
“We make cheese every day, ﬁve days a week, year round,” says David Hall, manager of the MSU dairy. “It’s a very soughtafter product. It’s just become such a tradition and a symbol of Mississippi State, and it’s recognized throughout the country with all of our alumni.” All of the cheese products are available for purchase by the general public in the MSU Cheese Store and online at MSUCheese.com. At Christmas, Hall says there is not enough cheese to meet the demand. “It gets crazy here at Christmas — we sell out of everything,” he says. “We ship cheese to every state in the country.” – Jill Clair Gentry
The Mississippi Poultry Association has been growing Mississippi’s economy and feeding the world for more than 75 years.
EDAM chEESE: MSU OFFIcE OF AGRIcuLTuRAL COMMuNIcATIONS
From 2,000 poultry farms to 25 processing plants to 77 countries around the globe, Mississippi’s poultry industry is the state’s largest agricultural income generator.
110 Airport Rd., Ste. C • Pearl, MS 39208
Learn more: www.mspoultry.org
animals & liVestock
Given a choice, consumers want U.S. Farm-Raised Catﬁsh
Story by Carol Cowan
Above: Brothers Ben and Ed Pentecost on their catﬁsh farm in Doddsville, Mississippi. Left: Aerators keep oxygen levels stable at the Pentecost catﬁsh farm in Sunﬂower County.
BROTHERS BEN ANd Ed
Pentecost built their first catfish ponds in Doddsville in 1980. After 33 years in the business, Ben Pentecost knows firsthand the opportunities and challenges Mississippi catfish farmers face. “Input cost has been a big challenge this last year,” he says. “We’ve had record high grain prices, and that has driven our feed cost to record highs. At the same time, we had a downcycle in the price of fish, so we were kind of catching it from both sides.” Those issues have eased a bit recently, but competition from overseas imports remains fierce. Furthermore, the volume of imported fish – currently about 90 percent of the seafood sold in the United States – exceeds the government’s ability to adequately inspect it. “No other country in the world has the food safety standards of the United
States,” Pentecost says. “We can’t compete with imported fish on price, but we feel like we have a much safer product, a higher quality product.” Pentecost Brothers has grown over the years to include 57 ponds that cover 734 acres. Their production goal is an ambitious one: the brothers are striving to grow 6,000 pounds of catfish per acre. Ben currently serves as president of Catfish Farmers of America, and Ed serves as vice-president of Catfish Farmers of Mississippi. Organizations such as these and The Catfish Institute help level the playing field. They advocate for better legislation and work to raise consumer awareness of the superiority of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish compared to imported catfishlike species, which are often marketed as basa or swai and are raised in less than desirable conditions. “We’ve got a pristine product that’s very versatile and delicious. It’s
There are currently 51,200 acres of catfish production in Mississippi. catFisH PrOductiOn in tHe state Was Valued at
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
A trailer is ﬁlled with catﬁsh feed at Ben and Ed Pentecost’s catﬁsh farm. Record high grain prices have led to higher feed prices.
We’ve got a pristine product that’s very versatile and delicious. It’s not only good for the consumer, but it’s good for the environment.
– ROGER BaRLOw, THE CaTFisH INsTiTUTE
not only good for the consumer, but it’s good for the environment,” says Roger Barlow, president of The Catfish Institute. “When we survey consumers, we consistently win when it comes to product quality and taste. When the consumer is given a choice, they overwhelmingly choose U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish over imported catfish.” However, until recently, unless consumers asked, they had no way of knowing whether they were getting imported or domestic catfish when ordering at a restaurant. Changes to Mississippi’s catfish marketing law took effect July 1, 2013, requiring restaurants to label their menu or post notices in a visible location that they are serving either U.S. FarmRaised Catfish or imported catfish. The new legislation is “a win for the consumer and a win for producers,” Barlow says. “Mississippi’s country of origin labeling legislation for catfish is now the broadest and most comprehensive in the nation. Right now, we’re working to similarly enhance the other state laws that cover catfish in restaurants, where about 70 percent of our product is sold.”
Whether in Mississippi or elsewhere, consumers can be proactive by asking for U.S. FarmRaised Catfish in restaurants and looking for the U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish seal in the grocery store. Those attending the annual New York Mississippi Picnic, held each June in New York City’s Central Park, can be sure the catfish they’re eating came straight from a Mississippi farm. The New York Society for the Preservation of Mississippi Heritage, which puts on the picnic, brings in the Mississippi Catfish Cooking Team to prepare catfish for the event. The team cooks 500 pounds of catfish and 140 pounds of hush puppies, all donated by Simmons Farm Raised Catfish of Yazoo City. “There are 1,200 catfish plate lunches served at this annual event,” says Alexis Brown, organizer of the New York Mississippi Picnic. “The Simmons Farm-Raised Catfish is a huge hit, and many people comment the catfish is what brings them back to the picnic.” To learn more about the catfish industry, visit UScatfish.com.
animals & liVestock
n a state well-known for its booming poultry industry and high-ranking cotton and beef markets, it could be easy to overlook another one of Mississippi’s top agriculture sectors. Valued at $102 million, the Magnolia State’s pork industry is another economic powerhouse. According to John Michael Riley, agricultural economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, over the past 10 years the industry has experienced a decline in value only twice. “Pork remains a vital industry in Mississippi’s agricultural economy, and it’s growth is encouraging for the future in light of a time when balance sheets for individuals, companies and government are slowly improving,” says Riley. Ranked 17th in the United States, Mississippi is home to nearly 440 hog farms and 355,000 hogs and pigs. The industry continues to grow, with 747,000 piglets born in 2011, the latest year that data is available. One of the major industry players in Mississippi is Prestage Farms’ farrow-to-wean operation. A farrow-to-wean operation raises pigs from birth until they are weaned. Piglets are weaned when they weigh 10 to 15 pounds. Headquartered in North Carolina, Prestage Farms is a leader in several agriculture sectors. Its pork production division began with just 500 sows in 1983, says general manager Terry Emerson. After founding its West Point division in 1991, one of the nation’s largest family-owned
Mississippi’s pork industry has big economic impact
pork producers provides 200 jobs in the state and contracts with 40 farm families in Mississippi and Alabama. Today, the West Point division serves the company as a 32,000 sow farrow-to-wean operation, supplying pigs to the Iowa finishing division, as well as multiplication gilts to North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi and Oklahoma. – Blair Thomas
at aBOut FiVe-anda-HalF mOntHs.
THe aVerage marKet HOg reacHes a marKet WeigHt OF
ANIMALS & LIVESTOCK
HIGH FEEd, FERTILIZER ANd
fuel costs make good performance vital for Mississippi’s beef cattle farmers and their customers. “Everything we do is more expensive now, so we have to become more efficient at what we do,” says Gary Tanner of the long-established Tanner family farm in Shuqualak. “We look at how well the cattle are performing. If they are not performing, we can’t keep them.” Tanner Farms documents performance on its 1,900 purebred Angus and crossbred cows. They also manage 4,000 acres of pasture, harvest up to 4,000 round bales of hay and grow 500 acres of corn for cattle feed, Tanner says. Quality management ensures satisfied customers, which includes cattlemen from 28 states who seek to improve their herds with the Tanner family’s breeding stock.
Story by Joanie Stiers
Quality cattle management makes great Mississippi beef
Jane Parish, Mississippi State University Extension beef cattle specialist, says cattle farmers have to be good businesspeople and manage risk in today’s cattle industry. They have to be diligent about herd health, manage forages well and select good genetics, she says. “Mississippi is really moving ahead as far as developing a good reputation for its cattle,” Parish says. “We have a lot of good producers who are using genetics well and putting good management in nutrition and health.” Beef cattle are in each of Mississippi’s 82 counties, Parish says, and the state has about 1 million cattle. About half of the cattle farms maintain a cow-calf focus, where cows give birth to calves annually. Those calves generally sell to feedlots, where they are fed to market weight.
Gary Tanner rounds up cattle at Tanner Farms in Noxubee County.
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
The state also includes a vibrant stocker cattle sector, a growing bright spot in the industry, she says. In this case, farmers feed weaned calves to heavier weights before selling the calves to feedlots. The total value of Mississippi’s beef industry ranked sixth among the state’s agricultural commodities in 2012, according to Mississippi State University. John Michael Riley, an extension economist at the university, estimates the value of calves sold off Mississippi farms at $329 million in 2012. Mississippi’s foreign beef exports totaled $13.6 million in 2011, Riley says. Cattle sold across state borders are not tracked or reported, but he estimates that the large majority of Mississippi calves are sent to feedlots in the Southwest or Midwest. Parish says better management among today’s cattle farmers has led to higher quality cattle with more market opportunities. The Tanners sell breeding stock to other cattle farmers. The farm hosts cattle sales and draws a large customer base within 200 miles of the farm. Yet recent sales have attracted cattlemen from throughout the United States. Tanner says the family breeds for strong maternal traits, high growth and good dispositions. The result will be calves that can gain rapidly. They breed bulls accustomed to the heat and humidity of their Southern environment. They test young bulls in pasture environments to see how they perform. The family stands behind their animals and offers customers a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee on their stock. “We’re always striving to improve our cattle so we can ensure a quality product for our customers,” says Tanner. The family plans to market their cattle to even wider audiences and ensure a promising future for the next generation of Tanners.
Gary Tanner looks over Tanner Farms in Shuqualak.
MississiPPi’s FOreign BeeF eXPOrts tOtaled
Chickasaw is the highest beef cattle producing county, followed by Covington.
head of beef cattle on farms in Mississippi.
Learn more about Mississippi beef cattle at MSagriculture.com
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Story by Jill Clair Gentry
Mississippi horticulture sees tremendous growth
WITH A VALUE OF mORE THAN $7.51 BILLION
annually, agriculture is Mississippi’s No. 1 industry. Horticulture crops — vegetables, melons, potatoes, fruits, tree nuts, berries, nursery, greenhouses, floriculture, sod and Christmas trees — bring in $96 million. That number could be a lot higher in the future, says Dan Batson, owner of GreenForest Nursery in Perkinston. “I am optimistic about the future of the horticulture industry in Mississippi,” Batson says. “We have the opportunity to grow, and there’s an opportunity for growers in Mississippi to become more relevant. The growing industry in the states on both sides of us are much bigger, but we have as good or better natural resources and are positioned geographically where we can service Texas all the way to the East Coast.” Batson says as the state’s population grows, and sustainability and beautification of municipalities becomes more prevalent, there will be room for new nursery growers to get into the business and for established growers to expand. The non-nursery sections of the horticulture sector also have a solid foundation and room to grow, especially edible foods, he says. Batson says he is glad to be a part of the Mississippi Nursery & Landscape Association, a network of growers,
AN INDUSTRY WITH pOTENTIAL
landscapers and garden centers in Mississippi. Networking with industry colleagues is the best way to stay informed and will be integral in expanding the horticulture industry in Mississippi. “I am a big believer in associations,” he says. “It connects you to some of the most innovative and forward thinking people in the industry. It also creates new friendships, and you can talk to people and find out things you’re doing right or wrong. Some of the most successful people in this industry are connected to associations.”
GreenForest Nursery is a 140-acre wholesale container tree nursery, and Batson says he’s expanding into shrubbery to further meet customers’ needs. Batson started the nursery in 1983 on his family’s land, which has been passed down through several generations since the 1800s. Back then, the standard for nursery trees was ball-and-burlap growing, but Batson saw a future in container trees — and he was right. “We started with 2,000 15-gallon pots in 1983, and now, we generally have around a half a million container trees from 15 gallons up to 65 gallons growing at the nursery at any given time,” he says.
Top: Staff at the GreenForestry Nursery in Perkinston tend to outdoor greenery. Below: Dan Batson, owner of GreenForest Nursery, Inc.
Batson picked up on the move to container trees in the early ’80s, and now, he’s working hard to embrace the sustainable movement, both in his growing practices and his marketing. “With the attitude of the public about the environment and sustainable habits we need to have, that’s what the horticulture industry needs to promote — how important green plants are,” Batson says. “It should be a necessity, not a luxury. Everyone needs to have green spaces.” And as GreenForest Nursery expands, Batson is investing in equipment and methods that conserve the land and natural resources. He recently bought a new spraying machine that allows for more accuracy when spraying pesticides, cutting down on drippage and reducing the amount used. GreenForest Nursery is also using less water these days. “One of the major things we’re attempting to do and spending a lot of time and money on as we expand is having water come to recycling ponds,” Batson says. “We collect runoff water on site and run it through recycling ponds to remove most of the nitrogen and phosphates and then reuse that water. It has helped us cut way down on the well water we use.”
LEADING THE WAY
GREENFORESTRY NuRSERY: ThE FOcuS GROuP
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Growing acreage demands more inspectors
hen a farmer delivers a load of peanuts for sale at one of the Mississippi’s four peanut-buying points, the price received depends on a quality grade, and that grade can only be provided by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-certified inspector. “We went from inspecting about 15,000 tons to 86,000 tons of peanuts in 2012,” says Kevin Riggin, director of Federal/State Inspection Service, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. “And all those peanuts have to be federally graded and
inspected in order for the farmer to get paid.” The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service defines three classes of peanut grades. “A licensed inspector is the only person that can complete the grade,” says Riggin. “We are unbiased; we’re there to provide the most accurate grade for the producer.” Until 2012, the state had just one federally inspected buying point, at the Birdsong Corporation facility in Aberdeen. Additional inspection points were established at Clint Williams Company plants
in Greenwood and Clarksdale, as well as a Golden Peanut Company buying point in Tchula. The agency increased their the staff, using USDA-trained contractors in 2012. While lower peanut prices and peanut fields being rotated to other crops led to fewer peanuts grown in 2013, Riggin anticipates the program will grow. “We look for it to expand, more slowly now,” he says. “Every two years, we expect the amount of peanuts delivered to go up a little bit.” – Matthew D. Ernst
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Mississippi farmers use cutting-edge
Tim Clements empties a load of soybeans into a grain wagon on GT&T Farms in Greenville, Mississippi.
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
Story by Joanie Stiers
technology in the ﬁeld
FROm GLOBAL-POSITIONING GUIdANCE SYSTEmS
to smartphone applications, Mississippi’s corn and soybean farmers are on the cutting edge of technology. Farmers today can better produce the state’s top crops, thanks in part to technology, says Trent Irby, Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension soybean specialist. “Technology helps our producers cover the acres more efficiently,” he says. “GPS guidance systems contribute in ways such as more precise application of inputs, fuel and labor savings, and, if need be, equipment operation around the clock.” The technology list is lengthy. And many of these technologies help corn and soybean farmers realize benefits ranging from input savings to soil conservation methods, such as minimum- and no-tillage practices, he says. These attributes prove beneficial for the environment, as well as farmers’ bottom line. Tractors equipped with GPS guidance systems can be driven hands-free through the field with greater accuracy than car navigation systems. Computer screens in machinery cabs offer real-time application data, Irby says. Advancements in biotechnology give corn and soybean plants the ability to combat pests and withstand herbicides that control weeds. Soil moisture sensors help farmers irrigate more efficiently.
“Smartphones and tablets are extremely helpful in the field,” Irby says. “There are a number of ‘apps’ that our producers and consultants use frequently. These tools put information in their hands immediately.” Erick Larson, MSU Extension corn specialist, says many farmers use a form of precision agriculture-based soil sampling and fertility programs. The introduction of GPS technology pairs site-specific soil tests with the option of site-specific fertilizer application, known as variable-rate technology. Farmers once applied fertilizer on their fields uniformly. Today, they see benefits from micromanaging some fields. “It means that more of those inputs are applied only where needed in modest amounts,” says Larson. “Farmers try to do things efficiently. They want to grow a productive crop. There is no incentive for them to over apply fertilizer and pesticides. They want their land to remain productive and do it in an efficient manner.” Three generations of the Clements family grow corn and soybeans together at GT&T Farms in Greenville located in the Mississippi Delta. Tim Clements knows careful use of the farm’s resources will ensure a future for generations. He says his family has adopted irrigation technologies, and they are passionate about conserving water.
Below: Ted Smith (left) and his brother-in-law, Tim Clements (right), on GT&T Farms in Greenville, Mississippi, where three generations of the Clements family use cutting-edge technology to grow corn and soybeans.
Irrigation sensors determine soil moisture to prevent over irrigation. Timers on their wells reduce water and energy use. The farm also uses the Pipe Hole and Universal Crown Evaluation Tool (PHAUCET) program to determine their system’s hole sizes, water pressure and the timeliness of watering fields with different row lengths. PHAUCET is a free software tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that may conserve water pumped from the Delta’s underground supply, according to MSU. “Our research has shown that PHAUCET reduces water, fuel and irrigation usage by 20 percent versus conventional irrigation sets in regular-shaped fields. In irregular-shaped fields, PHAUCET could reduce water use as much as 50 percent,” says Tom Eubank, agronomic crops specialist with MSU’s Extension Service. In the end, the message correlates among all these farm technologies, which intend to improve profits and production with minimal environmental impact. “We live in the Mississippi Delta and the majority of our water comes from the Mississippi River alluvial aquifer. And we don’t want to end up like other areas of the country that are having supply problems from the aquifer,” Clements says. “We want to use it at a rate that it can recharge itself and be sustainable. We want it to be available for future generations.”
Corn and soybeans in the state were valued at more than $2 billion in 2012.
BOliVar is tHe tOP PrOducing cOuntY FOr sOYBeans in tHe state, WHile WasHingtOn is tHe tOP PrOducing cOrn cOuntY.
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Read All About It!
Market Bulletin still delivering what farm community wants
ith the exception of more pages and classified ads, there is no difference between today’s Mississippi Market Bulletin and the one that was first printed before the Great Depression. “It’s the same exact layout and design,” says Claude Nash, the publication’s editor since 1990. The first issue of the Market Bulletin was published on July 1, 1928, by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC). The state legislature voted to approve the Bulletin as a way to help small farmers do business. “They had commodities they needed to sell, and at the time, there was no avenue to sell anything like that,” Nash says. “So the department created a tabloid-size newspaper to give free advertisement to the farmer or rancher who did not have means to pay for advertisements.” The bimonthly Market Bulletin has grown tremendously over the past couple of decades. Nash says when he became editor, the
publication had about 12 pages with between 700 to 900 classifieds. It has grown to between 32 to 36 pages with some 2,800 to 3,000 classifieds. “The Bulletin has nearly 47,000 subscribers. There are subscribers in every state in the nation, plus Puerto Rico,” says Nash. While many subscribers prefer the print version, the publication has had an online version for a few years, and it gets more hits than any other section of MDAC’s website. “The online convenience isn’t just for those that like to read the Market
Bulletin. Subscribers can easily make payments online, and advertisers have the option of submitting their ads online at msmarketbulletin.org,” says Nash. Each edition also includes news and features on a specific agricultural commodity. There is also other news, gardening tips and farming advice columns, as well as upcoming events, sales and auction announcements. “Everybody we hear from says they read it from cover to cover,” Nash says. – John McBryde
This publication is brought to you by the dedicated staff of the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce.
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Mean Big Business
Demand for local produce is booming in Mississippi
the Nixon Administration for $250, and that was the beginning.” In 1976, the group of eight reorganized as a new cooperative. “I came in 1979. We bought a truck and started hauling our produce to Chicago, cutting the middleman out, and helping our farmers make a profit.” At one time, the Indian Springs Co-op had 56 members; now there are 34. “We still send produce to Chicago, but we also ship as far as Ontario, Boston, New York and Detroit. Our biggest times are the holidays – Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Fourth of July.”
Story by Charlyn Fargo
BEN BURKETT KNOwS HIS
vegetables. He’s a fourth-generation farmer raising vegetables in Indian Springs. But that’s only the beginning. Forty years ago, Burkett and a group of farmers organized a cooperative to help sell vegetables to a wider market. They formed the Indian Springs Cooperative, currently with more than 36 producer members spread over six counties. The group owns a packing facility and reaches markets in Memphis, New York, Boston and Toronto, including schools. “We started with eight men,” Burkett says. “We got a grant under
The cooperative not only markets produce, but also serves as a purchasing cooperative to help farmers buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals at a lower cost. The Indian Springs Cooperative is one of 17 within the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, where Burkett serves as current state coordinator. The state association provides everything from technical assistance, sustainable production, marketing and community food security. “We’ve got veggies year-round,” says Burkett. “Number one is watermelons and second is collards.” But there’s also okra, peppers,
Above left: Ben Burkett at the Indian Springs Farmers Cooperative Association in Petal, Mississippi. Burkett holds Cuban Black Beans (top right) and drives his tractor to aerate soil before planting (bottom right) in Forrest County.
spinach, broccoli, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and peas. “The soil is good, and it’s a culture thing,” says Burkett. “We all love vegetables. Over the years, it’s been constant – vegetables are our life.” Burkett raises soybeans, eight different vegetables and nuts from 100 acres of trees. “I had 19 pecan trees before Katrina, but lost them all – I’ve planted 11 back. My trees were 70 to 80 years old.” According to Mississippi State University, produce crops, excluding sweet potatoes, bring about $48 million to farmers. The value of sweet potatoes in the state is responsible for an
additional $79 million. “Everyone wants local, and there just aren’t enough farmers raising vegetables. It’s all small-scale, specialized growers.” In addition to vegetables, farmers in the co-op raise fruits and nuts such as strawberries, apples, peaches and pecans. “There were times farmers couldn’t get their produce to a market – they were isolated,” says Burkett. “But now the market is coming back with the cooperatives, which can sell to Wal-Mart and Kroger. We’re trying our best to get into all the schools as well.” In regards to suppling fruits and
vegetables to schools, Burkett says they are constantly working on it. “So far, we’re in the Jackson Public Schools in Mississippi and five charter schools in New Orleans.” His favorite vegetable to raise – and eat – is collard greens. “I put them in a pot with pork or turkey meat, water and olive oil, or I’ll put them in the fryer with bacon grease for breakfast,” Burkett says. “I’ve been eating them all my life.”
See more photos of vegetable production at MSagriculture.com
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Agricultural Renaissance for Choctaw Indians
o say agriculture is not a new idea for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians would be an understatement. Historically the Choctaw – the only federally recognized tribe in Mississippi – was an agricultural tribe, trading food as far north as the Great Lakes and as far east as the Atlantic Ocean. The Choctaw changed its livelihood after World War II when Chief Philip Martin returned from Europe with a dream to industrialize the Tribe. “We want to give tribal members access to fresh produce,” says Hoy, explaining the first step to healthy eating is having access to healthy food. Forty percent of the 10,000 tribal members battle diabetes. Choctaw Chief Phyllis Anderson says the grant for Choctaw Fresh Produce is breaking ground for a greater movement. “For centuries, we have been tied to this land, and it is the land that has provided for many generations of Choctaws. It’s important that we not only embrace that through healthy and sustainable food projects like Choctaw Fresh Produce, but to also instill the significance of respecting our lands and bodies to our young so they, too, can pass this important life value on to the next generation.”
Agriculture comes back to the reservation
Hoy is using the location of the high tunnels, adjacent to the Choctaw primary schools, to work with teachers to teach children ages 4 to 7 about gardening. “If we bring these kids into the high tunnels and let them help us take care of the food, then they are more likely to eat it,” he says. Jim McAdory, MSU Extension agent for the Choctaw Indians, takes a slightly different approach to educating Choctaw high school students about agriculture. “Many of these kids think you have to have 5,000 acres and a million dollars of equipment to be involved in agriculture,” he says. Through the Ag-Cel program, McAdory gives students hands-on agriculture experience by visiting farms, labs and forests around the state. “If you’re not exposed, you won’t know that there are other people involved in putting food on the table,” he says, adding that he makes a point to make students aware of the variety of jobs in agriculture, from growing produce to working as an extension agent. “We’re hoping to wake an agricultural sleeping giant,” McAdory says. “After the high tunnels were built, the tribal leaders started getting interested in other avenues of agriculture.” – Laura Fernandez
Now, the Choctaw see the need to bring back their heritage. With the support of Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Choctaw Indians are using agriculture to help combat diabetes, instill strong work habits and reconnect younger generations with their past. On September 30, 2012, the Tribe was awarded a three-year grant for an enterprise: Choctaw Fresh Produce. Dick Hoy, general manager of Choctaw Fresh Produce says with the grant, they have built six of 18 high tunnels for growing fruit and vegetables for tribal members, schools and restaurants. With the high tunnels, the Tribe can grow food during cooler months when other farmers markets are closed.
fOcUS ON AGRIcULTURE
Educating younger generations on culturally significant plants is a goal of Tim Oaks, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service tribal liaison and conservation program analyst for the Mississippi Choctaw. “We are bringing in the elders to give guidance on the cultural plants and how to grow them,” he says. He hopes to put this information into a textbook for the younger Choctaws.
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Multiple stakeholders invested in forestry industry
Story by Matthew D. Ernst
industry sends products worldwide. Supplying international markets requires strong local roots. “I can’t overstate the importance of the relationship between Mississippi landowners, loggers and wood products companies that all work together for our industry to prosper and put everyday products (sourced and made in Mississippi) in the hands of people all around the world,” says Tedrick Ratcliff, Mississippi Forestry Association executive vice president. Ken Martin from Cato describes how global trade impacts the state’s forestry economy. “When I started logging in 1976, the forestry industry sent a lot of hardwood to chip mills for export,” says Martin, president of the Mississippi Loggers Association. That lessened as trade policy and
exchange rates changed during the 1980s, he says. Martin’s business has always focused on pine: select cutting of pine pulpwood, chip-n-saw and sawtimber to improve existing stands of natural timber. “The last several years, we’ve been more involved with pine plantation thinning, as well as pine chip-n-saw and sawtimber, as markets seem to be rebounding from a few years of depressed markets.” Martin’s two sons, Brent and Brad, both joined the family business upon graduation from Mississippi State University (MSU). The family expanded its logging area, seeking out higher-value pine stands from forests that are managed better using progressive practices, such as improved herbicide application and sustainable timber management.
Left: Processed lumber awaits purchase and shipment at Barge Forest Products in Macon, Mississippi. Right: The Barge Timberlands in Noxubee County.
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
Better forests give us better products.
– KEN MaRTiN Mississippi LOGGERs AssOCiaTiON pREsiDENT
The value of forestry production in the state was $1.03 billion in 2012.
MississiPPi is ranKed tHird in tHe natiOn FOr PulPWOOd. 1
“Better forests give us better products,” says Martin, whose family’s six log trucks now haul pine pulpwood, chip-n-saw, and sawtimber up to 100 miles. Tree improvement has helped. “Today’s loblolly pine stands produce nearly 50 to 60 percent more than in the 1970s,” says Randy Rousseau, MSU forestry extension specialist. Today’s improved stock, selected from across the South, provides better growth, stem form, disease resistance and overall improved forest health. “In some portions of the state, we grow twice the amount of timber as is harvested with quality at the forefront of the forest management plan objectives,” says Ratcliff. Markets drive such sustainable management. “In the mid-1990s, we saw a shift in the southern pine industry toward more value-added products,” says Rousseau. “Now, there’s more emphasis on growing seedlings with the improved stem qualities such as straightness, lack of forking, smaller branch diameters and more horizontal branching all of which is needed for quality sawtimber.”
Sustainably growing high-quality trees for sawtimber is not new; some Mississippians have managed their forests toward that end for generations. “My grandfather purchased our family’s timber holdings here in Macon in 1942,” says David Barge, president of Barge Forest Products Company. “He started a natural regeneration program to repopulate these forests, and an underlying factor was maintaining the forest in natural stand condition,” he says. The family’s various limited partnerships now own just more than 51,000 acres of timberland. In 1985, Barge’s father, Richard Barge, started Barge Forest Products Co. to peel pine trees from those timberlands for utility poles. The company, now sourcing 70 percent of the timber it cuts from the family’s holdings, opened a specialty sawmill in 1990. It specializes in high-quality pine, maintaining an elite sustainability rating recognized by even the strictest northern European market standards. Exports make up to 40 percent of the company’s sales. Global demand for southern pine has shifted from Europe since the 1990s. “With changes in Europe’s economy, more high-grade southern yellow pine is now going to North Africa, the Middle East and Asia,” says David Barge. The Caribbean continues to be an important market for common southern pine grades. And there are North American markets: Barge Forest Products Co. mills 6-inch-by6-inch pine timbers, up to 30 feet long, often used in U.S. farm construction. “We major in longer (timber) lengths,” he says. As landowners, loggers and wood products companies work together, Mississippi is poised to supply newer markets. “We’ve had some exciting announcements for biomass in 2013 – specifically wood pellet plants – and have seen a major traditional wood products plant reopen, bringing state of the art technology to Mississippi,” says Ratcliff.
(Left) Logs are stacked before processing, and (right) a worker assists in the ﬂow of cut lumber through the sawmill at Barge Forest Products in Macon, Mississippi.
Landowners, forestry industry and loggers have traveled the road of environmental sustainability – some say we built it. Growing Mississippi’s forests and providing all with renewable wood products is an everyday job, but don’t worry, we’re ahead of the curve.
BECOME A PART OF THE FORESTRY COMMUNITY TODAY.
Join the Mississippi Forestry Association and the Mississippi Loggers Association to get started.
croPs, Plants & forestrY
Story by Charlyn Fargo
Mississippi is the perfect place for this root crop
Top: Andy Landreth cuts the sweet potato vines on a tractor at Landreth Farms.
A NdY L ANdRETH KNOwS SwEET POTATOES.
He has raised them all his life, learning from his father and teaching his sons. And he’s convinced, there’s nothing better or sweeter than a sweet potato grown in Mississippi soil. “It’s the type of soil we have that makes them sweet,” Landreth says. “My family migrated to Mississippi from the Carolinas in the early 1900s.” His family settled in the Vardaman area, a place famous for its sweet potatoes. Every September, the Landreths begin harvesting sweet potatoes using machines, called diggers, that dig up the orange-fleshed potatoes and then put them on a conveyer belt. A crew of family and workers then sorts them by size and weight. The largest and best, referred to as U.S. No. 1’s, are stored in bins for direct markets to stores like Kroger and Wal-Mart. Slightly smaller U.S. No. 2’s go to other markets, and the canners are sold to companies like Gerber to be made into baby food. Some of the direct sales even have stickers saying they came from Landreth Farms
including micro-sweeties, a smaller sweet potato pre-wrapped for microwave cooking. Landreth has his own packing line to sell directly to brokers. When an order is ready to be shipped, the potatoes are washed in water, brushed clean, graded and sorted again, so they are ready to eat. His three busiest times are right before Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Landreth typically plants 600 acres of sweet potatoes and another 500 acres of soybeans, as well as raising 100 head of cattle. Statewide, farmers like Landreth raise more than 18,400 acres of sweet potatoes, according to Benny Graves, executive director of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council. “The number of acres is down slightly, following a national trend,” Graves says. “That’s because of supply and demand. With less supply, prices are up $2 a carton, so supply and demand is working. The good news is this year, we’re going to have an excellent crop.” He agrees with Landreth that Mississippi’s loamy soil – along with timely early rains – makes sweet, sweet potatoes.
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
• Rice is sodium and cholesterol free and contains no saturated or trans fats • Rice is gluten free and the least allergenic of all grains • Rice is nutrient dense and contributes more than 15 vitamins and minerals including folate and other B-vitamins, iron, and zinc • Brown rice is 100% whole grain, a 1-cup serving provides two of three recommended daily servings • FDA says that diets rich in whole grain foods such as brown rice and other plant foods, and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers
• Research shows that people who eat rice have healthier diets than nonrice eaters, eat more vegetables, less fat, and have a lower risk for high blood pressure and obesity • Rice is comprised of complex carbohydrates that are more slowly digested
• On average, approximately 200,000 acres of rice are grown in Mississippi each year • It has an average farm gate value of approximately $200 million • Rice milling adds an additional $350 million in value • The rice industry directly and indirectly supplies approximately 4,000 jobs in Mississippi
Wildlife & Conservation
• Waste rice is one of the most abundant food resources for migratory waterfowl (provides high level of carbohydrates for animals to stay warm and fuel for extended flight times) • Rice straw provides a regular and dependable substrate for invertebrates and insects that are critical food resources for waterfowl (provides protein for ducks to build back-up muscle content for long flights home in the spring after a long winter). And more importantly it provides one of the most important sources of protein for females to begin egg development for successful reproduction.
Mississippi Rice Promotion Board P.O. Box 257 Stoneville, MS 38776 (662) 822-8609 http://rice.msstate.edu/
• Flooded rice fields provide excellent habitat for migratory waterfowl seeking rest, refuge and/or food. This also helps reduce the amount of herbicides/pesticides needed to produce rice • Rice fields are essential man-made wetlands that process nutrients very effectively (rice production is not a major contributor to Gulf Hypoxia)
Ben Landreth (left front) with his son, Andy (right front), hold sweet potatoes at Landreth Farms in Calhoun County, while Andy’s sons and nephew look on.
“We have three things that make a good crop – a 40-mile area around Vardaman that’s known for growing sweet potatoes, the infrastructure with packing houses and crews, and farmers with the knowledge of how to grow a great crop,” Graves says. “Many of our farmers are fifth-generation families.” The labor-intensive crop is worth the effort. “Every potato has a fingerprint on it,” Graves says. “There’s digging and sorting and bucket crews. Because the skins are tender, everyone has to take extra pains to not bruise them.” Demand has picked up recently due to increased interest from chain restaurants, particularly steakhouses. “Because of that, over time, you’re going to see acreages go back up,” Graves says. Graves likes his sweet potatoes diced into wedges, sautéed in butter and cinnamon in a black iron skillet, then cooked in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. “They’re super tasty,” he says. Landreth has a different favorite sweet potato preparation. “My mama cooks supper nearly every day for all of us, and she’ll make sweet potatoes candied and in pies – both my favorites. Mom will slice them, put them in an electric skillet, covered in water and cook them until the water evaporates, then add sugar to caramelize them. There’s nothing better.”
in the United States for sweet potatoes.
Farmers raise mOre tHan
OF sWeet POtatOes in tHe state.
Future in Their Hands
Story by Carol Cowan
Haleigh Hux observes a DNA experiment at the Loyd Star Attendance Center in Brookhaven, Mississippi, Lincoln County.
Staff Photo by Michael Conti
Ag education prepares students for career leadership
at the high school level is an important component of preparing young people to be leaders and professionals. Some state programs have been around for more than 100 years, while others are just getting started. But whether pilot programs or storied traditions, agricultural education plays a crucial role in maintaining a vibrant agricultural economy in Mississippi. “The No. 1 job in the state of Mississippi is still agriculture,” says Dr. J.J. Morgan, superintendent of Forrest County Agricultural High School (FCAHS) in Brooklyn. Founded in 1911 and declared a historic landmark in 1996, FCAHS occupies 320 acres and serves 600 students. In addition to regular school buildings, FCAHS’s agriculture program has its own learning center – the Davis Barnes Agricultural Building – which houses classrooms, a computer lab and a shop outfitted with tools. Additional buildings include a livestock barn, poultry house, hog barn and greenhouses. “It’s a rich history and tradition here,” Morgan explains. “We are basically our own vocational department, as well as a high school, so we have everything offered right here on campus. We have tractors, sheep, goats, chickens, hogs, horses and cattle.” In fact, the cattle are part of a school-managed commercial cow-calf operation that provides one of many hands-on learning opportunities for students in the ag program. The school also boasts one of the largest and most active FFA chapters in the state. “FFA is the club that enhances ag education in the classroom,” says Mississippi State FFA President and college freshman Kayla Walters. “In 2012, we had 113 ag programs in high schools across the state. Of those, 106 had FFA chapters.” Hands-on learning and leadership development are key components of FFA, which plays an integral role in bringing classroom instruction to life
through workshops, competitions and supervised agricultural experiences. “I started in FFA when I was in 4th grade. My dad was my ag teacher, so he encouraged me to do that,” Walters says. “I became a junior state officer in eighth grade. Now as state president, I get the opportunity to work as an intern with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce for a year, and I travel the state putting on workshops and visiting FFA chapters and students, talking about FFA and agriculture. In February, during FFA week, I will get the opportunity to speak in front of the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate” Walters contemplates becoming an ag teacher herself. “There’s a big need for ag teachers everywhere,” she says. “Without ag education in the classroom, there is no FFA.” That’s not a problem at Loyd Star Attendance Center in Brookhaven. The school has had an ag program and FFA chapter since the late 1930s. However, its pilot Agricultural and Biotechnical Academy is brand new. Starting in 2013, the academy format integrates ag education into the core curriculum schoolwide. “We’re incorporating agriculture into English, math, science and history, and we’ll be doing at least one integrated project involving all four classes each semester,” says Billy Sumrall, agricultural sciences teacher at Loyd Star. “So many people have no idea how close of a relationship agriculture has to our everyday lives. What we’re doing is teaching these students and exposing them to opportunities in the world of agriculture that they had no idea existed.” Excitement over the new academy and additional ag and biotechnology-focused classes has already more than doubled the number of students enrolled in Loyd Star’s agriculture program. Sumrall hopes the exposure through core curriculum will recruit even more.
or a decade, the Elizabeth A. Howard 4-H Therapeutic Riding and Activity Center (TRAC) in West Point has been changing the lives of children and adults with disabilities. And now, thanks to a partnership with Mississippi State University’s (MSU) School of Human Sciences and Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences, its impact on the community and state will be even greater. “There are many different types of therapy available, but therapeutic riding has been identified as the No. 1 animalassisted therapy children and adults participate in,” says Dr. Julie Parker, assistant professor in the MSU School of Human Sciences and director of 4-H TRAC. “We are excited about building the program to make it bigger and stronger and to reach even more individuals. We plan to begin here in Starkville and carry it throughout the state.” Offered through the MSU Extension Service, 4-H TRAC helps children and adults with disabilities bond with horses, and through that experience, they gain physical, emotional and psychological benefits. “We have a lot of children and adults who are wheelchair-bound, and when they sit on a horse, they work muscles in their bodies that don’t normally get used,” says Cassie Brunson, an extension associate and 4-H Therapeutic Riding Coordinator. “We serve children with disabilities like ADHD, anxiety disorders, autism, Down syndrome
Therapeutic Riding and Activity Center helps citizens with disabilities bond with horses
Participants at the 4-H Therapeutic Riding and Activity Center.
ELIZAbETh A. HOwARD 4-H ThERAPEuTIc RIDING AND AcTIVITY CENTER: MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY
– even some who haven’t spoken in years,” says Brunson. “When a child in a wheelchair gets on a horse, suddenly they’re bigger than everyone else, and they feel in control. It helps their hand-eye coordination, balance and self-esteem.” Clients who are physically unable to mount a horse can do ground therapy with miniature horses and receive similar benefits. “They really bond with the horses,” Brunson says. “When children get out of the car, their faces light up because they know it’s their time to shine.” 4-H TRAC has 10-week sessions in the fall and spring, as well as summer camps. It served 29 clients
in fall 2013 with disabilities ranging from cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and other mental and physical disabilities. “The program not only benefits the ones who are disabled – the entire family gets involved,” Brunson says. “It’s a fun environment. We laugh and play, and parents take pictures and videos.” – Jessica Mozo
For more information about 4-H TRAC, visit msucares.com/4h_Youth/4htrac/
Story by Jessica Mozo
Farm Families of Mississippi bridges communication gap between farmers and consumers
About 97 percent of U.S. farms are operated by families or individuals.
AGRICULTURE HAS mANY VOICES, FROm THE
farmers who grow our food to the environmental scientists, veterinarians, equipment operators and truck drivers who work behind the scenes. And thanks to a campaign called Farm Families of Mississippi, their voices are being heard more loud and clear than ever. Launched in 2010 by the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Families of Mississippi is working to help consumers realize the importance of agriculture, dispel myths and create awareness about where our food comes from through radio, television and billboard ads. “American consumers enjoy one of the safest, most affordable and most abundant food supplies in the world,” says Randy Knight, president of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. “Because this success story is often buried beneath negative messages generated by activist groups, I am proud to say our nation’s farmers have begun participating in the ongoing dialogue about the food, fiber and fuel we produce. Whether it’s a booth in a grocery store, a speaking engagement before a civic club, or a statewide media effort, farmers are teaching consumers to support a strong American agriculture
Farms in MississiPPi.
Noble Guedon, a ﬁfth-generation farmer, pictured with his wife, Fayla, daughter, Caroline, and son, Grayson, grows corn, soybeans, cotton and rice in Natchez. All contribute to the success of the family farm.
industry. We have joined the conversation.” Farm Families of Mississippi discusses farmers’ care of their animals, America’s safe and affordable food supply, farmers’ care of the environment and how buying locally grown products is the No. 1 way to support the economy. “The general public is three or four generations away from the farm, so they don’t always understand the impact of legislation on what goes on on the farm,” says Greg Gibson, staff coordinator of Farm Families of Mississippi for the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation. “We’re telling the public if they wear clothes and eat three meals a day, they are already very invested in agriculture. But people aren’t making that connection – kids think food comes from the grocery store.” Noble Guedon is a fifth-generation farmer who grows corn, soybeans, cotton and rice in Natchez. He chairs the Farm Bureau’s Communications Committee, which is made up of 12 Mississippi farmers from various farming backgrounds, from row crops to livestock. “Farming is in my genes. It’s a way of life, not just a business,” Guedon says. “But only 2 percent of the U.S. population is involved in production agriculture today, so our voice is a lot smaller than it used to be. We realized there was a problem getting our voices heard.” Guedon has appeared in TV ads for Farm Families of Mississippi, talking about his love for the land, pride he takes in his work and how we can’t rely on other
countries with contaminated air and water to provide our families with safe, nutritious food. “Farm Families of Mississippi is enlightening people’s perspectives on the effort that goes into getting food from the field to the table. Farmers often spend more time nourishing their crops than with their families,” Guedon says. “This program is allowing farmers to interact with the public and answer their questions.” Support for the campaign skyrocketed from 20 sponsors in 2010 to more than 175 sponsors in 2012. The ads began in the Jackson market, followed by the Gulf Coast, Greenville, Tupelo and Hattiesburg. Eventually, they will appear statewide. In June 2013, Farm Families of Mississippi installed a new exhibit at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson with two kiosks containing iPads that teach visitors about different aspects of agriculture. There’s also a kiosk with an educational game on a touchscreen computer called My American Farm that engages technology-savvy kids. “Farmers rank high in the public’s perception, right in the top two or three occupations in studies. But the public separates a farmer from agriculture, and agriculture sometimes gets a black eye because people get bad information,” Gibson says. “Farmers are so efficient and so good at what they do that they’ve been their own worst enemy, because people forget how important they are. We’re telling their stories.”
GuEDON FAMILY: TG McCARY
Story by Susan Hayhurst
Staff Photo by Brian McCord
MSU’s REACH program provides the science behind conservation
FARmERS LOVE THE LANd
with an undying passion, so embracing a conservation program that is producer-driven can be a dream come true. Mississippi State University’s Research and Education to Advance Conservation and Habitat, or REACH program, marries conservation with agriculture and allows the resource needs and concerns of producers to be addressed individually. Currently, 36 farmers are enrolled across Mississippi. Combined, these producers have 125,000 acres in 19 counties enrolled in the REACH program individually. “As one participating farmer eloquently stated, if a conservation practice doesn’t make economic sense, a farmer will not use it,” says Robert Kroger, MSU assistant professor and REACH coordinator. “So REACH strives to always showcase and highlight the environmental, as well as the agronomic, benefits of conservation.” For instance, current program research is investigating water use efficiencies and water quality improvements associated with certain rice production conservation practices. “REACH is documenting the water use of zero grade rice, showcasing groundwater savings through surface water use, and water quality benefits of an associated tailwater recovery system,” says Kroger. Agriculture needs to sustainably intensify production for a growing human population, Kroger says. But producers know they are stewards of the land and must be viable and efficient at the same time. Mike Boyd and his son, Lamar, of Totelow Planting Co. in Tunica county know firsthand how helpful the
Above: MSU assistant professor Robert Kroger is the coordinator for REACH, a program that integrates research and outreach to demonstrate the beneﬁts of conservation on agricultural lands.
RObERT KROGER: CTIC/DELTA F.A.R.M. TOuR 2012
Polypipe irrigation in a rice ﬁeld.
Stewardship and conservation are top priority on our farm.
– MiKE BOYD, Mississippi FaRmER
REACH program can be. Their 4,000acre grain farm is now benefiting from documentation of water use data through the REACH Program. Three years ago the Boyds utilized Natural Resources Conservation Service programs to implement a tailwater recovery project. The project allowed them to improve the existing landscape with installation of pads and pipes. They also constructed a 10-acre, on-farm storage reservoir where excess tailwater and runoff can be pumped for irrigation use at a later time. Water, both in reservoir storage and behind slotted board risers in flooded fields, is also now available as habitat for migrating waterfowl. Excess water is diverted into cypress sloughs and wetlands to further prevent the runoff of valuable nutrients. “Stewardship and conservation are top priority on our farm,” Mike Boyd says. “Our land and water are vital to our success and either, or both, could be compromised in short order. I feel that our participation in programs like REACH has moved us to a high level of each.”
While these improvements are vital, they can be expensive. Programs like REACH are critical to farmers’ and landowners’ success, says Boyd. “REACH is documenting real numbers to provide farmers with the ammunition to defend these quality programs. REACH provides this important information for all of us.” After evaluating the REACH program, the Boyds knew how the program could help their operation. Others may seek understanding the benefits associated with surface water use versus groundwater, says Kroger, and how incorporation of wildlife habitat in agricultural landscapes benefits agriculture, wildlife and the environment. “By being good stewards of our land and water, we improve all aspects of them,” Boyd says. “Increased production means higher returns. We spend these dollars locally. We employ local people who spend their money here. We are waterfowl guides and the enhanced habitat helps our business tremendously. Hunters come from Staff Photo by Frank Ordoñez
in 19 cOunties enrOlled in mississiPPi state uniVersitY’s researcH and educatiOn tO adVance cOnserVatiOn and HaBitat PrOgram.
currentlY tHere are
across the country to our state to hunt. Everyone wins.” Kroger is thrilled farmers are responding to the program’s availability and promises he will make personal visits to those interested in REACH. “The program was built for farmers and their involvement falls on a gradient. Some farmers are keen to be heavily involved with data collection, demonstration days and videos, but others just want the information or the service. REACH helps all by pooling resources provided by a diverse group of supporting partners.” Today’s farming is not like 20 or 30 years ago, Kroger says. “Farmers are the best stewards we have – they essentially have to be. Without the land, they lose their way of life. REACH is helping farmers tell their stories and making it known how conservation and agriculture go hand-in-hand.” For more information, go to www.reach.msstate.edu.
FROM POND TO PLATE
Mississippi Feed mills
Delta Western • Fishbelt Feeds • Land O’ Lakes
America’s Catch, Itta Bena Consolidated Catfish, Isola Freshwater Farms, Belzoni Heartland Catfish, Itta Bena Lake’s Catfish, Dundee Pride of the Pond, Tunica Prime Line, Scooba Simmons Catfish, Yazoo City Superior Catfish, Macon
Log on to find out more information:
Staff Photos by Michael Conti
Story by Keith Loria
Mississippi restaurants take pride in farm-to-table movement
FARm-TO-TABLE IS A POPULAR
movement stirring in the Mississippi culinary world, as many area restaurants team with farmers and other food producers to deliver fresh, locally grown food to their patrons. According to Mike Cashion, executive director of the Mississippi Hospitality and Restaurant Association, more and more customers are looking for menu items featuring locally grown food – and are willing to pay a little extra to support those in the community. “The restaurant industry is driven by consumer demand and expectations. As consumer demand for more local food grows, restaurant operators must develop menu items and systems for meeting that consumer expectation,” Cashion says. “Part of our mission is to help restaurants identify ways to increase business and profitability. We keep a close eye on consumer trends and try to put programs together that can have a positive effect on the whole industry.” Table 100, a Euro-American bistro with a southern flair located in Flowood, is a big supporter of the sustainable food movement. Since opening three years ago, the restaurant has worked with area food producers to incorporate everything from heirloom tomatoes and cheese to honey from Mississippi bees into its menus.
Mike Römhild, Table 100 executive chef, and Mary Allen Bennett, Table 100 sales manager, select fresh produce at the Old Fannin Road Farmers Market in Flowood, Mississippi.
Table 100 (bottom left) in Flowood, Mississippi offers a Burrata Caprese salad (top left) and other locally-sourced meals prepared by Executive Chef Mike Römhild (right).
“We often get together with the farmers and work with them on what they are growing and what our needs are, so they can plan their planting season around our menu,” says Mary Allen Bennett, sales manager for Table 100. “It’s important to support our local farmers and local agricultural businesses as a whole.” Royals Farm in Terry, Mississippi, supplies the restaurant with lamb and beef. Meanwhile, Jody Reyer, owner of Reyer Farms in Lena, provides vegetables to Table 100, as well as another dozen restaurants in the area. “A good chunk of our income on the farm comes from supplying the produce to restaurants,” he says. “The greater importance of it, as
STRAIGHT fROM THE fARM
far as I am concerned, is that it allows the restaurant customer to form a relationship with a farmer that you wouldn’t normally get.” Reyer regularly speaks with chefs about what’s growing well and how they can help further the farm-to-table movement, sometimes growing an off-the-wall item that the chef desires. As a way to give back, each year Table 100 hosts a farm-to-table dinner benefiting Mississippi farmers. A portion of proceeds is donated to Farm Families of Mississippi, an awareness program to promote locally grown items. Their efforts help bridge the gap between consumers and farmers in Mississippi.
SUppORTING THE cOMMUNITY
“We feel it’s important to acknowledge them and continue showing our support,” Bennett says. “The whole farm-to-table philosophy lets us provide customers with the freshest food possible while supporting the local food economy.” In addition to the great taste that the local products provide, farmers who sell directly to the restaurants can cut out the middleman and make more money to support their farms. Sourcing locally also means less cost in storage, refrigeration, packaging and transportation.
Learn more about locally grown Mississippi products at MSagriculture.com
ississippi’s 82 farmers markets, which are spread across the state, all sell fresh offerings and support the Hospitality State’s hardworking farmers. The Natchez Farmers Market, one of the 36 farmers markets certified by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC), is unique because it is a partnership between the Alcorn State University Extension Service, the city of Natchez and Adams County officials. As part of Alcorn’s Outreach Centers, the Natchez Farmers Market operates as an educational venue. “We offer a lot of events that are held as a means of educating and engaging adults, farmers, vendors, youth and college students, such as educational awareness, food safety and Extension Awareness Day,” says Helen Brooks, market manager and employee of Alcorn State Extension Service. “Our main goals are to provide healthy food choices to the customers, serve as a profitable marketplace for small producers and serve as an economic driver for southwest Mississippi by increasing tourism,” she adds. Another engaging aspect of the market is its participation in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. This initiative, administered by MDAC, provides more access to good nutrition and healthy foods for low-income senior citizens in certain areas of the state. “Specially printed checks are provided on a one-time basis to
Natchez Farmers Market provides more than fresh food
participants above the age of 60 and receiving services from the Area Agency on Aging in certain communities where farmers markets are present,” says Brooks. “This allows vendors to reach an audience that would otherwise not purchase at the farmers market. Even being on a fixed income, some seniors do return and purchase after they’ve used their vouchers.” The nutrition program for seniors is just one of the innovative
changes the market is making. Brooks says in the future, the market hopes to have green areas with raised beds accessible to wheelchair-bound individuals, a children’s garden and a test kitchen for local clients. “We just want to continue to do what we do, and make sure we address the demands of the county and surrounding areas,” she says. – Rachel Bertone
Program promotes link between local producers and consumers
An array of delicious food products are crafted, cooked and creatively combined in Mississippi. From Slick Rick’s Foods to Flathau’s Fine Foods, whose shortbread cookies are sold all over the country and in international markets, Mississippians create quality products. The state’s Make Mine Mississippi program provides an avenue to connect consumers to the many value-added products made in the state. “This program began in April 1999 for the purpose of increasing the public’s awareness of and, therefore, expanding the market for Mississippi products and the people who create them,” says Chaille Clements, marketing specialist for the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, in reference to Make Mine Mississippi. “Companies eligible for membership are manufacturers, processors or producers that add at least 51 percent of the value of their products in Mississippi.”
tHe sHed BarBeQue & Blues JOint
The award-winning sauces are created by the Orrison Family. With restaurants in Ocean Springs and Gulfport, the Shed’s different products suit everyone’s palate.
1 2 3 4 5 6
DeBeuKelaer COOKie CO.
Pirouline cookies, made in Madison, are ﬁlled with creamy chocolate or hazelnut and are perfect for dipping in coffee or garnishing a bowl of ice cream.
taste OF gOurmet
Cake, pie and mufﬁn mixes, soup mixes, bottled sauces and preserves come from the renowned kitchen of Evelyn Roughton of The Crown Restaurant in Indianola.
slicK ricK’s FOOds
Famous for enhancing rather than masking the ﬂavors of food, Chef Rick Simons of Natchez formulates his seven unique spice blends using the ﬁnest ingredients.
ala carte alice
The sauces, brownie and dessert mixes, party dips and soup mixes from Ala Carte Alice in Louisville make gourmet gifts suitable for any occasion.
FlatHau’s Fine FOOds
Featured on the Food Network show Unwrapped, Flathau’s Fine Foods in Hattiesburg makes gourmet shortbread cookies with ﬂavors ranging from peppermint to raspberry.
Find out about more Make Mine Mississippi products at MSagriculture.com
or the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) staff in the Weights and Measures Division of the Bureau of Regulatory Services, a job well done has just as much to do with quantity as it does with quality. “We look at everything from livestock to yogurt and other consumer products sold by measurable quantities,” says Julie McLemore, director of the Bureau of Regulatory Services. “The objective of this division is to make sure commercial weight and measuring devices are accurate. “Customers want to get what they’re paying for and, of course, businesses want to make sure everybody is on a level playing field. So basically it’s all about equity in the marketplace.” Weights and Measures is one of four primary divisions within the Bureau of Regulatory Services, which administers and enforces various laws and regulations meant to protect consumers and businesses in Mississippi. Others are Consumer Protection, Meat Inspection and Petroleum Products Inspection. Connie Braswell is director of Weights and Measures, which also includes two field supervisors and 12 statewide field inspectors. It’s Braswell’s team that ensures that when a consumer purchases a 50 pound bag of feed, it truly weighs 50 pounds. “If it doesn’t,” Braswell says, “it has to be weighed again or else relabeled. “We check grocery store scales in the produce and meat
Weights and Measures ensures accuracy on products sold in Mississippi
MDAC inspector from the Weights and Measures Division tests scale to ensure accuracy.
departments,” she continues, “as well as scales at truck stops, grain elevators and co-ops. We go from smallest to largest.” Weights and Measures inspectors check all scales used in commerce, from small precision scales used to weigh precious metals within 1/100th of a pound all the way up to railroad scales used to weigh 250,000 pound boxcar loads of grain. Inspectors test every scale in Mississippi once a year with the exception of livestock and poultry scales which are tested twice yearly with the total being approximately 6,200 scales. If an inspected scale is inaccurate, it will have a red tag affixed to it to indicate it needs to be repaired or adjusted by a licensed repair person before it can be used again. A relatively new responsibility of the division is testing UPC systems in stores to ensure the price advertised on the shelf is the same as the price scanned at the register. For those who wonder if the weights used by inspectors to perform inspections are
themselves accurate, McLemore says they are regularly checked at the Mississippi Metrology Laboratory operated by MDAC and located at Alcorn State University in Lorman. “The lab compares the weights to state standards, which are traceable to the International System of Units, and makes sure they maintain recognition with the National Institute of Standards and Technology,” McLemore says. “So the weights the field inspectors use are traceable to weights in Washington, D.C.” The mission of the Bureau of Regulatory Services is to effectively and efficiently administer and enforce the laws and regulations charged to it. The foremost goals are to protect the health and economic welfare of all citizens, afford a measure of economic protection that citizens cannot provide for themselves, and to strive for equity in the marketplace which, when realized, works to the good of all citizens of the state. – John McBryde
Bees in Need
n estimated one-third of the global food supply depends on bee pollination, which makes the small insects pretty significant. That, coupled with the declining bee population posing serious risks to agricultural productivity, means the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) has an important role to play in bee health. The Mississippi Bee Disease Act of 1920 established methods of inspection and quarantine to regulate interstate commerce and protect honey bees. Today, MDAC’s Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) Honey Bee Program monitors Mississippi’s honey bee population for pests and diseases by issuing inspection certificates for the interstate movement of bees and beekeeping equipment and performing inspections of hives, as well as conducting surveys and placing traps at areas such as river ports.
MDAC plays important role in safeguarding honey bee industry
“Doing everything we can to uphold the integrity of the honey bee industry and protecting bee health is crucial when both farmers and consumers depend so greatly on honey bees to pollinate fruits, vegetables and food crops,” says BPI Director John Campbell. Pollination is a key process in the reproduction cycle of some plants, and without the assistance of insects like honey bees, some plants would not be able to reproduce and various plants would not be pollinated, resulting in yield loss. In the United States, honey bees make an invaluable contribution to agricultural production, pollinating many important commodities. In recent years, there has been a noticeable decline in honey bee populations. Fortunately, interest in beekeeping has increased as more people learn how important these insects are to the food supply. Since 2008, MDAC has helped those interested in beekeeping receive education and assistance through a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Funding provided by the grant has enabled the Mississippi Beekeepers Association to host 19 workshops that have provided instruction and hands-on training to more than 2,000 beginner and experienced beekeepers. The grant also funded a 50 percent cost-share program that helped 230 beginner beekeepers purchase beehives in hopes of expanding the industry. Although it can sometimes be overlooked, there is a lot riding on the backs of these small honey bees. Knowing that sustaining the industry has never been more important than it is today, MDAC will continue working as tirelessly as the bees themselves to safeguard these insects that are instrumental not only to Mississippi, but to the world.
P.O. Box 9815 Mississippi State, MS 39762 (662) 325-1689 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Producer/MArketer of freSh eggS
Bayer CropScience www.bayercropscience.us Cal-Maine Foods, Inc. www.calmainefoods.com Crop Production Services www.cpsagu.com First South Farm Credit www.ﬁrstsouthland.com Helena Chemical Company www.helenachemical.com Mississippi Agriculture & Forestry Museum www.msagmuseum.org
Fred Adams, Jr. was born in Macon, Mississippi on November 26, 1931, and attended grade school and high school in Noxubee County, graduating in 1949. After spending 21 months in the Army and graduating from East Mississippi Junior College, he went on to graduate from University of Southern Mississippi in 1954. After a brief time with Ralston Purina, he started Adams Enterprises in 1957. Fred has been a director of the Mississippi Poultry Association, United Egg Producers, U.S. Egg Marketers and Egg Clearinghouse. He has served on the American Egg Board as well as the International Egg Commission. He and his wife, Jean, live in Jackson and have 21 grandchildren. Cal-Maine History
1957 – Fred Adams started Adams Enterprises – Broiler and Egg Production in Jackson, MS 1969 – Merger of Dairy Fresh (California) and Maine Egg Farm to form Cal-Maine Foods with 14 locations 1972 – Acquisition of eight locations from Ralston Purina 1989 – Acquired six locations from Sunny Fresh (Cargill) Since 1989, completed 17 acquisitions, the most recent being Pilgrim’s Pride in Pittsburg, TX, August 2012 1998 – Joint Venture at Delta, UT
Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association www.msaaa.com Mississippi Beef Council www.msbeef.org Mississippi Corn Promotion Board www.mscorn.org Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation www.msfb.org Mississippi Forestry Association www.msforestry.net Mississippi Land Bank www.mslandbank.com Mississippi Nursery & Landscape Association, Inc. www.msnla.org Mississippi Pork Producers Mississippi Poultry Association, Inc. www.mspoultry.org Mississippi Rice Promotion Board www.rice.msstate.edu Mississippi Soybean Promotion Board www.mssoy.org Mississippi State University Extension Service www.msucares.com Sanders www.sanders.com Sanderson Farms, Inc. www.sandersonfarms.com Southern AgCredit ACA www.southernagcredit.com The Catﬁsh Institute www.uscatﬁsh.com Thompson Agriculture www.thompsonagriculture.com Trustmark Bank www.trustmark.com
Cal-Maine Foods – Facts
In business in Jackson, Mississippi since 1957 Largest egg producer in U.S. with 33MM laying hens at 36 egg production/processing locations in 11 states Sales over $1B, from 884-plus million dozen eggs sold per year providing eggs for more than 42.6MM people in the U.S. Mississippi footprint: Hatchery, feed mill, breeder flocks, pullet farm and two egg production/processing locations Cal-Maine hens consume 1.2MM bushels of Mississippi grain annually Cal-Maine employs more than 200 people in the state Company vehicles for all locations are purchased from Mississippi businesses Cal-Maine (CALM) is publicly traded on the NASDAQ
3320 W. Woodrow Wilson Ave. • Jackson, MS 39209 (601) 948-6813 • www.calmainefoods.com
Wade Incorporated www.wadeincorporated.com
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.