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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


It’s a Choice

Mississippi is recognized as one of leaders in the world of agriculture. Everybody knows the hardest working people in the Delta are producing corn, cotton, soybeans, catfish and other less traditional crops. Farming has evolved and modernized so much farther than in just a generation ago. Those families in the delta have chosen a lifestyle that is very different from most other people. The community of farmers in our state live by the weather, every year everything is put to stake with a hope and a prayer that the weather will be kind enough to allow them to make it through another year. It doesn’t matter how new and modernized and educated a farmer can be, if the weather doesn’t play nice they have troubles. Farming is a lifestyle that is based on a lot of hard work, unbreakable focus and a lot of faith.

People who count on agriculture as their source of revenue are among the investors with the highest tolerance of risk. We can take a bad year here and there but a few bad weather years in a row can finish a crop reliant career short. There are nearly 35,000 farms on 10 million acres worked by families who have the faith and the tenacity to choose this way of life. I say “we” because I do consider us nursery guys to be glorified farmers, like a delta farmer we are 100% reliant on the weather, we have to lay out huge amounts of dollars for inventory that is perishable, all in hopes that it will grow well in our greenhouses and that it will sell in a timely manner since plants do have a relatively short shelf life. Everything has to come together perfectly during out two seasons we get for gardening. I guess people who have chosen this lifestyle are a little off kilter but we do have fun trying.

Speaking of having fun trying. There are so many interesting things going on agriculturally that aren’t in plain view like us nurseries and the delta farmers. In Mississippi we have someone growing tea, like real tea from the Camelias Sinensus that is used in India where most tea leaves come from. I don’t pretend to know the process of making tea from the leaves but we thought it would be fun to offer that Camelia this year in case anyone wants to try it out. That Camelia is very hardy here, maybe needs covering in a severe freeze. I was surprised to discover that there is a really big tea farm in our state. I fell in love with a company out of Yazoo City that is making some great teas using native plants like the native Youpon Holly. The tea that I had was extremely smooth and has a little caffeine kick to it, they offered others that had no natural caffeine. Their packaging is really nice for gifts for yourself or others. We have huge producers of Pecans, lumber, sweet potatoes, cut flowers, peanuts and of course, our coast which produces seafood for both the commercial and the tourism markets.

Lately I have been crossing paths with people that are in the produce and cut flower industry. There are more CSA’s here than I realized. There are people dotted all over Mississippi that are members of a CSA. Community Supported  Agriculture makes it possible for people to purchase and support a group or an individual produce farmer by making it possible for consumers to buy local and seasonal produce from these farmers. The one that I know and visit the most is in Flora. A family owned and operated produce farm that grows for us consumers and to restaurants around the southeast. They offer boxes of everything locally produced that can be found. The boxes offer eggs, baked goods, gorgeous produce, herbs and other surprises. They have certain days set up for you to go by a specified area to pick up your box that you have the option to make some of the choices of goodies that you want for that week. We love it because they grow so much variety, some of which we weren’t familiar with, I fell in love with their Chinese sweet potatoes.

As if this couple didn’t have enough going on while raising three little ones, they have now opened a farm store in Flora that I visit every Saturday morning that I can. I love Flora and I love the drive out to Flora, It’s like pulling up to Mayberry, USA. There is a vibe in Flora that just makes me feel at home. The farm Store offers all kinds of plants for the season but I beeline it for the inside where their coolers are full of their produce, baked goods from others, specifically the quiches made with goat cheese and a crust that is what crust should be like. I get the frozen biscuits and seafood gumbo for our Sunday lunch,(I hope that my doctor who is  trying to get me to watch my cholesterol doesn’t read this article) we look forward all week to see what I’ll find in their coolers.

This Saturday I went out there with a buddy of mine who shook his head at the amount of stuff we walked out of there with including cheesecake and kombucha, we are set for the week. Inside the store there are great gifts and baked goods from someone close by, so worth the trip out there. Right next to that farm are some hydroponic greenhouses where the most beautiful lettuce is grown. The couple that runs that place are also catering to the restaurants and to the local grocery stores, you’ll know it when you see it, that lettuce tastes so fresh and is just gorgeous.

We have a wonderful farmers market with even more to experience the wide diversity of things produced by Mississippi hands. At this market other than just produce there are plants for sale, poultry, pork, turkeys, beef, honeys, organic soils, the list of things produced by our hard working folks who have chosen agriculture as a lifestyle is long and very surprising. Our farm stands all over the state range from a dude with an umbrella at a truck full of watermelons to one like the one on Old Canton road that offers the regular stuff but also wonderful private label prepared meals, Pies, and meats and dairy. I love going there just to see what’s for dinner. They do a great job of displaying the goods, makes my mouth water. You might be surprised at what you will find if you do a little homework about the amount of food and perishables produced in Mississippi that are available to us. Going to these truly local places is a great experience and gets me out of the daily grind and the same- ole same -ole at the grocery store,  the atmosphere at these places is quirky and fun. I loved to take my kids when they were young to places like this so they could meet the farmers and get a chance to be inspired by a different way of life.


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