Last Friday, it was my privilege to attend a board meeting of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN) held at Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS. It’s a real showplace!
If anyone has ever visited the farm, the first thing that stands out is that it’s rather spread out. By that, Will and Amanda Reed and their toddler live in one house, they have a farm stand about a mile down the road from that, and they have a 30-acre or so plot in the middle of town. They do farming on each spot.
For example, behind their house they have a high tunnel with about 3,000 plants started. From that, they expect to have about 15,000 to 20,000 tomato plants to feed their 250-member CSA. Will says he intends to start setting plants out around April 15.
Talk about urban agriculture, their 30-acre plot is in the center of town, surrounded by houses and subdivisions. They already have strawberries growing there for their CSA’s first food boxes in coming weeks. Their farm stand (where the MSAN board met) is big enough to house a good-sized dinner party or banquet if they were of a mind to do it. In one room, for example, where their walk-in coolers are located, they had a vintage Allis Chalmers tractor. (Will says he uses it to pull weeds.)
But even with all this spaciousness, it’s still a family farm. Daughter Magnolia, 1 1/2, is at home on the place as are Will and Amanda. That’s a major driver for them to use organic growing methods. Native Son Farm is Certified Naturally Grown (www.naturallygrown.org), a type of third-party certification that is well suited for direct-market growers who sell locally.
As Will and Amanda note on their website (www.nativesonfarm.com) this expansion of their farm is rather new. “Will became interested in farming while living off the grid in California in 2006. After graduating from Humboldt State University in 2009, Will moved back to Tupelo to begin Native Son Farm.
“Amanda grew up off the grid in Thetford, Vermont. As a child, self sufficiency and living off the land were basic family values. This instilled in her an interest in farming for production. She met Will at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, where she received a degree in Child Development. After graduation, she joined Will in Tupelo to begin Native Son Farm.”
They started with a 3/4-acre garden which grew to a 10-acre farm feeding 150 families to the 250 families and 25 acres in production today.
Since he already employs organic growing methods, Will says he might switch to USDA certified organic if he starts to sell to large grocery stores where he can command a higher price to pay for it, but for now, CNG suits him fine.
They are proud to state they are “Committed to growing healthy, chemical free fruits and vegetables for our community…”
Will is the president of the MSAN Board of Directors. I’m on the board and also am a former board member and serve in an advisory capacity for CNG.
Will and Amanda (and Magnolia!) are fine folks who practice natural, sustainable and organic growing methods worthy of highlighting as a demonstration or teaching farm, and it was great fun to visit on Friday.
For more on MSAN, see: http://www.mssagnet.net
Here’s a video on Native Son Farm: http://www.mssagnet.net/programs/featured-farms/native-son-farm/
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book is Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press). Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.