Tag Archives: MSAN

Let’s Update Mississippi’s Local Food Laws!

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about a really great small farm operation in Clay County that produces pasture-raised poultry, and grass-fed beef and swine. See: “Farm Field Day Draws Lots of Moms, Kids” – https://shooflyfarmblog.wordpress.com/tag/grazing/

Operated by Dustin Pinion and his partner Ali Fratesi, it’s truly a model farm for sustainability – and was showcased as a good example for other farmers by both the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) which partnered with Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute to hold a field day there. It was also promoted as a premier example of small farming by the Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network.

But farms like this are in danger of going bust – or never getting started – because of the way food laws are skewed to protect large industrial operations and punish or deter small, sustainable family farms.

Local Food

For many visitors to High Hope Farm, Beaverdam Farm, and other local farm producers that have customer lists and farmers market presence, their operations are often the first and perhaps only time to see a real non-corporate family farm in operation. (Photo by Jim Ewing, ShooFlyFarmBlog)

Mike and Alison Buehler, founders of GGSIM, are promoting a petition to update Mississippi’s local food laws to allow mom-and-pop farmers like High Hope Farm and Beaverdam Farms to sell poultry at farmers markets. It’s long overdue.

Farmers across the South, I’ve found, have similar issues regarding on-site processing of the food they grow. Joe Salatin is perhaps the best known proponent of the “idiocy” of local food laws. See his book: “Everything I want to do is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front.”

Here in Mississippi, though, it appears that a very simple change in the law could help rectify the situation, at least as far as selling sustainably grown chicken is concerned.

Alison and Michael write:

The federal poultry regulations provide an exemption for small farmers processing less than 20,000 birds a year in an approved facility. However, only in Mississippi do the regulations say all poultry sold off the farm premises must bear a mark of inspection:

b. All poultry products offered for sale by a vendor at a farmers market must be sold by a vendor who holds a retail mobile food establishment license from the Department. The poultry products must bear marks of inspection from a poultry inspection program administered by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce or the United States Department of Agriculture.

 There is no inspection facility located in Mississippi. This significantly cuts off farmers from their customers, and only allows them to sell from the farm.

Every other state allows for farmers under the 20,000 bird exemption to sell off site. Here is an example from Pennsylvania:

Producers who raise and slaughter no more than 20,000 poultry on their premises in a calendar year may, under PDA inspection, sell within Pennsylvania to customers through the following venues:

§  farmers markets

§  farm stands

§  CSA members

§  buying clubs

§  hotels and restaurants

§  schools

§  hospitals

§  wholesale distributors (sales within the state),retail stores

Small farmers are finally on the resurgence in Mississippi. In order to foster their success so we can continue to access healthy food, our regulations need to be updated to reflect this change. They simply haven’t been addressed because there were no small poultry producers in the state. We now have dozens of young farmers coming into the market.

The Mississippi Department of Agriculture wants to support small farmers. They simply haven’t had it brought to the table up until now. After long emails and discussions with them, they encouraged us to create a petition that would show them where public will fell on this issue. They want to hear from us. While the regulations they have dealt with in the past were designed to keep people safe in the face of super-large poultry operations, they also want to know how to create realistic and safe regulations for small farmers.

Here is how you help.

1.    We need an individual present at EVERY farmers market in the state this week, beginning May 17th collecting electronic signatures. All you have to say is, “Do you think farmers markets should be allowed to sell chicken? Let the MS Dept of Ag know!” If you are interested in being one of these coordinators, please let me know.alison.buehler@ggsim.org

I already have covered: 2 Oxford Markets, Starkville, Brookhaven, Jackson, Hernando, and Meridian

2.    Sign up for our 20 Calls for 20 Days campaign to tell 5 people at the MS Department of Agriculture Thank You for aligning our regulations on small poultry producers with the surrounding states. Thank You for supporting small farmers. We appreciate you efforts to increase our access to fresh, local foods. If you sign up, get your spouse to sign up. You will receive a script and a reminder email the day before you make your calls. We need to fill this asap because calls begin the day the petition is delivered.  http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0844ADA829A75-mississippi

3.    Sign the petition. Get your spouse, your mother and father, you kids over 18 to sign it. Share it with your churches, your co-ops, your organizations. We have one week to get as many signatures as possible. Our lawyer is drafting this today. It will be on the FB page tomorrow to start sharing.

This is doable! Don’t sit back and wait for someone else to make this happen for you. Don’t lament that other state have better food options. Make this a reality here!

Me again: If you truly are concerned about promoting local food, take action. This is a simple way to do it!

 Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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What Community Supported Ag is All About

 

A few weeks ago on March 10, I wrote a blog about the family of Will, Amanda and Magnolia Reed and their small farm in Tupelo. Last night, I received word while traveling in Texas that little Magnolia, 1 1/2, has cancer. She underwent surgery this morning and was expected to start chemotherapy.

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing) We have since learned that Magnolia was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called  and underwent surgery today.

Here’s the message from Will, as relayed by Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network Executive Director Daniel Doyle:

Our lives have taken a strange turn over the last 24 hours. After taking Magnolia to CSA member Dr Richmond McCarty’s office to have a cough checked out, a chest ex ray revealed that we should be sent to Lebonheur children’s hospital. After receiving a ct scan we have learned that little Magnolia Jane has a very rare cancer called neuroblastoma. Her tumor and bone marrow will be biopsied Monday and she will have a port implanted to receive chemotherapy. We expect chemo to begin next week and to continue until the tumor is shrunken enough to be surgically removed. We are receiving excellent care and remain optimistic. We will likely be absent from the farm for a couple of weeks but have a GREAT crew that is poised to take over. Farmer Sam McLemore is coming over from Starkville to head the farm and will be aided by farmers Taylor Yowell, Cliff Newton, Jana Eakes and Gabe Jordan. These guys are amazing but with 230 shares to pack each week will have a huge workload and could use support from our CSA. We are asking for the community in our community supported agriculture program to come together and help the farm keep going. If you are available to volunteer on the farm, please email Chris Macalilly at cmcalilly@gmail.com and he will try and get you scheduled. If you have other talents or are willing to cook a meal for our/your farm team that would be great as well. Please pray for Magnolia, our family, our farm and farmers.Love,

Will and Amanda Reed
People are chipping in to help the family in Tupelo, and from across the state. They are volunteering to help work the farm and sending donations. This is what “community” in community supported agriculture is all about!
The family has been such an inspiration for so many people – growing food for their community and being a vital part of it in the central part of the city.
If anyone would like to help out, or read more, see the Facebook page titled Thoughts and Prayers for Magnolia Jane Reed: 
The family is certainly in our prayers. They are sweet and wonderful people.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, and former organic farmer now teaching natural, sustainable and organic agricultural practices. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @EdiblePrayers or @OrganicWriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

Native Son Farm A Real Showplace

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!

Will Reed talks about the chemical-free crops he's planted, March 7, 2014. To look at it, you wouldn't know from this photo that Will and Amanda Reed's Native Son Farm is smack dab in the center of Tupelo, MS. It's surrounded by houses and subdivisions. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Will Reed talks about the chemical-free crops he’s planted, March 7, 2014. To look at it, you wouldn’t know from this photo that Will and Amanda Reed’s Native Son Farm is smack dab in the center of Tupelo, MS. It’s surrounded by houses and subdivisions. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

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.

Farmer Will Reed shows visitors some of the 3,000 plants he has started for planting in coming weeks at the high tunnel behind his house at Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Farmer Will Reed shows visitors some of the 3,000 plants he has started for planting in coming weeks at the high tunnel behind his house at Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

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.)

A vintage Allis Chalmers tractor is housed in a back room of Will and Amanda Reed's Native Son Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

A vintage Allis Chalmers tractor is housed in a back room of Will and Amanda Reed’s Native Son Farm. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

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.

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Little Magnolia, one and a half years old, enjoys the wonders of nature with Farmer/Mom Amanda Reed at their chemical-free Certified Naturally Grown Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

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…”

The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Board of Directors meets at the farm stand of Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Board of Directors meets at the farm stand of Native Son Farm in Tupelo, MS, March 7, 2014. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

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.

Exciting Future for SSAWG

I’m just now (sort of) getting my feet on the ground from last week’s Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) conference in Mobile, Ala.

Leaders from organic and sustainable nonprofits from across the South meet to brainstorm on how to better collaborate at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) annual conference in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 19, 2014. (Photo by Daniel Doyle, Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network via  ShooFlyFarmBlog Jim Ewing.)

Leaders of organic and sustainable nonprofits from across the South meet to brainstorm on how to better collaborate at the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) annual conference in Mobile, Ala., Jan. 19, 2014. (Photo by Daniel Doyle, Mississippi Sustainable Ag Network)

I’ll post more photos later, but I thought this one was important, maybe even historic. (It was taken by Daniel Doyle, executive director of the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network.)

It shows basically all the heavy hitters for organic and sustainable agriculture in the South. (Though maybe not such a heavy hitter, I’m in the lower left corner.) There are a few exceptions, naturally; I could name a handful of folks who are not in the photo – but you can bet that those who are not in attendance knew what was going on.

The purpose of the meeting was to develop strategies for organic and sustainable nonprofits to better coordinate their efforts. The group has been meeting since last summer. There’s no name for this group; it sort of decided on calling itself a think tank at last Sunday’s meeting; the membership is fluid; its meetings unpredictable. But I have a tremendous amount of hope and optimism that it will accomplish great things.

We’ll see…

More later!

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.

Farm Field Day Draws Lots of Moms, Kids

Sept. 16, 2013

A sunny, cool farm day greeted about 70 people who visited the farm owned by Johnny Wray, former president of Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi, during the field day held Sunday, Sept. 15. He and Elton Dean are partners in a grassfed beef operation, with Dustin Pinion and his partner Ali Fratesi.

Dustin Pinion (center) and Ali Fratesi (left) explain the basics of their pastured poultry/cattle operation at High Hope Farm in Clay County, MS, on Sunday, Sept. 15. The Field Day was sponsored by the National Center for Appropriate Technology, which operates ATTRA, the Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, and by Gaining Ground - Sustainability Institute of Mississippi.

Dustin Pinion (center) and Ali Fratesi (left) explain the basics of their pastured poultry/cattle operation at High Hope Farm in Clay County, MS, on Sunday, Sept. 15. The Field Day was sponsored by the National Center for Appropriate Technology, which operates ATTRA, the Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, and by Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi.

You may recognize Ali if you frequent the Jackson (Miss.) Farmers Market on High Street. The couple now has about 350 laying hens and 800 meat birds at Wray’s High Hope Farm, said Fratesi, who sells their eggs and pesticide-free produce on Saturdays at the market. They have more than 700 members in their buying club.

The couple has operated Beaverdam Farm in Indianola for about four years. Pinion, 27, came to High Hope Farm to show off what he learned while apprenticing with farmer/author Joel Salatin for six months in 2011.

Visitors at the Field Day at High Hope Farm look at the chicken tractors that follow the cattle across the pasture. The cages allow protection for the young chickens from predators like hawks and coyotes as they are moved incrementally to new pasture. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Visitors at the Field Day at High Hope Farm look at the chicken tractors that follow the cattle across the pasture. The cages allow protection for the young chickens from predators like hawks and coyotes as they are moved incrementally to new pasture. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

The Gulf States office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (which operates the Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) and Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi sponsored the field day to draw attention to the combined cattle/poultry/swine operation for its sustainable practices.

The farm has recently added pastured swine to the mix, clearing out previously overgrown scrub and sapling forested areas while producing sellable meat. GGSIM and NCAT operated booths to provide more information. (For more info on growing sustainabily, see: ncat.org and ggsim.org)

Margaret Thomas (left) of Hattiesburg and Alison Buehler, president of Gaining Ground - Sustainability Institute of Mississippi, of Starkville, enjoy a discussion on sustainable farming. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Margaret Thomas (left) of Hattiesburg and Alison Buehler, president of Gaining Ground – Sustainability Institute of Mississippi, of Starkville, enjoy a discussion on sustainable farming. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

For a lot of folks, it appeared that coming to the farm was a first taste, perhaps, of ever seeing a working farm in operation.

For many visitors to High Hope Farm, it appeared to be the first time to see a real farm in operation. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

For many visitors to High Hope Farm, it appeared to be the first time to see a real farm in operation. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

A number of people chose to walk across the 35-acre farm, but many (including lots of moms with small children, and even a few adults) enjoyed taking a “hay ride” on Johnny’s tractor, sitting on hay bales piled on a trailer.

Kids and moms enjoyed a hay ride at High Hope Farm in Clay County, MS, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Kids and moms enjoyed a hay ride at High Hope Farm in Clay County, MS, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013. (Photo by Jim Ewing)

Everyone seemed to have a good time. So much so, this might turn out to be a “first annual” event – with another one next year!

P.S. For those who missed it, you can also tour High Hope farm Sept. 29, 2013, with a farm tour by the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network. For more info, see: http://www.mssagnet.net/ Or follow MSAN on Facebook.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.