An Eagle Scout from Mississippi and a farm girl from Vermont meet at college, HumboldtStateUniversity in Arcata, California, and return to Tupelo to start a sustainable farm. While it may sound like the opening to a novel, it’s actually the life of Will and Amanda Reed, owners and operators of Native Son Farms. Will is a fourth generation homegrown Mississippi Boy who graduated with honors from TupeloHigh school before heading off to California to earn an Anthropology degree. While there, he worked on Deep Seeded Community Farm and lived “off the grid”. But this native son had to return home and share his passion and love of sustainable agriculture by creating his own farm.
He, his wife Amanda, and their daughter Magnolia now have 25 acres and farm about 8 of them with the help of interns and volunteers. Starting out in 2010 using just one acre and a walking tractor and filling 15-20 orders each week with a pay as you go system, they now have a thriving CSA of 140 boxes per week and also sell at local farmers markets. Their sustainable, certified naturally grown food is cherished by the exact people Will came home to feed.
Sustainable methods used on the farm include cover cropping, crop rotations, the use of green manures, and reduced and reused customer packaging. They also use their own bees for pollination. While they would love to be able to use totally green power, including horse drawn equipment, they have had to find the balance between a large, functional business and a sustainable farm. Still, Amanda and Will do employ as many sustainable practices as possible on their farm feeling that it’s worth the trade off to be able to treat the Earth in a more sustainable way. They understand the immeasurable value of being and to know and see where the food you eat comes from and that it’s produced in a responsible way for the native sons of today and tomorrow.
But the farm’s purpose isn’t just food; the goal of the farm is to educate people that there is indeed a better way and sustainability is it. The Reeds share their love of knowledge and learning with their interns who receive not only hands on experience but an incredible, well rounded education as well. Will networks with other sustainable farmers in the area to ensure his interns receive a full spectrum view of every facet of farming. He also shares his extensive library so that knowledge seeking, future farmers can deepen meaning and understanding of the beauty, challenges, and rewards of sustainable agricultural methods.
One such future farmer is Tyler Roush, who received his degree in Exercise Science and Environmental Biology from Illinois. His studies showed him that the connection between health and sustainably produced food was intrinsic. He believes agriculture holds the cause and cure for most of the world’s health problems. So, he decided he wanted to be a farmer. When he was seeking a place to nurture his learning of sustainable farming he knew Native Son was the perfect place to intern. “I saw the youth and success of Native Son and felt it was a golden opportunity for learning the lifestyle of what organic farming can be and the reality of it all,” says Roush.
Antoinette Ena Johnson also interns on the farm. She started out studying at Biology and pre-med in her hometown at the University of Rochester , NY, yet soon realized that the education she was looking for wasn’t to be found in the classroom but on the farm. She also began to realize that farmers have a lot more impact on a community’s health than doctors.
After receiving her degree in English and History, she came to Native Son, attracted by the farm’s drive to produce as close to nature as possible with a focus on manpower and not machine power. Since interning, she has acquired not only the knowledge she was seeking to start her own organic farm, but she has also cultivated lifelong friends and mentors in Will and Amanda. “Will balances education with work so that interns understand and buy into the work. The connection between classes and field are immediate,” says Johnson. Her biggest surprise upon arriving in Mississippi was the lack of locally, sustainably produced food – “I was stunned that the fertile South was more of a food dessert than New York”.
Will and Amanda are doing their part to change that through utilizing, educating, and producing good local food for the native sons of today and tomorrow. Their mission isn’t just to grow sustainable food but sustainable farmers from the ground up. Networking with other sustainable farmers through organizations such as MSAN gives them even more tools to achieve their goals. It’s the symbiosis of passion, education, and productions that fuels the crops they are growing to feed the natives of the world for generations to come.
by Shaundi Wall, MSAN Outreach Coordinator
Photos by Danny Klimetz and Shaundi Wall