Francis Flowers & Herb Farm: A Grandmother’s Legacy

Francis Flowers & Herb Farm: A Grandmother’s Legacy

Each month, MSAN will highlight one of the many hard-working producers here in Mississippi making a difference in their communities by committing to natural, sustainable, and regenerative models of agriculture. It’s not just about good food; it’s about good people.

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While most of us know by now that cooking food sustainably-grown, organic, and local is just plain better for everyone, we often overlook the fact that we tend to season our food with spices that are not. Furthermore, we know we feel better when we eat this food, but still rely on chemical companies to provide us with medicines, household cleaners, and yes, seasonings too. For instance, most of our seasoning blends contain monosodium glutamate, or MSG. Interestingly enough, Ajinomoto, which is now the world’s largest producer of MSG, is also a drug manufacturer. Thus, while most of us willingly concede that our food should come from naturally grown, local sources, we often miss another part of that picture – that our seasonings and medicines should be produced in a similar manner so that we can maximize our benefits of these as well.

Earcine Evans and her husband Mark are a couple of incredible people who see and understand the bigger picture first hand and are doing all they can to help the rest of us come into focus. After falling ill while owning and operating a beauty salon in California due to the toxic levels of exposure to the chemicals she was working with, Earcine realized something had to drastically change. She realized that the only way to live healthily was to live naturally. Thus, she began to learn and incorporate the healing power of nature into her own life with the help of several herbalists and holistic practitioners. Following this path eventually brought her back the land in Mississippi that had been farmed by her family for over 150 years. Here, generations grew cotton, flowers, and herbs. Her grandmother, and the farm’s namesake, Francis, was also the local midwife, herbalist, and prize winning gardener. Reconnecting to the land reconnected Francis with not only her family but her health.

She and Mark take joy in farming the land in the way of her ancestors: without chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides. Their goal: “heal the land that feeds you and that land will take care of you.” To do this, Earcine and Mark use sustainable, biodynamic practices, working in harmony with nature. While they are not afraid of the hard toil this type of farming entails, they also practice the adage “work smarter, not harder”. Thus, they use innovative techniques and products to help them accomplish their mission. The combination of Earcine’s adept determination and enthusiasm along with Mark’s background as a research scientist with NASA allows for a beautiful synergy of the old with the new. Together, they are brining sustainable farming to the next generation through education, value added products, and global outreach.

Following her grandmother’s wisdom, “that the best way to take care of one’s body is to eat garden fresh food and use herbal medicine- inside and outside the body,” Earcine has created a line of value added products, Cine All Natural Hair and Skin Care, that are appropriate for all types of hair and skin. She uses both wild crafted and cultivated herbs and flowers which are “energy tested to ensure their strength and life-giving sustenance to restore the health of the hair and skin” to accomplish her mission of “empowering people to honor their soul, mind, and body through the use of our healing products.” Furthermore, Earcine incorporates Ecocert Shea butter into her products which she sources from a fair trade, organic, women’s cooperative in Africa, thus making her impact not just local, but global. It is the global crisis that Earcine and Mark are focusing their efforts. They have witnessed first hand the repercussions of our industrialized agriculture and health systems and are doing all they can to help teach and reach the youth of our world that there is a better way. They firmly believe that the health and sustainability of the human race lies in the powerful hands of current and future responsible farmers.

 

While it has taken them decades to understand, learn, and implement the lessons of their ancestors, Mark and Earcine will continue feed and heal us using their role as stewards, teachers, pioneers, and innovators. For her efforts, Earcine was named the 2010 Woman of Business of the Year by Alcorn State and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Her articles have also been published in nationally distributed magazines including Southern Living. One can’t help but feel that her grandmother, Francis would be extremely proud of her granddaughter. With the help Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network, Francis’s legacy will continue to bloom.

 

Francis Flowers and Herbs Farm, though not certified Organic, is Certified Naturally Grown and Demeter certified. In addition to a stand on the farm, it is open for “pick your own produce”. Their biodynamically grown fresh herbs, potted herbs, cut flowers, vegetables, Cine Hair and Skin products, and other items can also be found at Rainbow Coop and the Jackson Farmer’s Market.

By Shaundi Wall, MSAN Outreach Coordinator

Photos by Danny Klimetz

Sowing the Seeds of Victory

Below is an article about the Victory Garden at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum.  This article is from April, 2014.

To view the original article in the Mississippi Market Bulletin, click here.

SOWING THE SEEDS OF VICTORY

By Lise Foy, Director
MS Agriculture & Forestry Museum

I am a child of the 80’s.  I remember not having a remote control for the TV, renting a VCR, and turning the dial to move the antenna so we could tune in to PBS shows.  We only had three or four channels to watch, depending on the weather.  You did not move the antenna if it was too cold because it might be frozen and it could burn up the motor and be stuck somewhere between channels.  PBS was one of my favorite channels, maybe because it came in really clear without any ‘snow’ on the screen.

Shows like Austin City Limits, Hee Haw and Doctor Who were seldom missed at our house.  Since you could not DVR, you had to just suffer through episodes of Sewing with Nancy and McNeil Lehrer‎ to get to the good ones, which, to me, were The Joy of Painting and The Victory Garden.  Even as a little girl, I loved watching them talk about growing vegetables and seeing the interesting ways they showed how to build cold frames and raised beds to produce large amounts of produce in a small area.

For decades, the show has been providing expert information on gardening and farm-to-table cooking.  Taking inspiration from this series and historical information about the original movement, the Ag Museum is building its own Victory Garden this spring.

Victory Gardens, also called war gardens or food gardens for defense, first came about during World War I.  In March 1917, Charles Lathrop Pack organized the US National War Garden Commission and launched the campaign in an effort to decrease pressure on the public food supply.  These gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” because gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown.

Pack’s idea was to increase the food supply without using land already being cultivated, and without using transportation facilities devoted the war effort. The campaign promoted the cultivation of any and every square foot of available land, resulting in over five million gardens in the United States and foodstuff production exceeding $1.2 billion by the end of the war.

The Ag Museum Victory Garden will be located behind the McDavid Cabin which was originally located near the town of Ruth, Mississippi in Lincoln County.  According to our records about the cabin and the McDavid family, the cabin was constructed in the 1820’s and occupied by the family until the 1940’s.  The cabin along with the farm land it was sitting on was eventually sold to Mr. Clifton Clark who let the cabin to sharecroppers for several years.  The probability that the people living in this cabin is high that they would have had a vegetable garden of some sort.  The addition of our Victory Garden to that exhibit would fit with the historical era and interpretive setting.

The Victory Garden project at the Ag Museum is supported the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN).

“MSAN is proud to partner with the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum on its Victory Garden,” stated Executive Director, Daniel Doyle.  “At one time, all Mississippians knew where their food came from and how it was grown.  Just one generation ago, nearly half of the vegetable produce consumed in the country came from home and community gardens.  Mississippi has a rich but complex history of agricultural land use and implementing regenerative practices that focus on natural solutions can ensure the fertility we’ve benefited from will be around for many generations to come.”

During World War II, the Victory Garden movement was emphasized even more to curb food shortages.

Eleanor Roosevelt even planted a Victory Garden on the White House grounds.  The idea was to use any and every space available including backyards, apartment rooftops, vacant lots and public parks to grow food.

Interest in the Victory Garden concept has grown in recent years.  It may not be called the same thing, but there is a definite renewal of establishment of gardens in public spaces and edible landscapes being incorporated into our own yards.   In March 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama, planted an 1,100-square-foot “Kitchen Garden” on the White House lawn, the first since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden.

With Good Friday upon us, we know it is about time to plant the garden because tradition says that is when we do it, right?  I had a text book that said you wait until the leaves on the oak trees are the size of squirrel’s foot.  My Daddy says we wait for the pecan trees.  I have also been told the right date has to do with the cycle of the moon.  Well, maybe it has more to do with the temperature of the soil and hours of sunlight in a day?  Nonetheless, our Victory Garden will debut this spring we invite you to view our experiment at your leisure!

The Ag Museum is located at 1150 Lakeland Drive in Jackson and is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  In addition to our gallery and exhibit spaces, the Ag Museum also has room for your event, whether it’s a meeting, a wedding, or other special event.  Call (601) 432-4500 for information.

Like us on facebook at www facebook.com/msagmuseum, visit our website at www.msagmuseum.org and sign up for our monthly newsletter to track the progress of the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum renovations.

Beaverdam Fresh & High Hope Farms: A Taste of Cooperative Enterprise

Each month, MSAN will highlight one of the many hard-working producers here in Mississippi making a difference in their communities by committing to natural, sustainable, and regenerative models of agriculture. It’s not just about good food; it’s about good people.

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Anyone who has ever gotten in to farming will tell you it’s all about working with a system. Historically speaking, that system is nature, but more recently, that system has become industrialized and heavily reliant on chemicals for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers and meat processing has become a highly mechanized, centralized process. Yet, there growing numbers of farmers who feel that working in symbiosis with the land, crops, livestock, and coming together to help one another produces the best and most satisfying yields. Beaverdam and High Hope Farms are two separate farming operations that prove co-existence, collaboration, and integration is beneficial for all involved.

Johnny and Deb Wray have always had a connection to the land and carved out their own little retreat in the black prairie country of western Clay County near the village of Cedar Bluff, MS in 1980. It wasn’t until 2008 that they decided to move there permanently with a couple of cows, plant a garden, and try to live as sustainably as possible. The generous couple couldn’t keep all their goodness to themselves and shared their self-processed beef with some friends who were immediately interested in purchasing some for themselves. That launched what is now High Hope Farm with a CSA of Limousin, Angus and other beef breeds raised and grazed on naturally-fertilized and regularly rotated pastures of native grasses — without antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids or other chemical products.

But just how do you manage to raise over 30 head of cattle using just local grasses, fresh water and no-stress handling?

You collaborate!

 

Dustin Pinon and his family started as a family green-house tomato farm in 2001 and has now transitioned into a diversified pasture-raised livestock and mixed vegetable farm. In 2013 he and Ali Fratesi expanded their livestock production of pasture-raised chickens and turkey and forest-raised pork onto the land of High Hope. Since Dustin and Ali do not own land, their only chance to realize their immediate farming aspirations was through partner farming. Their hope now high, they have worked hard to develop a successful, symbiotic operation with the Wrays.

Another thing that any farmer will tell you is that the quality of your yield is directly correlated to the quality of your soil. It is this foundational philosophical pillar that unified the High Hope and Beaverdam operations. With grass-fed beef, the Wrays understand that that they aren’t just beef farmers, but they are actually grass and soil farmers. This is where the chickens and turkeys from Beaverdam come in. After the cattle graze on a parcel of land and are rotated to another, the poultry birds are placed on the grazed parcel to eat, scratch, and work their magic on the soil.

 

Their presence eliminates pest, fertilizes the land, and enhances the overall quality of both the beef and poultry operations that allows for intensive, rotational grazing. It is a beautiful, natural win-win for every organism involved and mimics natural patterns. Furthermore, the Beaver Dam pork operation also utilizes this philosophy and allows their pigs to rummage through acres of nutritional hard-wood forest which produces a premium meat and a healthy relationship with the land.

 

Together, these two farms serve as a model for both sustainability and collaboration–teaching us that the best way to help ourselves is by helping each other.

Stewardship has never tasted so good.

 

By Shaundi Wall, MSAN Outreach Coordinator

Amorphous Gardens – The Ever-Evolving Big Garden/Small Farm

Each month, MSAN will highlight one of the many hard-working producers here in Mississippi making a difference in their communities by committing to natural, sustainable, and regenerative models of agriculture. It’s not just about good food; it’s about good people.

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Amorphous Gardens, in Canton, Mississippi, is the epitome of community supported agriculture. When Jonathan Picarsic and Sevanna McDaniel family began looking into buying and starting a farm of their own, they found the perfect property and soon friends, family, and neighbors were lending a hand to get them going. From framing hoop houses, removing debris from the property, to helping plant, the community supported them. Today, they help support the community through offering consumers, restaurants, and farmers markets the fruits of their labor from their natural, vegetable, herbs, and ornamental gardens.

 

They see the process as an extension of their dining table and take pride in knowing that other families are eating the same as they are: naturally, sustainably, and beautifully grown food.

 

As the name “Amorphous” implies, their gardens are continually evolving. While starting three years ago and originally planting just 4 of the 16 acres, a recent clearing of pines has expanded the gardens to seven plantable acres which they will manipulate over time to grow and expand their unique, marketable, and often heirloom products.

 

They don’t want to create a farm but rather a garden . . . something into which one can walk and immediately feel like they are in a different, fruitful, and peaceful place. It is the dream of creating such a place that has kept them amorphic, not just falling into one category, but creating their own—constantly planning and learning, happily enjoying the rewards of challenges, and being the change they want to see.

 

Growing up on a farm and studying agriculture in college, Jonathan understands first hand the demands, labor, and science of growing sustainably. First and foremost, he takes care of the living soil, constantly building and improving it through mulching, direct composting, crop rotation, cover cropping, limited tilling, and not using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. It is in this environment that shallots, garlic, chives, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, assorted alliums, ground cherries, kiwano melons, okra, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, fava beans, and many others delicious vegetables, herbs, and decorative ornamentals thrive. He also understands the power of diversity and implements it in his raised beds and field rows through mixing many species together into a rich tapestry of taste.

 

Jonathan and Sevanna strive to work in symbiosis with the natural environment which includes many ducks, peacocks, and chickens on their farm – who serve not only as great pest control, but create on-site fertilizer, and sometimes even a meal or two for the family.

 

This unique space attracts countless pollinators and other beneficial creatures, such as neighborhood volunteers, often found on the property lending a hand to this living, growing, amorphic, family-friendly and family-feeding garden of labor, love, and hope.

by Shaundi Wall, MSAN Outreach Coordinator 

Photos by Danny Klimetz

Two Run Farm – From Pasture to Plate

Each month, MSAN will highlight one of the many hard-working producers here in Mississippi making a difference in their communities by committing to natural, sustainable, and regenerative models of agriculture. It’s not just about good food; it’s about good people.

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When you hear the story of a young man from Mississippi who learned to work the land from his grandfather and has been doing so  on his own  for seven years, a farmer with a master’s degree from Yale probably isn’t what first comes to mind. Yet, Charlie Munford IS that brilliant, young man with a farm whose family history dates back over 120 years. Two Run Farm specializes in pasture raised, organic beef and lamb for customers in Louisiana and Mississippi, including haute cuisine restaurants and chefs. While the location of Two Run Farm has migrated from Georgia to its current site at the former Flying M Farm in Vaughan Mississippi, some things haven’t changed — like the way Charlie raises his artisanal meats, the same way it’s been done for generations: without antibiotics or hormones … in essence, the way his grandfather taught his grandfather who taught him.  Yet, not all of his training came from his grandfather’s farm. Charlie spent part of his high school days working on an organic vegetable farm in Vermont and went to college on a cattle ranch in California, and spent part of grad school studying agroecology in Cuba.

Taking over the farm in 2006 after the passing of his grandfather, Charlie started a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, experimenting with and focusing on several organically produced fruits and vegetables as well as a variety of meats such as pork, duck, and rabbits, but came to realize that his best chance of being sustainable both financially and environmentally was to hone his efforts and fulfill a niche with grass-fed, humanely treated beef and lamb.

It isn’t just the fact that his animals receive a beautiful life full of frolicking with their herd, constant access to fresh grass pastures, and plenty of sunshine, but also the humane way in which they are slaughtered (none of his animals ever set hoof on a confined food lot) which truly gives the meat its superior quality. Charlie believes that “as the animals we raise give us sustenance, they deserve respect and dignity as they live their lives. Because of this commitment, we mimic natural grazing patterns with all our animals, and strive to keep them relaxed and contented. In their breeding, pasturing, feeding, and medical care, our cattle and lambs receive only the most humane treatment. Not only is this shown to yield better flavors in fine meats, but it is simply the right thing to do.”

Munford understands the quality of his meats is directly related to the quality of his land—their food. To foster this relationship, the animals are rotated around the land to keep the stock grazing on the correct areas at the correct time and to minimize pests and maximize nutrition. He even goes so far as to move the animals using a shepherd for the lambs and a handler for the cattle instead of stressing and chasing them with more industrialized methods. Furthermore, his lambs are guarded from predators such as coyotes and hawks by specially trained dogs—using nature to work with nature.

But Two Run Farm, Artisanal Meats Raised by Hand, isn’t just about working with nature, it’s about working with people too, especially since this type of operation doesn’t use a middle man because he isn’t selling a commodity, he’s selling an art form. Munford is more than a farmer, he’s a business man, too, responsible for producing, buying, conditioning, slaughtering, processing, distributing, marketing, and selling the meats.

Today, Charlie’s fine products can be found in haute cuisine restaurants throughout the culinary capital of the world, New Orleans, such as Emerils, Palace Café, The Green Godess, Coquette, Boucherie, Toup’s Meatery, and Maurepas Food, and closer to home in Jackson, Mississippi at Bravo, Table 100, Walker’s, and Parlor Market just to name a few. But one doesn’t have to get to a restaurant to enjoy these fine, grass-fed products: retail customers can find the perfect custom cuts (available individually or bulk wrapped) at Hollygrove and New Orleans Food Co-op in Louisiana and at Rainbow Co-op in Jackson, MS. Additionally, orders can be placed via the Internet; visit www.tworunfarm.com for more information.

by Shaundi Wall, MSAN Outreach Coordinator