Made for Farming

Story Ali Fratesi

Mississippi was made for farmers. We have gently rolling hills, rich soils and an average of more than 50 inches of rainfall per year across our entire state. In Mississippi, we can grow everything from lettuce to tomatoes and figs to peaches, as well as almost any kind of livestock you can imagine. We are so lucky to live in a place where water is plentiful and the soil is rich.

Farming is an art form. It is an expression of oneself and how we wish to see the world. As farmers who work with the land, we must evaluate the land each time we move the livestock to a new space. It is important that we allow the land to show us what is meant for that area. We have to be mindful of streams and slopes, as well as trees and soil types. Nature requires disturbance in order to remain in balance. Disturbance helps keep pressure on populations of invasive species by reducing their ability to spread. It is vital for ecosystems to have periods of rest that follow disturbance.

On our farm, we let the livestock express themselves, and do what they do best. Pigs love to root around in the soil, and chickens love to scratch and eat bugs. We’ve chosen to use old methods of raising livestock — such as moveable chicken tractors, which have been around since Roman times — mixed with new technology like electric fencing. By consistently moving our animals daily or weekly, their manure is efficiently spread all over the farm. This allows the animal to be healthy and spares us having to gather their manure and spread it ourselves.

Growing up in a farming family in the Mississippi Delta meant sharing sit-down meals with your loved ones. I now understand why my mom stressed the importance of the family meal. Sharing food brings people closer together on all levels. If the food on your plate was grown by the hands of your community, well, that just makes the meal even that much more personal. Many of my closest friends are farmers, and we love to share food and stories of the harvest with one another.

I enjoy having a story behind my food and knowing where it came from and who grew it. I believe connecting people to their farmers and their food can help make people healthier, as well as helping build community.

I have always enjoyed sitting with my grandfather and listening to him talk about the methods they used to grow and preserve food many years ago. There is so much that we can learn from our elders. Their knowledge will be lost if we do not safeguard it. Ask your parents or grandparents how they grew and preserved their food. If you are the one in your family that has this knowledge, pass it on and mentor someone who appreciates its importance. I challenge Mississippians to get your hands dirty, grow some of your own food, share it with your friends and family, sell it at a local farmers’ market, and bring Mississippi to the top of the local food movement.”