Agriculture is such a significant part of our identity in the South that we often take it for granted. Even those of us who grew up in the region’s larger cities had neighbors with fruit trees and nearby relatives with casual backyard gardens. While monocultures of corn and soy have come to dominate the commercial output of our fields, small farms across Mississippi are restocking our pantries with local, sustainably-grown, heirloom foods.
“Doing what we can with what we have,” is a common refrain from the Miller family, owners and proprietors of Bright Arrows Farm in McComb. Bright Arrows’ main products are goats milk soaps and lotions, which my Birch Box-worshipping sister called “the best lotion ever.”
After training at the celebrated Polyface Farms in Swoope, Va., Hannah Miller has instituted a cyclical, self-sustaining system of vegetable plots, rabbits and pastured chickens. You can order Bright Arrows’ goats milk products online, or catch them and their exceptional eggs at Rainbow Co-Op in Jackson.
Purchase beautifully packaged soaps and lotion directly from Bright Arrows online.
Careers in the health care industry gave Nathan and Sherri Scott an up-close view at the impact industrial farming has on our health and well-being. Doing some research led to buying organic, which led to buying from farmer’s markets, which led to the Scotts literally going whole-hog. After an internship at a sustainable farm in North Mississippi, the family decamped to Lucedale and began raising pastured laying hens for their eggs.
Their small operation grew from there, and currently offers eggs, broilers and a buying club for whole or half-hogs. All their products are GMO, antibiotic, steroid and hormone-free, grass-fed and free-range.
You can join a buying club in Lucedale, Ocean Springs, Hattiesburg and Mobile via Sweetgrass online, or pre-order a pasture-raised broiler for pickup.
BACK FORTY FARMS
Collins native and food industry vet Ronnie Pickering was moving back home from New Orleans and recognized an opportunity: linking his family’s 30-year-old blueberry farm with the needs of his chef friends in the Big Easy. After the blueberry orders were filled, chefs began to ask, “What else ya got?” Pickering answered by reaching out to family and friends, sourcing mayhaw from Seminary, peaches from Enterprise and chanterelles foraged from the banks of the Bouie River.
A lifetime in Mississippi and connections to the greatest food city in the world has Pickering uniquely positioned to act as a conduit from local farms to diner’s plates. Back Forty’s offerings can be found at the Purple Parrot in Hattiesburg and in restaurants throughout the New Orleans area.
Thankfully, this is just a small slice of the South’s farming Renaissance. It takes a lot of individual growers to replace the caloric output of a ConAgra soybean plot, and with that comes jobs, environmental restoration and a return of seasonality and diversity to our tables.
Learn about upcoming events at Back Forty by finding Back Forty Farms at Blueberry Hill on Facebook.