Garden becomes organic farm

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 9, 2010

TERRY (AP) — Glen Smith has always had a vegetable garden, but a passion for health and nutrition pushed him to take it to the next level.

Now the Terry resident has a 10-acre organic farm, one of the few in Mississippi, and he sells organic produce at Jackson markets.

‘‘Everything was pointing toward organic produce and how people are receiving optimal health just by eating right,’’ Smith said.

Smith started Promised Land Organic Farm & Produce in 2006, and in 2007 was certified as an organic farmer, meaning conventional pesticides are not used.

Smith grows collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, peas, sweet potatoes and squash, but watermelon is one of his favorites. When in season, he takes them to the Belhaven Market to sell on Saturdays.

Smith’s farm and another in Byram are among the pioneers of the movement of the organic food growers movement in the Jackson area.

For stores like Rainbow Grocery in Fondren, the organic produce is often brought from out of state because it’s not common in Mississippi, Smith said.

Before moving to Terry, Smith had a vegetable garden in his Jackson yard.

‘‘Every year, the garden got bigger and the yard got smaller,’’ he said.

Organic farming is not Smith’s only job. He sells Juice Plus+, a diet supplement, and is a real estate broker. Real estate is Smith’s main revenue stream, but he said he’s slowly expanding his organic farm into a bigger business.

‘‘Organic farming can be a high income stream,’’ Smith said. ‘‘It takes a different effort.’’

The farm is his passion — he works late into the night and early in the morning because he has enough lights to work when it’s dark. He finished planting strawberries at 9 p.m. one night.

‘‘If I were not passionate about it, I couldn’t do it,’’ he said. ‘‘But I could be out there 24 hours. It’s not a burden — it’s therapy.’’

And more planting is on the way, he said.

‘‘I’m waiting on the weather to break before I plant anything,’’ Smith said.

Smith said he’s thinking about planting fruit and nut trees this year, too. On his wish list are citrus trees, persimmons, plums, peaches, pomegranate and pecans. He always wanted to plant blackberry and blueberry bushes.

For a one-man operation, the biggest problem is time, he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service offers financial assistance to organic farmers. Smith said he applied for a high tunnel, a large covering for crops.

NRCS offered $900,000 for Mississippi organic farmers this year. Although the deadline has passed this year, farmers can apply for assistance next year.

‘‘High tunnels can help producers extend their growing seasons and also expand the availability of healthy, locally grown crops,’’ said Homer Wilkes, NRCS state conservationist.