By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Dozens of Northeast Mississippians interested in using their land to generate extra income gathered at the New Albany Fairgrounds on Saturday.
Jim Wilson of the Mississippi State Extension Service gave farmers questions they should ask when expanding their crops in his lecture “Growing Your Own Food and Putting Cash in Your Pocket.”
“Ask yourself when the plants mature,” he said. “If you’re growing twelve things that mature at the same time, that’s a lot of work.”
Wilson also stressed the importance of finding disease-resistant, sturdy plants.
“You want the most resistant plants but you have to find the line between the resistance of a plant and its taste,” Wilson said.
The lecture was a part of a daylong event, the Northeast Mississippi Saving Rurual America Conference, to promote Mississippi’s rural communities. Other lectures were on quilting, canning, broadband Internet, agriculture and more.
“A lot of people live in the country and have these land resources but don’t know how to use them to bring in an income … ,” said Stanley Wise, Union County’s extension services director. “Agriculture is the biggest, most sustainable business we have in the United States so we want revitalize these rural communities and give them ways to produce on a small amount of acreage, selling to the local public.”
A point emphasized by Wilson is to not be scared of pruning back fruit trees.
“Most people are surprised when they see pruned pear trees because they aren’t willing to cut their fruit trees this much,” Wilson said. “Most commercial growers only expect to pick 20 percent of the fruit so they cut them back and knock some blooms down so you have fewer peaches, but of better quality.”
Wilson also said to make sure you track expenditures during the planting to know if a profit has been made from the harvest and keep track of prices in different markets.
“Tomatoes cost 38 cents to grow a pound on an acre, sell for 46 cents to wholesalers, but for $1 – $1.50 at farmers markets,” he said. “People think they are getting a better deal at the farmers market and research shows they will pay a little more because they find value in buying the tomato that was just picked.”
Wise said the four crops that sell the most at markets are tomatoes, sweet corn, watermelon and peaches.