Local farmers drive Mississippi economy

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 12, 2016

C.J. Bryant (center) processes a hog in his backyard which he will later use to make sausage and feed his family and friends. Photo by Julia Arenstam

C.J. Bryant (center) processes a hog in his backyard which he will later use to make sausage and feed his family and friends.
Photo by Julia Arenstam

“It’s not to kill, it’s to harvest,” C.J. Bryant, a local jack-of-all trades said as he processed a 300-pound hog in his backyard.
Agriculture is the highest commodity in Mississippi, Dr. Eddie Smith, extension agent at the Mississippi State Extension center said.
“That’s where most of the money comes from in Mississippi,” Smith said.
In areas like Pearl River County, knowing where your food comes from is easier than in larger cities with less agricultural production.
“If you know where your food comes from, you know the person that grows it; you know it’s safe,” Smith said.
Purchasing meat or produce from a local source allows consumers to talk with the farmer directly and find out what the animal ate, how it was treated and what has been done to it, Smith said.
At grocery stores, consumers can know where the food comes from, but it’s difficult to know exactly how it was grown or tended to, he said.
Even if consumers try to shop for organic foods, Mississippi doesn’t have a certified organic program, Smith said. So, farmers have to go to outside private companies to inspect their food and certify it as organic, he said.
“Most local farmers are going to treat the animals the best they can,” Smith said; the healthier the animals, the more money they can get for them.
If they’re not taking care of them the quality of the meat is going to go down and “you’re not going to make a profit off what you’re doing,” he said.
Smith said most farmers are conscious to provide the best possible commodity.
When harvesting wild hogs in particular, farmers have to ensure they are using proper techniques to maintain the of the meat.
“There are certain diseases in the digestive system that if you accidentally cut it they will leak out and infect the meat,” Smith said.
When it comes to cooking, it’s important to make sure the meat is prepared to the proper temperature, he said.
Most local producers, like Bryant, use every part of the animal they can to get the most for their money; including selling the head or making their own hog’s head cheese.
Bryant makes his own sausage out of the meat he harvests and also cans vegetables and jellies from produce he grows on his farm.
A homemade sign hanging in his family workshop reads, “We eat all we can, can all we can’t, then we eat all we can,” emphasizing the importance of reducing waste.
Buying from local producers will help stimulate the local economy, “It’s going to provide the local farmer with more income, which they can turn around and invest locally to increase production,” Smith said.
At the same time, it can also be cheaper to buy locally grown produce, which will save consumers money they can use to spend on other things, he said.
The success of the state’s economy and the agriculture industry are directly related, Smith said.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

email author More by Julia