The effects of agritourism in Pearl River County

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 1, 2016

FRESH PICKIN’: Leilani Rosenbaum presents her Shroomdom display at the Pearl River County Welcome Center to showcase the dedication the county has toward its local rural community and the importance of agritourism.

FRESH PICKIN’: Leilani Rosenbaum presents her Shroomdom display at the Pearl River County Welcome Center to showcase the dedication the county has toward its local rural community and the importance of agritourism.

Many people walk through the grocery store and select items they need to prepare meals from the produce section without knowing what’s involved in the process.
In Mississippi, agritourism answers this question while benefiting local farmers, economies, agricultural industries and residents.
For those in or near Pearl River County, there are multiple places people can visit and tour to become better educated about what goes into farming and producing products often taken for granted, as well as being introduced to “the freshest produce you can get your hands on,” Picayune Blueberry Farm owners Nikki and Jerry Kerby said.
Those farms include the Red Gate Bison Ranch, Country Girl’s Creamery, Shroomdom and Picayune Blueberry Farm.
“Agritourism is vital for everyone,” Shroomdom owner Leilani Rosenbaum said. “It opens people’s eyes and educates them and it also gives locals a chance to know exactly what they are putting into their bodies.”
On its 160 acres, Rosenbaum’s Shroomdom provides an opportunity for people to tour the woodlands and pick their own gourmet mushrooms straight from the ground. They also provide educational walks that Rosenbaum said, “hold all the wonders of the fungi kingdom,” sharing information about the nutritional wonders and medicinal properties of some mushrooms that cannot be found in any other food.
At the Red Gate Bison Ranch, people can learn about the national mammal and tour the ranch. The family-owned and operated business raises grass-fed bison without the use of steroids, growth hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics while handling them in a low-stress environment to provide the best quality meat possible.
Besides seeing the bison graze, tours can provide interesting information about bison meat. For example, bison have 2.42 grams of fat per 100 gram serving. In comparison, beef has 18.54 grams of fat, chicken has 7.41 grams and pork has 9.21 grams, according to Red Gate Bison Ranch’s website.
With agritourism, additional income can be provided to both the farmer and the employee, “which then can allow farmers to generate income on small acreage, preventing excessive farming on marginal land,” according to the Mississippi State University Extension Service news release. “That marginal land can then harbor wildlife and fish, helping conserve Mississippi’s rivers and streams.”
Another agritourism destination in the area is Country Girl’s Creamery LLC. According to its website, in the mid-1950s there were over 350 dairies in Pearl River County. Today, there are only three.
In March of 2010, Fred Smith and Louise Davis started the diary farm in an effort to provide a local alternative to “store-bought” milk. Their work in agritourism benefits local economies by attracting tourists to the region, increasing visibility and also revenue of some local businesses, according to the MSU Extension Service release.
Country Girl’s Creamery LLC provides tours to visitors, which can include a first-hand milking experience, calf feeding, a hayride through the fields, a wheel of cheese for each group and more.
“It amazes me how little people know about where their food comes from and how willing they are to put it into their bodies without knowing exactly where it came from,” Kerby said, adding that during a tour of his blueberry farm, visitors would understand everything that goes into growing and harvesting blueberries.
The 55-acre blueberry farm includes sheep, cattle, llama, 13 acres of blueberries and newly planted blackberries. At the farm, people are invited to pick their own blueberries to bring home.
“Our aim is to grow the best berries we can and provide an interesting and enjoyable experience for families,” Jerry Kerby said.
According to the MSU Extension Service, agritourism promotes a strong work ethic, stewardship, responsibility and encourages exercise. It also provides youth with a chance to experience rural life through outdoor activities, such as picking berries, while promoting the knowledge of how rural lands serve as a source of food.
To reserve a tour of the Picayune Blueberry Farm, call (601) 799-7243 or email the Kerbys at They provide a number of tours for international groups and are currently working on hosting tours for schools, civic groups and clubs “to demonstrate how we approach sustainable farming and to show how a farm works,” Jerry Kerby said. The farm is located at 69 Homer Spiers Road in Picayune.
To schedule a tour of the Red Gate Bison Ranch—located at 92 Bison Lane in Poplarville—contact Beth Toups at (225) 485-5117 or
Tours of Country Girl’s Creamery are available Monday through Friday by calling (601) 606-1762. The dairy farm is located at 203 Sammy Jo Road in Lumberton.
To take a tour of the 160 acres of Shroomdom, call (601) 795-2611. Each tour must have a minimum of six participants and tours last four hours. Shroomdom is located at 23 Rosenbaum Drive in Poplarville.

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