Each month, MSAN will highlight one of the many hard-working producers here in Mississippi making a difference in their communities by committing to natural, sustainable, and regenerative models of agriculture. It’s not just about good food; it’s about good people.
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Tubby Creek Farm (Ashland, MS)
In Ashland, Mississippi, just a few miles north of town, the pavement runs into red clay and in the last week of May, masses of green trees and bushes surround the narrow road while the sounds of birds overwhelm the distant noise of cars. Not far down this road is Tubby Creek Farm, a small vegetable and livestock operation run by Josephine and Randy Alexander. Since buying the 70-acre property in 2011, the couple has been cultivating around 4 acres in vegetables as well as raising laying hens, broiler chickens, American guinea hens, and Kiko-Cross goats. As a Certified Naturally Grown farm, they take pride in offering their CSA shareholders and farmers market customers a huge variety of sustainably raised, chemical-free produce.
Randy and Josephine came into sustainable farming from Memphis, where they worked on food policy and urban community garden projects. “We just kept on taking over more and more plots in our community garden, and then we took over the neighbor’s back yard,” Josephine explained. The couple eventually decided to respond to their itch to settle down, own land, and farm. During their past four years in business, the couple has established sound management and business practices and has fostered relationships in both local and Memphis communities. Tubby Creek Farm also sports a 50-member CSA, sells at the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market in Memphis, and offers internship opportunities to those interested in learning about farming.
A core vision of the Alexanders is the merging of ecological and financial sustainability. “Our goal is to be farmers full time and to sustain ourselves through farming without outside income,” explained Josephine. To maximize their yields and establish a sound customer base, the couple utilizes agroecological methods such as crop rotation, cover cropping, vegetable and livestock diversity, encouraging native plant pollinators, and minimizing external inputs to build ecological resilience and profitability. “We need the farm to be profitable in the short term but we also try to prioritize improving it in the long term.” In a true vision of long-term sustainability, Josephine emphasized that, “We’re doing this in a way that’s ultimately going to be a net gain for the land and therefore everything that lives on the land.”
In addition to ecological and financial sustainability, community sustainability is also a core value of the Alexanders overall philosophy. In terms of farmer supply and customer demand, “there’s this sense of abundance, that there’s enough for everybody.” Josephine doesn’t see other farmers as competitors, but as friends who want other small farmers to succeed. Customers also engage in relationships with the farming community by experimenting with different varieties. “There have been a few people who’ve told me they didn’t think they liked cabbage until they ate fresh cabbage from the farm. That just makes me feel really, really good about what we do.”
In addition to fostering sustainable relationships with the greater Memphis community, the couple has focused lately on engaging in the local community. Randy explained that a few local schools have brought classes out to the farm and they even have a few local CSA shareholders. “We’ve become a little bit of a fixture. We do all our business in Ashland, so we know a lot of people.”
Randy and Josephine are committed to building their local food system while finding a sweet spot in ecological, agricultural, economic, and cultural sustainability. At the core of their vision, though, is the overarching reason for why they do what they do. Though farming is obviously challenging and even “may be a sickness,” Josephine says with a wry smile, “I feel compelled to do it; it’s a drive. I can’t imagine doing anything more satisfying. I really like to eat good food and I really like to share that food with other people.”
Tubby Creek Farm is located at 1394 Gray Academy Rd. in Ashland, Mississippi. Visit their website to contact Randy and Josephine or to find out more about their CSA, farmers market booth, internship opportunities, and farm visits!
By Irene Van Riper, 2015-16 Just Food Fellow