Sustainable Producer Spotlight Series ~ Past Submissions:
Jenny Jack Sun Farm
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Jenny and Chris Jackson say the family land in Pine Mountain, Georgia, where the Jenny Jack Sun Farm is located is "a great gift." That gift has helped lead to their thorough commitment to growth and sustainability, both in how their farm is operated and their work ethic.
Not to mention how they deal with aphids.
The Jackson's first apprenticed with Glover Family Organic Farms in Douglasville Georgia, where they learned the basics of organic farming and marketing and were introduced to sustainable growing methods.
During this time both Jenny and Chris had additional jobs; Jenny worked catering jobs and Chris waited tables and was a substitute teacher on occasion. They began growing on a 5,000 square foot plot and sold what they grew from that large garden at a local farmers market. They received an EQUIP grant from NRCS which allowed them to install irrigation on the rest of the farm. After expanding onto the irrigated land, the Jacksons partnered with a farmer friend in Atlanta to provide for a 100 member CSA. They also sold to Atlanta restaurants and two weekly farmers markets.
"As I recall our beginning years and the many hours of work that went into getting the farm started, I am very proud that we kept it going! We really wanted to farm and were desperate not to take on debt," Jenny recalls.
After a few years, the hard work paid off as the Jacksons were able to transition to producing for their own local CSA and markets in west central Georgia, eliminating the one-and-a-half hour drive to Atlanta."We wanted to be growing for our local community, so we're very grateful that there was a demand for fresh, naturally grown food here," Jenny explains.
Jenny Jack Sun Farm utilizes five acres: three acres in vegetable, herb and flower production, oneľand-a- half acres where pigs and poultry are rotated, and about a half acre housing a small fruit orchard. They produce over 100 varieties of vegetables, herbs, fruits, and flowers.
"We strive to produce a nice balance of traditional favorites, like tomatoes and sweet potatoes, in addition to more unusual crops that grow well in our climate like Napa cabbages and Sunchokes." Jenny and Chris have two seasonal full time apprentices who help on all farm aspects: cultivating, planting, harvesting, marketing, CSA organization, and delivery. They also employ "work-share holders" who work a few hours a week in exchange for a CSA share, plus a few regular volunteers.
In addition to Jenny and Chris's careful management, the farm's success has been aided by a few factors. It is located in a rural area that is conveniently located in close proximity to the farmers market and CSA delivery area. The farm also has a deep well, dug by Jenny's father before they started the farm, which provides them with an excellent supply of clean water. Although the soil is low in organic matter, it is not the typical heavy clay soil of the Southeast.
"Pests have always been a challenge for us, especially in the fall," Jenny Notes.
They have learned to recognize pest pressure early on in order to prevent any infestation from getting out of hand and adapted their methods to encourage beneficial pest populations.
"Aphids have always been a big problem on brassicas in the fall. We spray insecticidal soap and hand pick infested leaves initially, all while watching carefully for the arrival of predators such as ladybugs. When the ladybugs arrive, we are careful not to spray anymore so we don't affect their population."
The Jacksons have also learned to plant as many nectar sources as possible in order to attract beneficial insects. They have also found that adding organic matter to the soil through compost and cover cropping has greatly increased the health of the soil, which results in healthier, more resilient plants, alleviating some of the pest pressure.
The Jacksons prefer to spend as much time as possible on the farm and do not use social media as a way of marketing their products. They communicate with their 125-member CSA through a weekly e-newsletter and an e-mail harvest-and-recipe list that details the produce that will be included in the weekly share along with some meal-preparation ideas.
Since the Jacksons began farming, their philosophy has always centered around sustainability. "Having family land to farm is a great gift, and we wanted to improve that gift of land rather than desecrate it, so learning and applying sustainable methods was the only kind of farming we ever considered," Jenny explains.
"We farm to provide meaningful work for ourselves and to provide our local community with quality, naturally grown food. We feel the lost connection of eaters and growers is a tremendous loss for our culture, and we want to help restore that connection," Jenny explains. Jenny says farming is deeply satisfying, but it consists of long, arduous hours, especially in the beginning, and is not for everyone.
"We need more sustainable growers to meet the demand since consumers are becoming more aware of the dangers of conventionally produced food. If you think you want to farm, apprentice with an experienced grower for a full season to get a taste of it," she says.
Jenny and Chris share that their farm has benefitted immensely from resources offered through ATTRA. "We've learned a lot from the heaps of information found in the publications. I've received help on pest issues from speaking with agriculture specialists, and all of our apprentices have found our farm through the Internship Database. I truly feel ATTRA is an amazing resource for sustainable growers."
To learn more about Jenny Jack Sun Farm please visit http://jennyjackfarm.com/.
The Sustainable Producer Spotlight is offered as a celebration of those who practice sustainable and organic agriculture and is not intended as an endorsement of the featured operations or products.
This page was last updated on: December 15, 2014