Living Off The Land: Area farm a leader in sustainable movement
The family farm, where everything was produced right on the land, has become nearly extinct in recent decades, leaving only lingering memories with grandparents and great-grandparents. But, an ironically modern movement called Sustainable Farming has created a new future for family farms to thrive.
“Part of what ‘sustainable agriculture’ means is returning to the old ways, but also marrying the old with the new,” Alderman Farms owner Tommy Alderman explains.
Alderman Farms at 1905 Norman Trail NW in Brookhaven, where Tommy and wife Patti operate a diversified farm, was recently selected as a “transition farm” by the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network’s “Rooted in Mississippi Demonstration Farm” program. MSAN is a network of farmers, educators, consumers and activists who have begun working together to re-establish local farmers and food producers at a level that competes with the current market.
The objective of the demonstration-farm program is to showcase Mississippi farmers who are committed to sustainable farming, growing organically and distributing produce to local markets.
According to the MSAN, sustainable farming promotes “the health of farmers, consumers and their communities; stewardship of the environment and non-renewable resources; and, long-term financial viability.”
The Alderman family has been committed to the Lincoln County land since Tommy’s great-great-grandfather, Enoch Alderman, obtained the original 640-acre tract through a land grant program in the 1800s. He credits the land’s potential and their willingness for change as reasons the property was picked as one of three Mississippi demonstration farms.
“We think that one of the things that factored into it had to do with the potential of the land – it’s under-utilized, mostly timber at the moment – and with our willingness to transition from providing healthy foods for our family to providing healthy food for other families locally.”
The farm is reaping the benefits of the award with some grant money, but Alderman said it is the information network that is most valuable.
“We received a $1,000 cash award to be spent toward a farm project of our choosing. And, we’ll receive on-farm consulting valued up to $200, with an expert in a field of our choosing – the organization is providing a list of experts. Then the intangibles of being part of the network, and networking with other farmers that have been where we are and are ahead of us.
“The organization also offered a lot of courses through Mississippi State University extension offices – we can’t say enough about our local agent Rebecca Bates. The courses have been the most valuable benefit to us – we are learning things that equip us with information needed to do new projects on the farm.”
Though the word “sustainable” has become a part of the modern farm movement, Alderman explains that it’s actually a return to what his great-great-grandparents on down to him and Patti have done.
“The word sustainable,” Alderman explained, “knowing how to rotate animals and crops so that the land can heal and sustain itself without using fertilizers or chemicals or ‘adding’ something to the land, practices that are not ‘sustainable’ – is actually the thing my grandparents did.
“It’s all about diversity, back in those decades there was no such thing as specialized farms – farms were diversified and produced what the family needed for its own sustenance, and they had their own special things they bartered with.”
Alderman said that besides new technologies in farming equipment, the use of social media to get the message out, market their produce and educate people on where their food comes from has been part of their farm’s success.
“For what we are doing we are currently sustainable,” Alderman said. “The farm mostly pays for itself – any money made at say, the farmers market, we put back into the farm.”
Another interesting modern tool the Alderman’s are using to make the farm economically viable? Social media.
“Interestingly in March of 2012,” he said, “we signed up with YouTube to have ads attached to our online videos and we were very surprised at the results. The income we get through this pays for the farm’s entire feed bill – our animals and our dogs.”
For more information about Alderman Farms visit www.aldermanfarms.net. Or you can go to Youtube or Facebook to see videos and updates on the Aldermans’