A group of small farmers from the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network gathered at the Capitol yesterday to meet with legislators, and raise awareness of buying local agriculture.
Will Reed owns a farm in Tupelo, where he grows a variety of fresh vegetables. He says the current health crisis in Mississippi should be reason enough for people to buy from local farmers.
"If you look at heart disease or type 2 diabetes, these are things that are directly related to diet. The food that we're producing is wholesome, nutritious, and delicious, and offers a way for Mississippians to get access to healthy food grown right in their communities," says Reed.
Marshall Bartlett, another North Mississippi farmer, says buying from small markets could help keep Mississippi dollars in the state.
"You're practicing agriculture in a way that is different from the commodity model. You're directly marketing what you produce to the inconsumer, so you get a lot more for that product. Ninety cents of every dollar right now that we spend on food, the food is coming from elsewhere. So, we're just exporting all of that money out of our community when we can grow a lot of that food here," says Bartlett.
That is a concept Republican State Senator Gray Tollison of Oxford agrees with. He says small farms are still a vital part of the state's economy.
"There used to be many many small farmers across Mississippi, but that's gone on to the larger farms. We need to do everything we can to support them. We have a history of agriculture in Mississippi, and I certainly want to do anything we can do at the Capitol to support their efforts," Tollison says.
According to the agricultural group Farm Families of Mississippi, agriculture is a $7.9 billion industry in the state.