By Frank Taylor
Farmers from all hues, ethnicities and nationalities received recognition in the Minority Landowner Magazine’s 6th Annual Farmers of the Year issue.
The 2014’s Farmers of the Year list included a broad array of farm entities including forestry, blueberries, poultry, livestock and vegetable production from across the United States. These individuals received recognition for managing their natural resources and producing quality foods to help feed the world based on their farm skills.
Most of 2014’s winners shared relationships with service providers such as USDA, extension and community based organizations to help shepherd their nomination letters through to the selection committee.
The following members of Winston County Self Help Cooperative received 2014’s recognition including Thomas Coleman, Rosie Harris, Dee Dotson, and Bobby Hardin.
WCSHC will celebrate 30 years of service starting on Friday, January 23, 2015 with 8th Saving Rural America & Youth Conference at the Louisville Coliseum. This event will start at 7:30 am and for more information contact Jean Harper 662-312-8004.
Perhaps, you can best describe Thomas Coleman as a humorist, historian, businessman or simply the Garden Doctor.
Thomas is on a purposeful mission to help sustain rural communities by transferring place-based knowledge and assisting families in growing fresh vegetables.
Thomas stated, “I enjoy working with people and sharing my agriculture experiences to help produce quality vegetables. My vast farming experience spans more than 70 years. At one time each family here in the Pleasant Grove and Mt. Olive Communities maintained a working garden and additional acres to provide vegetables for extended family members.”
However, today there are twenty or less working gardens within a four miles radius of the Thomas’ farm and he provides daily assistance such as tilling, planting, hoeing, cultivating, harvesting or humor to make life simpler for beginning farmers. Some community people call Thomas the Garden Doctor because he dispenses relevant information to eradicate insects or teaches individuals to plant by the “sign system” (almanac). Thomas’ rule of thumb for planting vegetables is to plant above the ground vegetables on the full moon and underground vegetables on the half moon. Thomas’ farm operation consists of five acres of vegetables which he sells through local farmers markets and regular customers.
Rosie Harris, native of Louisville, Mississippi, has worked on the farm all of her life. However, after the demise of her husband of 52 years, Isaac Harris, Rosie’s life changed tremendously. She wanted to continue the legacy of farming but lacked the knowledge and resources needed to maintain such an operation. Consequently, Rosie became an active member of the Winston County Self Help Cooperative (WCSHC). She learned about the many resources available to her and was educated on programs through USDA that could aid in her daily farm operations.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) also provided her with forestry services which included cleaning forest land for replanting, prescribed burning, and thinning.
Rosie said, “Through the programs that WCSHC have offered, I have learned about my rights as a farmer and how to make my farm more profitable.” Currently, Rosie maintains and operates 118 acres of farmland. She continues cattle farming, gardening, and has now added forestry to the list. Her future plans for the farm include increasing her herd of cattle, resetting her land in timber, cross fencing, and managing the farm so that it will be profitable for the next generation
Bobby Hardin is a fourth generation farmer in Louisville. Bobby is a founding member of
the Winston County Self Help Cooperative (WCSHC).
“We organized this prolific vehicle of change for small farmers in 1985 to help save rural communities by providing leadership in times of uncertainty,” stated Hardin.
WCSHC assists beginning and returning farmers with mapping the processes for building successful farm operations. WCSHC provides technical assistance, financial management, livestock production and risk management tools to ensure long-term profitability.
Hardin said, “I never envisioned of living on a farm after graduating from high school. I lived in California and Tennessee for more than twenty years, before returning back to my southern roots to generate income from my forefathers’ natural resources.”
Hardin’s farm enterprise consists of swine, forestry, livestock, and vegetable production.
Hardin markets and sells locally within a 10 miles radius of his farm. This helps eliminate transportation costs and ensures quality of produce.
“I attend meetings sponsored by WCSHC to source services through USDA, CBOs and Extension. This opportunity has been beneficial in terms of learning innovative strategies and promoting sustainability. I have received numerous conservation contracts through Natural Resources Conservation Service to improve my forages and water quality. Finally, we are committed to help save Rural America,” stated Hardin.
Dee Dotson said “I am no ways tired of loving God’s natural resources because this has been my way of life for 90 years. I have spent my entire life planting, managing, harvesting and selling the fruits of my labor to earn income for our family.”
Dotson’s diverse farm operation is nestled on the rolling hills of Louisville, Mississippi.
“We raise three acres of vegetables including greens, peas, corn, green beans, watermelons and others. We normally produce vegetables eleven months out of the year before December’s killer frost. My regular customers place their orders by phone and others will visit our farm which allows these individuals an opportunity to ask questions and observe our farm operation. Additionally, we manage 30 acres of forestland and raise beef cattle.”
Dotson is a founding member of Winston County Self Help Cooperative (WCSHC) along with his late wife Omerio Dotson.
“WCSHC has provided my family and others with leadership in times of crisis to help maintain ownership of our lands in the 1980s. We have received animals, farm supplies and most of all technical support to ensure success in rural communities. I am thankful to have lived for more than 32,000 days on earth and I am looking forward to continue managing Mother Earth’s natural resources,” said Dotson.
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