• 54°

Jenny Jack Sun Farm keeps it green

PINE MOUNTAIN – Just a left hand turn off I-185 and a right onto a small road later, discerning vegetable lovers will find a little farm proudly advertising its market days on a wooden fence with pigs happily snorting in the in the distance and a friendly dog who happily greets visitors.

Chris and Jenny Jackson have been working the land on the farm next door to where Jenny grew up for a decade now, with their homegrown vegetables providing flavor to locals who want to see how their food gets from the farm to their table even now in the middle of January.

“The reason that we are able to grow a lot of vegetables right now is we have two high tunnels, so those are fields that are covered with plastic, so it’s like a greenhouse that we grow in the ground in,” said Jenny Jackson. “So, it keeps the soil warmer, and it protects the plants. Under those tunnels we’ve got lettuce, kale, collards, carrots, fennel. We are planting onions today, and then we are getting ready to seed the spring crops under there as well.”

The covered space allows them to grow a variety of vegetables even in winter months when even a state or two further north it wouldn’t be possible to have such a wide variety.

“If you’ve got some covered space you can pretty much grow year-round in Georgia,” said Jenny Jackson. “… You can’t grow any of the frost sensitive crops – so tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, all that stuff – but plenty of things can take a decent frost, especially the greens.”

The couple are currently growing one of Jenny Jackson’s favorite crops, lettuce, which does well during the mild Georgia winters and grows quickly. Meanwhile, one of her husband’s favorites is a bit more seasonal.

“I really like the tomatoes,” said Chris Jackson. “Of course we grow about four different sessions of during the summer (that) we plant. … We can pretty much sell as many as we grow, and the flavor is so much richer – these are – than what you can buy in the store. There is a big taste difference between these – homegrown, organically grown – and what you can buy that has been shipped across the country.”

The Jacksons pick the tomato varieties that they grow on their farm each year for flavor, and in the past they have grown varieties ranging from heirloom tomatoes to cherry tomatoes. They have found from their customers’ responses that people seem to enjoy purchasing food mere yards from where it is grown.

“I think people like to be able to see where their food is growing, so when they come shop here on Wednesdays, they can walk out just a few hundred yards and see where the food is growing that they’re purchasing,” said Jenny Jackson. “So, that is different because there is such a disconnect at a grocery store. … You come out here, and you see more of a real picture of how food is grown, and you can talk to the farmers who grew it and know exactly what they used to grow it. You don’t just have to depend on a label.”

The Jacksons also count the requirement to try new foods that grow seasonally as a benefit of buying locally grown produce, since it forces customers to try new foods and maybe even find a new favorite in the process.

“People are a little more adventurous when they can talk to the farmers, and just the setting is so different, purchasing food in a semi-outdoor environment,” said Jenny Jackson. “I think it makes people feel a little more creative and like they are willing to go outside their comfort zone when they are in a different environment purchasing.”

Along with the Wednesday markets, the couple also supplies the vegetables for a community-supported agriculture group where members receive a box every week of fresh, seasonal vegetables from the farm. Customers pick up produce from the CSA once a week at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. The spring/summer season generally costs $325 for a small share or $530 for a full share for the entire season.

“We have several members who say that one of the reasons they signed up and continue to do it is because it forces them to try new vegetables,” said Chris Jackson. “It expands their pallet because they have to – they are forced to (find a way to) use what they get each week.”

Sign-up for the Jenny Jack Sun Farm’s CSA will begin on March 1, and current members are given preference, and potential members will be able to view a brochure with details about the CSA on the farm’s website at that time.

The farm is also partnering with Wholesome Wave which doubles EBT value spent at farmer’s markets for participating farms, which can be used for the CSA or market and would effectively allow EBT recipients to purchase fresh, wholesome food at half the usual price. The farm is reimbursed for the other half by the program which aims to encourage healthy eating habits in low income families.

Along with vegetables, the couple sells pork from pigs raised on their farm and goat cheese, beef, chicken and eggs from other local farms at their regular market.

To learn more about Jenny Jack Sun Farm, visit jennyjackfarm.com or check out their next market day on Wednesday. The farm holds market days every other Wednesday in January and February. It is open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., April through December.

Reach Alicia B. Hill at alicia.hill@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.