Cindy Hyde-Smith, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce for the State of Mississippi, says it best: Next time you sit down to eat, first thank God, then thank a farmer. Mississippi’s hardworking farmers feed the nation and the world, raising a diverse offering of crops and livestock on 37,100 farms spread across almost 11 million acres. The state also has 19.7 million acres of forestland, producing products such as wood pellets and lumber, providing recreation for Mississippians, and contributing more than $1 billion to the state’s economy. Farm families pass down the agricultural tradition in the state, with 96 percent of Mississippi farms identifying as family or individually owned. Most farms come in at an average of 294 acres each, producing some of the Hospitality State’s top commodities such as catfish, sweet potatoes, cotton, broilers, soybeans and more. But Mississippi is also a national leader in blueberries, watermelons, pecans and grain sorghum.
In fact, the state places in the top 20 nationally for the production of 15 agricultural commodities, including No. 1 in catfish and No. 3 in pulpwood, sweet potatoes, cotton and cottonseed. Mississippi’s agriculture industry as a whole, which includes these commodities and much more, contributes nearly $8 billion to the state’s economy annually, and is the state’s largest industry, employing 29 percent of the workforce. Part of this workforce includes agribusiness, which continues to be a thriving sector of Mississippi’s agriculture industry. Successful national companies including Sanderson Farms and Cal-Maine are headquartered in Mississippi. These businesses contribute to Mississippi’s role as a leader in food processing as well as crop and livestock production. More than just crops and livestock, Mississippi agriculture encompasses agricultural education, exports, research, local food and more, focusing on advancing the state’s already crucial sector.
Whether you’re looking for peaches or pumpkins, Mississippi’s farmers markets offer the freshest products available, straight from the men and women who grew them. With 84 markets spread across the state, Mississippians have access to fresh, healthy produce and value-added products such as baked goods, jams and jellies. The AARP Foundation, UnitedHealthcare, the Mississippi Department of Human Services and the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce joined forces to launch Fre$h Savings, a healthy food incentive program, in select farmers markets. At participating markets, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) beneficiaries can spend up to $10 for SNAP eligible food items with their SNAP/EBT card and receive the equivalent amount in Fre$h Savings tokens to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. These markets include Crossroad Farmers Market in Clarksdale; Copiah County Farmers Market in Hazlehurst; Oxford City Farmers Market in Oxford; and the Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson. Additional markets will be participating in 2016. Learn more about Mississippi’s markets at mdac.ms.gov.
Coming Soon – Genuine MS! Genuine MS is a program created to promote and bring attention to the wide array of agriculture-based products Grown, Raised, Crafted or Made here in Mississippi. Developed by the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, the Genuine MS brand showcases the exceptional quality, diversity, uniqueness and availability of products produced in the Magnolia State. Genuine MS will work with producers to enhance their marketing efforts, while assisting consumers in finding local products. This new state branding program is expected to launch in 2016 to recognize and promote MS products. Stay tuned!
Mississippi farmers and beekeepers are working together to raise awareness of pollinator health and to protect pollinators through the Mississippi Honey Bee Stewardship Program. Through this program, a unified flagging system using yellow and black ‘Bee Aware’ flags was created so that farmers and beekeepers could identify hive locations near agricultural fields. Flags are placed so that they are visible from ground and aerial view so farmers can take appropriate measures throughout the growing season. The Mississippi Honey Bee Stewardship Program is a combined effort of the Mississippi Beekeepers Association, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association, Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, and Mississippi State University Extension Service.