Coming Home to Farm By Glynda Phillips
Alonzo and Peggy Miller moved back to Mississippi from Texas four years ago so they could farm. Four generations of Alonzo’s family have been Winston County farmers. “I guess I saw how my father and my grandfather were living, their values and the type of work ethic they possessed, and I wanted that, too. I was raised on a farm, and I missed it,” he said. “Peggy and I also wanted to grow our own food. We weren’t happy with what we were finding in the grocery store in terms of quality and price. “It was a lifestyle decision, but it was also about our food,” he said. “I wanted to be able to grow what my ancestors had grown, using the better technology that we have today.” Alonzo was teaching school in Dallas when he began having long phone conversations with his brother and father about farming. They told him about their membership in the Winston County Self Help Cooperative and how it had benefitted them. He learned that the cooperative works hard to help small and limited resource farmers succeed, supporting their efforts every step of the way.
Alonzo and Peggy purchased 72 acres to use as farmland. They both signed up with the Winston County Self Help Cooperative. Six months later, they moved home. With the assistance of cost-share funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Alonzo and Peggy initially fenced in 15 acres to receive their cows. They now have all 72 acres fenced. Recently, the Millers received additional funding through the NRCS to build three ponds on their farm to be used as livestock watering sources. Alonzo is in the process of completing cross-fencing in the pastures. In 2001, the Winston County Self Help Cooperative submitted a proposal to Heifer Project International. The proposal was funded in 2002. The co-op used the funds to purchase 40 bred heifers. Five heifers were given to each of eight members, who signed a Letter of Agreement to maintain the health of the animals as well as their membership in the co-op. Each farmer agreed to give back five heifers to other members. Winston County Self Help Cooperative members are required to Heifer Project
MISSISSIPPI FARM COUNTRY
January/February 2013 Working for Mississippi Agriculture