Why Jackson needs a city farm.

The city of Jackson is about 100 square miles in physical size.

It has one Kroger store.

It has one Walmart.

And one Whole Foods store.

The city of Jackson, MS is almost exactly the same size as the city of Chattanooga, TN. Like, within a couple of thousand folks. Chattanooga has 5 Walmart stores.

Pretty much any other place in Jackson that one can buy food is a small regional chain or convenience-type stores, where the food is not fresh, is overly processed, and expensive. And expensive matters, because in Jackson, nearly 1/4th of the households (not individuals, but households) bring in less than $15,000 a year.

With the most generous definition possible of “grocery store”, there is one for every 10,000 people here. One in three of us live more than a mile from any grocery store, and the public transit system here doesn’t run on Sundays. And 10% of the folks in Jackson don’t own a car, either.

In Mississippi, you basically do not qualify for food stamps if you work full time and make more than minimum wage, which is $7.25 an hour. A living wage in Hinds County, where Jackson is, is defined as $11 an hour.

Despite all of this, Mississippi approves less than 2% of applications for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Mississippi denies 25% of food stamp applicants from Hinds County, and last year, Gov. Phil Bryant declined to extend a work waiver to unemployed adults in Mississippi receiving SNAP (food stamps), causing over 50,000 folks to lose theirs.

The corporations do not care about us. Kroger closed down all their stores in the city but one.

The government does not care about us. They will use us to get elected, but when they deny 25% of food stamp applications and 98% of TANF applications, you have to figure making sure people have fresh food isn’t their highest concern.

We have a year-round growing environment. With some inexpensive technologies, such as hoop houses and low tunnels, we can grow tomatoes in the middle of January here. And in spite of that amazing climate, our state exports 90% of everything we grow. Remember, the huge corporations don’t care about us, and they won’t save us.

We have massive amounts of unused land here in Jackson, sitting empty and blighted.

We have the land. We have the climate.

We have the will.

We can do this.

“When you’ve got 400 quarts of greens and gumbo soup canned for the winter, nobody can push you around or tell you what to say or do.” – Fannie Lou Hamer

Author: Hugh Hollowell Jr

Hugh is the Director of Jackson City Farm. He and his wife live in the Broadmeadow neighborhood of North Jackson, where they co-parent three spoiled cats.

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