I am drawn to small farms. The folks behind them fascinate me. Their jobs are their lives, many times working 14+ hours a day to care for their crops or their herds. They create. They make things that we desperately need, then take it a step further and make it as delicious and healthy as possible. Today’s farmers are so much more – they are visionaries, business men and women, laborers, artisans, and many even technology gurus. They are passionate about their work, and it’s such a beautiful thing to me.
Finding new farms to visit in the South is always a joy. I like to know where my food comes from and what’s in it. I try to support as many farmers in my area as I can.
Enter Homestead Farms and Packing.
On a sunny, and HOT, afternoon in South Mississippi, I coaxed my husband into traveling with me to, yes, another, farm. He didn’t mind too much, though, because this one was already of interest to him. He purchased steaks from them the week prior, and we were still talking about them. Any grill enthusiast would be excited about this visit, and he definitely qualifies in that category.
The Farm and Farmer
We twisted through the back roads of the small city of Lucedale, Mississippi to find an old homestead from the late 1800s situated adjacent to a lake. We pulled up to the picturesque farm house and met Ethan Welford, a young farmer who, little did we know, was about to wow us.
Ethan and his father, Mike Welford are co-owners of Homestead Farm and Packing. Mike manages the plant and operations there. Ethan is the farmer. While Ethan has held many professional titles, he told us that none truly fulfilled his passion until he found farming. He explains his love for animals and how he never believed this work was something he would be able to do. That is, until he realized how often, in his opinion, it was done wrong.
Watching him interact with the animals brought the same question to my mind: How can the provider who has so much love for these animals be the same person that puts the animals down?
The answer, according to Ethan is that he is a “servant to both the animals and his customers.” He sees his job as providing for both and truly feels that this is his place in this world. This is what drives him. His herds are dependent on him, and he gives them a great life. He calls many of them by name and feeds them like he does his farm dogs, only they prefer corn on the cob. The cattle are mostly grass fed, supplemented only with locally mixed grain. They are never treated with antibiotics because they don’t need them because they roam free in harmony with the other farm animals with grass under their feet and sunshine over their heads. Ethan used phrases like “soothing nature” and “humane handling” often during our visit, allowing the animals to “naturally express themselves in a poly-cultural environment.”
As we visited, my fixation on his words was interrupted by a buzzing sound that got louder and closer. I saw something flying our way, and he noticed my distraction. He laughed a bit as he gave me a lesson in modern farming. The flying object was a high tech drone that flies above the hundreds of pasture acres, so that he can personally check on his different herds throughout each day. As complicated as it may sound, this technology helps the Welfords to keep farming simple.
Homestead Farm and Packing prides themselves in producing the best local meats around. They say that they offer a local source of “old fashioned farm-raised meat.” Part of their mission was to create a facility where meat could be processed locally, so that locals didn’t have to eat meat shipped across the country if they didn’t want to do that. Homestead Farm and Packing is currently a state inspected meat processing facility processing their own and other farmer’s meat as well, but they believe they will soon have their USDA seal of approval allowing their meats to be shipped across state lines to nearby Mobile and New Orleans.
Ethan proudly took me through the small retail room, where customers can buy beef and pork directly from the farm. Beef and pork are sold in cuts at retail, or a family a can purchase a quarter, half or whole cow or pig for a lesser price. This is how my family purchases meat, and it freezes well for up to a year with no noticeable change in flavor. Homestead vacuum seals each piece for maximum freshness. They also sell lamb and whole chickens as custom orders.
>> For more information on Homestead Farms and Packing, to purchase meat or to schedule a time to go by in person, visit homesteadfarmandpacking.com.
>> There are several other farms in this same area that would combine for a great day trip to the country for your family. Check out our article on Haven’s Down Home Creamery, less than 5 miles down the road from Homestead Farm and Packing!