Yokna Bottoms Farm – Nourishing mind, body, soul

Published 6:00 am Sunday, May 21, 2017

Each month, Mississippi Sustainable Agricultural Network will highlight one of the many hard-working producers here in Mississippi making a difference in their communities by committing to natural, sustainable, and regenerative models of agriculture. It’s not just about good food; it’s about good people.

Shaundi Wall

MSAN Outreach Coordinator

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In 2007, Doug Davis, associate professor of Leadership and Counselor Education at the University of Mississippi, purchased 19.8 acres of land outside of Oxford, which includes 12 acres of alluvial soil on the Yocona River floodplain and 7 acres of grass pasture on the slope of the valley. He named it after William Faulkner’s Yoknopatawpha County (pronounced “Yok nuh puh TAW fuh“), who translated the Chicasaw word as “water flowing slow through the flatland.”

Here, Doug found the perfect setting to plant his seed of a dream: “developing it into a working farm, perhaps eventually a CSA venture with a focus on developing community through locally produced organic and sustainable agricultural practices.”

In this fertile setting, fueled by hard work, determination, love, and community, Doug’s dream and farm has flourished.

Today Yokna Bottoms Farm is committed to developing the local food economy by providing Oxford and surrounding areas with fresh, delicious, certified naturally-grown food. The farm also serves as an educational resource to the community by hosting field trips, tours, and partnering with other groups working to promote sustainable agriculture.

A trip to Yokna Bottoms Farm, known as Yokna to the multitudes of supporters, volunteers, WOOFERS, CSA members, and community at large, is as beautiful to the eye as it is to the soul. The long dirt road past the Farm House and through pine forest suddenly ends in an oasis of bountiful fields of many native species and heirloom varieties. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs are grown year round here, harvested and managed by loving hands, AKA Sodbusters: gardeners, farmers, lovers, dreamers, planters, ranchers, builders and breeders, sons and daughters of the soil, pickers and plowers, sowers and growers. Sodbusting, friendly founts of knowledge, Jeff Stone (Production Manager) Benjamin Koltai (Permaculture Gardener), and Betsy Chapman(Marketing/Community Relations) make any trip to the farm both educational and fun.

With a staff of only three, Yokna relies heavily on volunteer workers and WOOFERS. Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a worldwide effort to link visitors with organic farmers, promote an educational exchange, and build a global community conscious of ecological farming practices.

In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Yokna is proud to be part of vital, community-based hands-on learning experiences. Anyone interested in volunteering is encouraged to come out and help in the fields Monday through Saturday, and all are encouraged to stop by and visit.

The sodbusters at Yokna understand that you only get good yields from good soil. Their philosophy is that feeding the soil feeds the plants which feed the people. In order to be the best possible stewards of the soil, they adhere to Certified Naturally Grown standards. This means they don’t use any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO seeds.  They also understand the value of “attracting beneficial insects as an important practice among both small and large scale organic gardeners.

Pretty, fragrant hedgerows of flowering plants such as marigolds, coneflowers, sweet alyssum, zinnias, anise hyssop and gaillardia attract garden helpers like ladybugs that feast on destructive pests like aphids.” The result is pure, delicious, organically grown food available through their CSA, local restaurants, Farmers Markets, and farm sponsored events.

Farm sponsored events, often involving Doug’s other passion, music, are great ways to explore the farm and get to know the Farm Family which includes dogs, cats, and a few chickens. Spring, Summer, and Fall Open houses; concerts and full moon drum circles, educational farm tours, and other outreach ensures that anyone wishing to get a taste of “an evolving exercise in organic living and sustainable agriculture … or vice versa” is able to so.

A walk among the rows of this dream of a farm may find you doing exactly what William Faulkner and Doug Davis have done with Yoknapatawpha … called it home.