At first glance John Sellers, Registered Physical Therapist and Co-owner of Grace Myofascial Clinic with his wife Amanda, might seem an unlikely candidate as the operator of a sustainable farm near Pickens, Mississippi. But in fact, he is engaged in his own sustainable farming operation, when he is not helping relieve pain for his patients at their clinic in Madison.
As John explains it, his passion for farming (employing organic growing principles) is actually very similar to his profession, in which he uses myofascial release therapy, a very organic form of physical therapy.
“What we do in the clinic is very basic, and similar to the way we farm,” explains Sellers. “Myofascial release therapy requires only our hands and ice. It involves manual manipulation of the tough connective tissue, called fascia, which holds together the body’s muscles and joints and the underlying organs, blood vessels and nerves. When the fascia gets out of alignment, it causes pain. Realigning the fascia, or releasing it, relieves the pain naturally.”
At his farm, Grace Plantation – Local Food Company, Sellers uses no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides in his planting operation, and raises grass fed beef, Berkshire hogs, Cornish game hens and farm fresh eggs without the use of hormones or antibiotics.
“I was raised on a farm where we grew our own food,” Sellers continues. “It was just how we lived – simple and close to the earth. A few years ago I started thinking about something I would like to do on the side, that I could turn into a project after I retire from my physical therapy practice, and I thought I would try my hand at commercial farming. I was working about 800 acres, using the typical methods of industrial agriculture, pouring on the fertilizers and chemicals to fight the weeds and the pests. It felt more like a war – with me against nature, instead of the organic, down-to-earth way of farming I remembered from when I was growing up. It just didn’t feel right.”
A visit to Beaverdam Fresh Farms in Indianola, MS was an eye opening and life changing experience for Sellers. There he saw how owners Dustin Pinion and Ali Fratesi were using sustainable farming practices that were centered around creating healthy soils to produce healthy foods, and using natural methods to build organic matter in the soil and not only preserve the land, but improve it for future generations.
“I felt like I was back home…,” notes Sellers. “I realized the connection to the soil and working with nature instead of against it was what I was missing. I started using sustainable methods and growing our fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry without chemicals and I found I could grow more food than my family could use or sell at the farmers markets.”
This year Sellers started his CSA (or Community Supported Agriculture) business, one of the first in a very small, but growing number of such farming operations in Mississippi. The way it works, he sells shares in what he harvests. Shareholders pay a $25 one year membership fee, plus the Summer Garden regular share of $300 in advance of the planting season to help support the farm’s expenses (and share it’s risk). In return each member receives a portion of the farm’s produce every week throughout the growing season. The membership fee also entitles shareholders to a 15% discount on certain meat purchases throughout the year.
“Members get a ½ bushel basket of produce, a bundle of herbs and a bouquet of fresh flowers,” Sellers adds. Everything is picked fresh the day before so all they have to do is pick up their share. We also deliver to local farmer’s markets if a member prefers, but a lot of our customers like coming out to the farm and seeing where their food comes from.”
At present, Grace Plantation has 32 members. According to Sellers, the 70 acres he has available for cultivation can easily support 250 shareholders. He has one full-time employee in addition to his family, which includes his wife and their six children, all of whom are involved in the farming operation on a daily basis. The farm also uses sustainable farm interns and CSA volunteer labor for harvesting (for which members receive some bonus produce for assisting).
“This life is what I was looking for,” he explains. “My kids love it. They are getting to grow up the way I did in the country. We eat healthy food, we work hard together at something we love, and we are close to the land.” Sellers would like to eventually have his farm certified as organic, but regulations require that the land be chemical free for three years before he can apply for official “organic” certification. Currently, he is just happy growing his produce and meats, some of which are already getting a reputation for their high quality. Executive Chef Matthew Kajdan of Parlor Market in Jackson took home third place honors out of 90 entrants for one of Grace Plantation’s prize Berkshire hogs in the whole hog category at the 2014 Ben Serrat Bar B Que contest.
Besides offering his farm fresh produce, eggs, meats and poultry to shareholders, Sellers takes his harvest to three farmers markets in Madison, County. This May, the Livingston Mercantile located at 127 Highway 463 in Flora will open for business and will feature Seller’s eggs and Berkshire pork.
John Sellers is a man content… not apathetic, but driven and at the same time at peace with his commitment to a life in which he and his family find fulfillment in the simple things and share that fulfillment in abundance with others.
“Since we started Grace Plantation, my health has changed for the better, I’ve lost weight and I’m sick less often, I suspect from eating cleaner, better food, getting more physical activity and fresh air. I feel a closer connection, not only to the people we work with, but to the earth, and to God. Instead of fighting against nature, we are a living part of it, caring for and nourishing the earth as it nourishes us. It just feels right.”
Grace Plantation – Local Food Company is located at 5913, Highway 51 in Pickens, Mississippi. For more about the farm’s grass fed Angus beef, Berkshire hogs, Cornish hens, or becoming a member of the Grace Plantation CSA, call 601-503-0282, email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Grace Plantation on Facebook. For more about Grace Myofascial Clinic visit www.gracepainsolutions.com.