Raising Food, Family, and New Farmers at Sweet Jones Farm in Louisiana
Some people have big visions. This is one of them. Sweet Jones Farm is growing healthy food and opens doors for people to connect with agriculture.
J’Quincy Jones Sr. grew up playing hide and seek in the sugarcane fields of southern Louisiana. He remembers eating sugar cane instead of chips. His love and appreciation for farming blossomed over weekends with his grandfather where he would pick pecans on Saturday and sell them after church on Sunday.
It was during those weekends in the groves and in the community that Quincy was gifted with his grandfather’s foresight and wisdom.
“Just the jewels he would drop about being connected to your food, and growing your own food is like printing your own money. One time he said, you know, people say money don’t grow on trees, that’s not true. You have orange trees, apple treats, pecan trees. Money is growing on this tree.”
Quincy may not have known then, but life would lead him to become a farmer. Now he is the owner and operator of Sweet Jones Farm LLC, a family owned and operated, mixed produce Louisiana farm. They sell directly to consumers through a community supported agriculture, or CSA, service. Members can order for delivery or pick up on the farm. On-farm pickups give members the bonus of play time with goats, sometimes even baby goats.
But growing food hasn’t been Quincy’s only mission. He and his family are out to build community well-being through agricultural experiences and education. He feels the call to not only farm for his livelihood but to make it purposeful and a spiritual act.
“People need to be educated and fed. They can feed themselves if they know what they need to know to grow food.”
Quincy applied for a Brighter Future Fund grant from American Farmland Trust supported by Tillamook and others. Originally, he thought he would replenish his beehives (a major source of income) that were wiped out during Hurricane Ida. $5,000 was not going to go far to rebuild on a farm. So, after consultation with family and mentors, he decided to use the money to build educational opportunities and community connections— funding that can be difficult or impossible for farmers outside of a non-profit to access.
This financial support allowed Quincy and his family to lean into their values of helping people grow food where they live. They have supported 10 families with raised beds, vegetable seedlings, and guidance on how to care for the plants. They’ve helped people save money on food and showed them how they can eat healthier with a garden. At a time when inflation is at an all-time high this is serious community work. The gardens also provided therapeutic stress relief and created a place for families to connect with each other.
Quincy’s family also started a partnership with a Baton Rouge elementary school. The Farmer’s Kitchen Academy gave Qunicy a space to build garden beds and grow food with students. Kids harvest the foods grown in the new garden beds, they cook it in a school kitchen, and sell some to the neighborhood. Beyond connecting young people to growing food, it allows the school to bring in some income and use the project as leverage for other funding sources.
“People are willing to come purchase that food to support the kids. We have fun. I bring baby goats on the bus. We can cut up. We have fun, you know, where the kids have memories, you know.”
But Sweet Jones Farm’s full vision is even bigger than this. Quincy is working to build wealth for his children, and food security for his region of Louisiana. He’s thinking about the 100-year vision. He wants to open the door to consumer awareness and hopefully future farmers.
“My dream farm is more a farm that other people could consider theirs.”
Quincy’s journey to land ownership has not been an easy one. His family’s land was slowly sold off before he knew he would be a farmer. He was lucky to find his current property through word of mouth, and a commitment to the seller for a lifetime supply of eggs. And while he is planted in a place for now, he is still looking for more land for what he calls “the expansion.” This expansion would help financially sustain his family and build a place where more food could be grown, more people could visit, and stay longer. He’s got plans and connections for school groups, interns, aspiring farmers, tourists, and of course the CSA members of the Louisiana farm who have supported him along the way.
“I know I could make a big difference in Louisiana with my expansion. I just don’t have the land.”
But there are hurdles to get there. Navigating rising costs of land, and complex loan services that don’t immediately support this kind of vision, Quincy and the team at Sweet Jones Farm find themselves in a holding pattern. The land search and challenge to keep up the current business is exacerbated by regularly devastating weather events and competition from wealthy land buyers. They are looking for 60 acres to grow onto. They have a supportive team at Southern University and Louisiana Extension, along with other farmer mentors Quincy has consulted with along the way. Fulfilling this vision is particularly important to him as a Black farmer. African American farmers and landowners have been declining in numbers and in farmland ownership, something Quincy notices but doesn’t let get in his way.
“We’re going to make farming cool again. How about that? We’re going to make it cool again. A lot of people, it’s a disconnect. They say farming is hard work. That’s not the case. You just don’t know how cool it is to be a farmer. You just have no idea. That’s all it is. It’s a disconnect. You don’t even have to be an actual farmer. Just be into anything with ag.”
J’ Quincy Jones Sr. is a recipient of the 2022 Brighter Future Fund Award, which provided grants to farmers across the country to assist in successfully improving resilience, enhancing farm viability and accessing land. American Farmland Trust, in partnership with Tillamook, awarded grants of $5,000 to BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and/or women farmers nationwide.
About American Farmland Trust (AFT)’s Brighter Future Fund:
AFT’s Brighter Future Fund provides grants of up to $5,000 per project to help farmers nationwide improve farm viability, access, transfer or permanently protect farmland, or adopt regenerative agricultural practices. In 2022, the fund accepted applications from farmers who identify as BIPOC, Veterans, LGBTQIA+ and beginning farmers who had limited access to financial resources in the past. Since 2020, AFT with the support of Tillamook and others has provided approximately $2.5 million in grants directly to more than 2,000 farmers across the nation. Learn more here.