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Livin' on Tulsi Time: Jenny Jackson on Farm Life After Baby

Updated: Jun 8, 2018

The Columbusite, Jenny Jack Sun Farm, Young Farmer's Series

Chris and Jenny Jackson own Jenny Jack Farm in Pine Mountain, Georgia. The couple has been growing certified naturally grown produce on land Jenny inherited from her family nearly a decade ago.

Jenny Jack Farm is a regular vendor at Uptown's Market on Broadway, where many of the farm's CSA families pick up their produce each week.

Ask any of the CSA members, and they'll tell you that Jenny and Chris are the type of people we all want to be. They're young. Healthy and vibrant. They live off the land. They give back. They mentor. Jenny and Chris are the type of folks everyone wants growing their food.

The farm has a team of workers who mirror Chris and Jenny. Young interns and part-time workers who are patient, gentle, and content working with their hands.

When I first visited the farm in 2014 for a story about our local farmer's market, I was moved by how peaceful and quiet the farm was during my time there. Other than the hum of the overhead power lines, the only sounds on the farm were made by the chickens or workers laughing in the field.

This year though, everything changed.

Enter Tulsi, the precious baby girl who made Chris and Jenny parents last summer.

Photo credit: Anthony- Masterson Photography

The Columbusite, Jenny Jack Sun Farm, Young Farmers Series
Jenny with Tulsi on the farm. | Photo courtesy of Chris Jackson.

Tulsi was born just ten months ago and has made her mark on the very heart of the farm. Team members beamed when asked about her, saying that she is "the happiest baby" and "a joy to be around all of the time."

Everyone knows there's nothing better than a brand new baby, but we couldn't help but wonder what life was like on a farm with an infant. Especially when both parents are the full-time co-managers and growers that keep the farm running year-round. How does it work?

We sat down with Jenny to talk about the farm's growth over the past few years, what it means to be Certified Naturally Grown, and what a day on the farm has looked like during their first season as parents.

This interview was done on location, and has been edited for length and clarity.

What's it like to farm with a baby?

A: She's ten months old now. It's been a challenge, of course, because Chris and I were both full time on the farm before Tulsi. We co-manage the farm together, so last year, in anticipation of having the baby, we hired another part-time person. Just to see if we could make that work.

It worked. Last year, even with me here most of the time, farming pregnant meant that I wasn't as full-time as I had been previously. It worked out really well last year to have a someone else on staff.

This year, having Tulsi here has meant that Chris and I have been away from the farm more. This is because we want to have her here with us. We are making our way through it. It's working, it's just harder than it used to be. We definitely could not have done it when we first started farming. We've gotten a lot more efficient now. We have some systems in place that make things around here run a lot more smoothly, so that was key. We wanted to make sure we had systems in place before we brought a baby into it since being parents does limit our time on the farm.

We are really happy to have Tulsi with us on the farm. We love having her with us here, and we make it work with the help of our team and family.

What makes it work? Who helps and how do you manage it all?

We live right across the street from the farm, so we can easily go back and forth. My parents also live next door, so they are a big help. They keep her a few hours every week.

Shannon, who runs our on-farm market, keeps her on Thursday mornings at our house. We have a lot of good help, and we are very thankful to our team. It's working really well.

I'm not sure what's going to happen when she's a toddler and walking around. I'm sure she'll be a little bit harder to keep up with, but right now, I can set her on a blanket and have her in the stroller while I do quick jobs here and there.

How has your role changed since Tulsi came along?

Mostly, my role has become Manger/Overseer, and not so much doing the labor. I am in more of a directing role.

Have you enjoyed that change?

Yeah, most of the time. What I mean is that, it is sometimes easier to just do a job rather than explain to someone how to do it. There are a hundred different jobs to do on the farm every day. We grow such a variety of produce that we are constantly planting new things. When you grow that many things, there are always new crops, and because our labor is seasonal, it means we are constantly training.

It's been a big challenge to keep up with the management of new people.

I see. How many people do you have on staff now?

Currently, we have two full-time apprentices and two part-time workers. Plus, Shannon works the market for us on Wednesday. So there are six of us on the farm, and Shannon makes seven.

We could actually use another. We don't want to manage more people, but for the farm to run more smoothly it would be helpful for us to have another set of hands at least part-time.

That's really amazing. The first time I came out here, in 2014, it was just three or four of you. How has the growth of the farm and your new role as parents changed the workflow on the farm?

We are doing a little more mechanization than we did originally. Everything used to be done pretty much by hand. Now we have a small tractor that we use for initial cultivation, and we are starting to incorporate more tractor work. It helps with the weeding.

We also have a new plastic mulch layer that we are using. We are planting some crops on a biodegradable plastic.

Yes. I saw that out in the field. What is it, and what does it do?

It's made of non-GMO cornstarch, and after several months it biodegrades back into the soil. It keeps the weeds down in a natural way that isn't harmful to our land.

It is not currently permitted under certified organic standards, but we are not certified organic, we are certified naturally grown.

Do you mind explaining the difference between those two? I know as a consumer it can be very confusing to understand the different practices and how the system works.</