The Garden Farmacy – Homegrown Food for a Homegrown Economy

The Garden Farmacy – Homegrown Food for a Homegrown Economy

In 2010, Taylor Yowell graduated from Jones County Junior College and was working at a garden center in Hattiesburg when he became interested in learning about organic and healthy foods, as well as how people could access that food. One of his friends also ran an organic vegetable market, which led him to the decision that he wanted to start his own sustainable and organic farm. 

After spending two years in California, one year in Virginia, and then another year in north Mississippi learning about organic farming, he came back to his home in Madison County and started a farm in Bolton, MS. In 2016, The Garden Farmacy was born. 

Photo Courtesy of The Garden Farmacy Facebook

“When I began the farm, it was pretty much just a deserted old homestead. The house didn’t have a roof or a back door. So, really the beginnings of the farm were just from scratch. I was just out here trying to turn this place into something where I can start a farm, first off. Then once I got things going, we grew pretty quickly,” said Yowell. 

The Garden Farmacy is a 6-acre chemical-free farm that uses sustainable methods to farm organically. Their food crops are raised using hand tools, instead of tools like tractors, without dependence on fossil fuels, and the farm does not use any chemical-based fertilizers, nor do they spray any chemical pesticides.

“We have an extreme emphasis on practicing organically and growing naturally. We don’t spray anything and we’re chemical free. We just really try to apply these practices into what is healthy for the ecosystem and try to be pro-environmentalists and healthy farmers, not only to benefit our ecosystem but also to provide a healthy product that’s locally grown for other Mississippians,” said Yowell. 

The Garden Farmacy often attends local farmer’s markets in the metro Jackson area, and they also have a Vegetable Share Program! The Vegetable Share Program gives subscribers a box of vegetables from the farm every week for 10 weeks that are grown, harvested, washed, and delivered by the farm. Their Spring/Summer Vegetable Share has vegetables like spinach, carrots, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more!

“People deserve access to fresh vegetables. Local grown produce is the healthiest produce you can get because it is not harvested and stored and shipped across the country. For us to practice locally and to harvest the day of the deliveries, we’re able to give Mississippians the quality produce that they need to thrive,” said Yowell. 

Photo Courtesy of The Garden Farmacy Facebook

If there was one thing Yowell hopes people would take away from The Garden Farmacy, it would be education and awareness about how healthy eating leads to a healthy life and how the way that peoples’ food is being grown directly affects the environment. 

Yowell also wanted to emphasize that sustainable farming is not as easy as it looks, having to deal with unpredictable weather and limited resources. 

“The hardest part has really been the weather, ultimately, and also having access to resources about the kind of farming we’re doing. There are a handful of people in the whole state that are practicing this way, and that’s the only resource we have as a farm. It’s very much been a hands-on learning experience, and I’ve had to really depend on what I’ve learned within our location and how to deal with challenges on my own. We need more small organic farmers that can work with each other,” said Yowell. 

With The Garden Farmacy, you’re not only getting great organic products, but you’re also supporting a Mississippi business! Supporting local businesses has a direct economic benefit and a direct environmental impact. You’re able to keep more dollars in the local economy and support people that are your neighbors, as well as small businesses that are paying taxes within the state.

“Environmentally, you’re decreasing the amount of time a product has to travel on the road or on the ocean to get to your hands. You’re really decreasing carbon emissions,” said Yowell. “And you’re building a community as well. Once local folks know they can get a certain product that benefits them locally, they’re going to be able to network and see who’s got what product and build a community out of that.”

In your own community, look for CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) around you, like The Garden Farmacy, and make sure to support local businesses whenever you can! 

To learn more about The Garden Farmacy or sign up for their Vegetable Share Program, visit their website or Facebook

Healthy Kids Running Series Inspires Kids to be More Active

Healthy Kids Running Series Inspires Kids to be More Active

Healthy Kids Running Series (HKRS) is a 5-week program that keeps kids active by introducing them to the world of running. The goal: get kids to carry that interest into adulthood, because healthy children create a healthier Mississippi!

HKRS was created in 2009 to combat the rising rates of childhood obesity. This spring, HKRS will hold their second race series in Brandon/Flowood. Vanessa Dover, Community Coordinator of HKRS Brandon/Flowood, became interested in bringing HKRS to Mississippi because she wanted her kids to be involved in an outdoor activity and connect with the local community. 

“The plan is for kids to not only be active with this racing series, but to also learn how to be healthy, learn about the world of running, and about healthy competition,” said Dover. 

HKRS takes place in both the spring and fall, and there are multiple races ranging from 50 yards to a mile in length for kids aged 2-14. They are usually held on Sundays and have informational tables set up at the events from their sponsors.  

“Running is probably one of the cheapest sports that you can do. You buy your kids some shorts and some shoes, and they can run around in the backyard. HKRS has more of a cross country feel. Kids can practice in their own backyards,” said Dover.

Mississippi has one of the highest rates of obesity and heart disease in the country, and one way to combat that is by becoming more active. HKRS is hoping to help Mississippi create a culture of health with these races.

“When I was growing up we were always outdoors. I grew up without cell phones and iPads and things like that. And while I do think those things are important, I do think that being outdoors, being active, and being a part of the community is one thing that has kind of been lost. If we are going to create a healthier Mississippi, we have to start with the kids. Just have to. It needs to be a focus. It needs to be something that is automatic and something that they are taught very early,” said Dover.

Dover stated that one of the hardest parts of the process of putting together this event was finding a location where kids had enough space to run around, parents could watch them, and other sports weren’t having games. Getting the word out about the event has also been a struggle for Dover, but she realized that the key to marketing the event was getting sponsors and using word-of-mouth. 

“It’s really nice to see how excited some of the people in the community are about the race. That has been a really rewarding part. It’s a way to get the entire family involved, too. If you have kids between the age of 2-14, they can all run in a race that day, and if you have older kids they can volunteer to help out. It really is a family event. It’s something where you come out and you just cheer, and you get the entire family out of the house,” said Dover. 


Healthy Kids Running Series works to teach children why health is important and inspire people in the community to take action about their health, just like UProot! 

To learn more about Healthy Kids Running Series visit their Facebook, or sign up for the race online!

FAT to Fit Olympic Games Makes Health Fun

FAT to Fit Olympic Games Makes Health Fun

In 2004, Jefferson County was reported as the most obese county in America. In 2010, Janell and Anthony Edwards attended the Global Obesity Summit in Jackson, and they realized that something needed to be done in terms of improving public health in Mississippi, starting in their community of Jefferson County. That same year, they created the FAT to Fit Olympic Games.

This past year, the Fayette Community Service Organization (FCSO) held its 9th Annual FAT to Fit Olympics Games on July 19 and 20 at Alcorn State. The FAT to Fit Olympic Games consists of many field day games, ranging from 3-on-3 basketball to tug of war, and they have recently added a qualifying event in other counties for four of the tournament games. Winners of all of the games receive a bike or a cash prize. All participants also go through a free health screening.

“Our mission is to foster health and wealth among young men and women, including youth, by empowering service and guidance. Our vision is to create healthier and wealthier communities in Mississippi by turning a negative that has plagued our state for so many years into a positive,” says Janell Edwards.

To date, the Fayette Community Services Organization has conducted over 15,789 free health screenings, and has awarded over 1000 new bicycles and over $4000 in cash and healthcare products. Their goal for the 2020 event is to have a total of five counties participate, and they hope to reach even more counties. 

One of the most helpful people in their journey has been Dr. Olu T. Ekundayo, who helped them realize the importance of getting clean data. 

“When you get the data on somebody’s blood pressure, it comes from a hospital where they have a blood pressure issue. So, we had an event where you’re at the best health possible, and we’re getting those real numbers. You get clean data — you’re not getting sick data,” says Anthony Edwards.

FAT to Fit Olympic Games outgrew both their locations at the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors facility and the local junior high gymnasium in Fayette, and when they realized they were going to be expanding into multiple counties and attracting more people, they decided to partner with Alcorn State and use their larger facilities. 

“We are dedicated to be a part of the solution. We are the inspiration for the nation fighting obesity. We want FAT to Fit to go nationwide. We’ve had participants from thirteen different Mississippi counties and five U.S. states. It will be based in health and people just coming out to have fun,” says Janell Edwards. 

FCSO is also involved in other projects that work to create a culture of health and help lessen the high rates of obesity in our state:

The Fitness is Fun – Community Health Engagement Awareness Program (FIF-CHEAP) implements community engagement activities in targeted counties to increase health knowledge. They provide community meetings, live radio talk segments, and live social media prize campaigns to foster deeper understandings of obesity risk factors and its correlation to social and lifestyle factors, while also promoting obesity prevention and treatment strategies. 

The Healthy Intervention Project Community (HIP-C) tracks the health of 3rd-6th graders with annual health screenings up until their senior year of high school. They have been doing this program for seven years, and their first class of students just graduated. The goal for this project is to establish health consciousness in young children.

The Community Garden in Fayette, MS will open in March 2020 and includes a pond, a walking trail, and a garden. The garden will also have a classroom style demo set up, and through partnerships with MSU Extension and Alcorn State Extension, they will offer gardening classes on site. 

Health Radio Segments – FCSO will have segments on their local radio with healthy advice and recipes in hopes of expanding health literacy throughout the community. This project is funded by the Mississippi State Department of Health. 

Learn more about the Fayette Community Service Organization on their Facebook

Take the Community Input Survey for State Health Assessment

Take the Community Input Survey for State Health Assessment

Four years ago, we started an effort to learn about how Mississippians perceive our state’s health. That effort led to more than 19,000 surveys being conducted, and the results assembled as the State Health Assessment and State Health Improvement Plan, and sharing that information through the brand UProot.

Our four priorities — increasing educational attainment, creating a culture of health, reducing the rate of chronic disease, and improving infant health — and their corresponding workgroups are the result of that work. Now, UProot is working to update the SHA to reflect any changes that have occurred over the past four years in regard to public health. 

The State Health Assessment focused on health in our state and our community. Community input is an essential part of the process to understand the community health strengths and needs as well as ideas for improving the health of the community. We conduct this survey in order to evaluate the health issues facing Mississippi so that we can develop a state health improvement plan. 

So far, we’ve conducted 27 listening sessions across the state, seeking honest answers from the public about health. In order to paint a complete picture of the state’s health needs and aspirations, we need to hear from as many people as possible. You can help online as well!

Please take the time to complete the Community Input Survey for the State Health Assessment. The survey should take about five minutes to complete. All of the responses are anonymous, and you will not be asked for your name. If you have any questions, please contact Katherine Richardson at or 601-576-7653.

Thank you for your participation in working to create a culture of health in Mississippi! 

American Cancer Society “Trains the Trainer” on Cancer Prevention

American Cancer Society “Trains the Trainer” on Cancer Prevention

“We hope to prevent people from ever hearing the words ‘you have cancer,” says Beth Dickson-Gavney of the American Cancer Society. “We also work to ensure that those who do have cancer are getting quality timely treatment and have a high rate of survivorship.”

As the Senior Director of State & Primary Care Systems for ACS’ South Region, Dickson-Gavney is active in advancing the UProot priorities of Creating a Culture of Health + Reducing the Rate of Chronic Disease. She leads the teams of cancer control staff who work with partners around Mississippi (as well as in neighboring states from Arizona to Alabama) to increase prevention and early detection. 

“We try to work from a systems approach,” she says. “We want to save the most number of lives through the fewest deaths.” 

That means that Dickson-Gavney and her team work with a number of partners to reach more people than they could directly reach themselves. For example, one meeting with a large employer can result in their covering costs for an employee tobacco cessation program. They “train the trainer,” educating providers about how to educate patients on cancer prevention, and coaching clinics on how to increase the cancer screening rate.

If patients are diagnosed, ACS staff work with hospitals and treatment centers that provide treatment. They can help if people need a ride to treatment or a place to stay during treatment. After a successful treatment plan, they return to their primary care provider.

ACS South Region is involved in several projects that help prevent cancer and increase the rate of diagnosis and survival: 

Health Equity Community Projects: Jackson is one of the cities chosen for the first cohort for this new program, which shares community-driven solutions among sister cities.

80 percent in every community: Its goal is for 80% of 45+ adults in every community to be screened for colorectal cancer. The program especially targets people whose insurance covers this screening.

Road to Recovery program and lodging during treatment at the new Hope Lodge in Jackson

Project ECHO: University of Mississippi Medical Center leads this telementoring learning collaborative of pediatric providers, which is designed to increase HPV vaccination rates statewide. The current focus is the Mission HPV Cancer Free Campaign, whose goal is to vaccinate children against HPV at 11 or 12 years old, which can provide lifetime protection for six different types of cancer.

Tobacco prevention: Lung cancer is the most deadly of cancers, and smoking is the number one cause. Dickson-Gavney says that there is a relatively new, simple screening for lung cancer, and only around 5% people who are eligible for it receive it.

“We’ve done such a good job at stigmatizing smoking that now we have to fight the stigma around lung cancer — guilt and shame that ‘Maybe I caused this,’ which can make people avoid getting screened and treated,” Dickson-Gavney says.

“Until now, the survivorship rate hasn’t been great. But now there’s a screening, and if we find cancer early, we can treat it,” she says. “It’s important to get the high risk individuals screened.”

The American Cancer Society’s annual Making Strides Against Breast Cancer fundraising walk is Oct 26 in Jackson this year. Learn more about the event and register here.