Many people these days are interested in providing their families with the freshest and most delicious foods possible.
So, the produce at your local grocery store is beautiful, but if you use the smell test, perhaps those tomatoes just don't have the fragrance you are looking for, and if you are looking to buy only organic produce, then your shopping cart is going to be pretty thin.
Most grocery stores offer some organic produce, but not much, and be prepared when you get to the checkout to pay a bigger price for the organic produce.
Another option is to visit the local certified farmers markets. If you go to the Ocean Springs Fresh Market on Saturday morning, you will find P&J Farm, and everything they offer will be USDA certified organic, as P&J is one of just a few USDA-certified farms in Mississippi.
So what's the big deal with organic?
Ask Pat Scrimsher, co-owner of P&J Farm, locate just outside of Saucier, and you will get a long, but interesting reply.
Pat and her husband, Jeff Scrimsher, started their farm in 2010.
"From the very beginning we wanted to provide fresh, delicious food that was chemical free and locally grown, and we also wanted to keep it affordable," Pat Scrimsher said.
Organic produce is expensive so P&J's commitment to affordability is a strong selling point.
Besides the rigorous process that the USDA puts farmers through for them to become certified organic, the planning and constant labor to run an organic farm correctly is overwhelming.
"We have to always be looking six months out," Pat Scrimsher said. "We have to not only be thinking about what crop gets planted when, but we have to think about what crop should be planted in a field before the next one comes in, and what crops should be planted side by side."
Planning and knowledge
For instance, catnip will help keep the insects down, so it goes next to crops, such as tomatoes, that are frequently attacked by bugs.
Okra and sweet potatoes like to grow together for some reason and some plants, such as tomatoes, do better planted on fence rows.
Those are just a few examples of a complex process that involves detailed planning and a store of knowledge.
Some lessons are learned the hard way.
"We had to stop growing broccoli because the bugs just went
crazy over them, and we have some big bugs down here," Pat Scrimsher said, adding that they had to "change and adapt."
Try something new; if it works, it becomes part of the annual plan. If it doesn't, it is discarded or adjusted.
New kind of farming
That philosophy let P&J take on a new kind of farming. P&J wanted to find a way to extend the planting season, and settled on using high-tunnel farming.
High tunnels are structures covered in plastic or fabric, keeping the ground warmer in the early spring and in the late fall.
It extends the season and improves the harvest. P&J also uses an above-ground planting system for some crops that have an automatic water drip system. That improves efficiency and reduces labor.
If you make it to the Ocean Springs Fresh Market and find P&J Farm, what produce should you expect to see?
That depends on the season.
In the early spring you will find started vegetable plants and fresh herbs. P&J offered 68 kinds of herbs this spring. Later in the summer you will find tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, fresh corn, sweet potatoes, garlic, okra and sorrel. And that is just the short list.
P&J also has free-range, organic chicken eggs, honey and handmade soaps.
Pat Scrimsher makes her own shampoo, hand soap, deodorant, laundry detergent, mayonnaise and barbecue sauce; again, that is just the short list.
How to use it
If you are lucky enough to score some organic eggs from P&J -- they usually sell out early on Saturday morning -- here is a simple but time-consuming recipe I think you will love.
EGGS ON TOAST
2 eggs per person
1 pinch salt
2-3 tablespoons cream
Bain Marie (A bain Marie -- Mary's bath -- is a pan of water in which another, smaller pan has been inserted)
Put the bain Marie on the stove and heat the water to create a gentle bath.
Lightly whisk the eggs, add the salt and cream and gently incorporate. Melt a little butter in the top pan, add the eggs and warm the water over a low flame, but never allow the water to boil. This process takes some time, as long as 15 minutes, but the results are spectacular. The eggs take on a custard texture, and are not curdled like in traditional scrambled eggs. Serve the eggs on toast points.
Julian Brunt, who is from a family with deep Southern roots, writes Coast Cooking in Wednesday's Sun Herald and has a blog at sunherald.com.