By Mark H. Stowers
Family farms abound in the Delta with some dating back generations with more than a century of labor. In Rolling Fork, Kin Growers may one day reach that plateau but for now, the second-generation farm is rolling along. With roots planted in 1971 when Robert Rutherford, a Farm Service Agent, rented land off of Highway 61 in the Council Bend area, he proudly named it Kin Growers. Now nearly half a century later, his son Bill and wife Mindy are part of the property in that area that spans some 3,600 acres. The family expanded into cattle and fresh produce for Farmer’s Markets for a while but have gone back to focus on the foundation of their farm – row crops.
“We closed the dairy this past September and moved away from the farm to table part of the business to focus on our core farm of soybeans and corn,” Mindy Rutherford said.
Kin Growers lives up to its name by including the Rutherford’s kinfolk in the operations. The Rutherfords’ son and daughter-in-law live and work on the farm while the Rutherfords’ daughter, Jenny Murphy, who lives in Jackson, also helps out with book keeping. All seven of the Rutherfords’ grandchildren help out on the farm. Three times a year, in spring, fall, and winter, they have to put the cattle herd up and, then, in Kin Growers fashion, the entire family helps with the process.
Mindy Rutherford understands the role that Kin Growers plays in helping people eat healthier and being more aware of the origins of their food.
“There is a movement towards eating healthier. Local foods are healthier in that you can skip out on the preservatives that come with shipping foods.” This standard of freshness also applies to the meats they sell. “Our meat is as naturally processed as possible,” Rutherford added.
Murphy noted that the dairy work and commitment along with the Farmer’s Markets took too much focus off of the main row crops and spread the family too thin. They decided to do what was best for the family and cut back the dairy and garden produce and have more time together.
“The dairy was 24/7/365 and we had to milk cows on birthdays, holidays and it was great but needed too much of our time as a family,” Murphy said. “It was a great experience and if anything, it made us appreciate dairy farmers because it was so much more work than we could have ever imagined. It also helped us appreciate family time, play time and all those things. It was quite an experience and we loved doing it. It was just too much. We still have our commercial beef herd but don’t sell to the public.”
All of this is part of the Rutherfords’ goal of helping their family stay in touch with the land. Just one look at the farm’s Facebook page gives everyone a glimpse of a family that loves what they do and loves each other. They are hoping that many future generations will have the same connection to the land that they love.