By Portia Hackett
Cultivating to support the community is what First Fruits Farm owners, Jason and Tay Brown exemplify. Jason Brown is a former NFL Lineman who chose a life of service to the community through his ministry and his service to aid in hunger relief through his farm. The Browns own a 1,000-acre farm in Louisburg, but utilize 250 acres which all go towards producing crops that feed the community. It is called First Fruits Farm because the first crops are donated to those in need. The Browns do not stop there—they donate all their crops to feed the community. Crops include sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, apples, chestnuts, and Japanese persimmons. The farm has 2 beehives, a dairy cow named Butterscotch, and 50 pastured-raised hens.
A Commitment to Education
Maintaining sound farming practices and proper land management is important to the Browns, and they are committed to sharing what they know and have learned with others. Which is why they work with local schools for field trips that provide education on farming, growing, cooking, and preserving food. One of the main partners of First Fruits Farm is NC State University. NC State partners with the farm through volunteering and helping them to maintain their ponds and lakes. Through this partnership students have access to hands-on learning and research opportunities to learn more about the species in the bodies of water around the farm.
Community is at the heart of everything the Browns do, which is why they offer the use of space on their farm for community events. Their restored dairy barn that was originally built in 1953 is at the center of their community spaces. The Amazing Graze Barn is an event space where weddings, community gatherings, and events can take place. Recently, First Fruits Farm hosted the Grazefully Rooted Dinner—a farm-to-table event that allowed those who bought tickets to experience food across the African diaspora.
In the future, the Browns hope to expand the farm’s proteins, including eggs, poultry, and beef, and maybe even milk. They would also like to set up a CSA exchange of working on the farm in exchange for food donations. Currently, they are working to establish their farm as a 501c3 non-profit.
Our Cooperative Connection
First Fruits Farm will receive an $11,000 grant from Weaver Street Market’s Cooperative Community Grant to support their efforts to provide fresh produce and poultry to those in need throughout the community. The grant funds are to help the Browns purchase a refrigeration/freezer unit for storing the farm’s produce and poultry. The E.Q.U.I.T.Y. Alliance is collaborating with the Browns to identify other funding sources as well as ways to promote the farm’s community work. Learn more about First Fruits Farm here.