Brookhaven farm will grow first MS tea crop

BROOKHAVEN, MS (Mississippi News Now) - The soil in Mississippi is naturally acidic, perfect for growing tea.

Jason McDonald of FiLoLi Farms in Brookhaven is about to give it a try. He plans to fill ten acres of his land with an experimental tea crop.

"Basically find out about predators or any types of diseases here in Mississippi. Because it hasn't been grown here in Mississippi, we need to get the research on that," he says. "We would grow here, process here, bag here, sell here or through mail order. It would be a 100% Mississippi product."

McDonald has extensively researched tea farming. On Thursday, he brought Mississippi Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith out to the land, along with experts from Mississippi State University and a few other state agencies. Commissioner Smith has visited the only commercial tea farm in the United States, which is in South Carolina. She supports the prospect of introducing a new crop to our state.

"In all agriculture production, this is about profitability. You're not going to grow something you're not going to make a profit on," she says. "It's just exciting when you have a farmer call, say I want to do something new, something different. A lot of this is something you never heard of. We drink tea every day. The second most consumed beverage in the world is tea."

McDonald is not asking for state money. He plans to swallow the cost of the pilot project himself.

He doesn't plan to start planting until 2014. It will take 3-5 years to find out if tea will be a boom crop in Mississippi, or a bust.

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.