After leaving Jackson I headed south to Farm in Progress, where I would be WWOOFing for 5 days. Progress is pretty close to the Louisiana border and completely in the willy wacks. Google took me on a scenic tour around a washed out bridge, but I eventually found the nursery. I called Dustin and Shellie Smith, the owners, for directions to their house. At their home, this gorgeous blue sky greeted me along with the two little rascals below, Pip and Mr. Patch.
Dustin and Shellie welcomed me into their home and introduced me to their two kids, Sadie and Everhett. We sat and talked for quite a while. Both Shellie and Dustin are friendly, thoughtful, intelligent, curious people who have some firm ideas about the world, but are very open to different viewpoints and enjoy discussions about a wide range of topics, particularly farming and horticulture. Not for nothing did they manage to successfully run an organic farm in southern Mississippi for 7 years, where building the market for organic produce is an uphill battle. The Progress Nursery is a new venture for the Smith's and they're learning on-the-fly. Shellie currently spends much of the week away at school, working toward a horticulture degree, while Dustin runs the nursery.
The overall project for the week was to tackle clearing one of the greenhouses so that groundcloth and gravel could be installed later.
The greenhouse was packed with ferns and palms that are rented out for weddings and Christmas cactus cuttings being prepped for sale later in the year. There were also a lot of other hanging plants, many of which needed a major trim. Every last bit of this needed to be moved to the other greenhouse or placed outside temporarily.
On the first morning, Dustin and I went off to Bracy's Nursery, a wholesale provider not too far from Farm in Progress/Progress Nursery. Bracy's is immense, immaculate, and perfectly maintained. There was not a pot out of place, as far as the eye could see. While it was fun to see, I prefer the more organic look of the Progress Nursery.
My time at the nursery again reminded me how much I love greenhouse work. I spent nearly an entire day just weeding the Christmas cactus, listening to the rain pound against the plastic. Toward the end of the week I walked nearly 5 miles in one day while transporting hundreds of ferns and other plants to the yard or the other greenhouse. The work was physical enough that it felt satisfying and just repetitive enough that it often felt like one big, long meditation. I scratched the hell out of my legs on the bougainvillea and felt as though I was missing my fingerprints by the end of the week, but the level of comfortable tiredness and muscle aches were worth it.
Dustin's friend came to help us over a couple of days and between the three of us, the greenhouse was cleared on Thursday evening. I spent the next morning trimming back hanging pots in the other greenhouse and eventually made my way down the road toward Louisiana for the night.
I'm grateful for the Smith's hospitality and generosity of spirit. It was election week after all, and it could have been weird, but it simply wasn't. Instead, it was a quiet, simple few days of hard work, good food, and a lot of conversation. I'm looking forward to stopping by someday in the future to see where Shellie and Dustin take their Farm in Progress.