Mississippi Man Plans Agro-tourist Tea Estate

BROOKHAVEN, Miss.

A Mississippi forester inspired by tea gardens in Charleston, S.C., intends to plant 60,000 tea bushes north of New Orleans.

Jason McDonald told the Clarion Ledger that his property in central Mississippi is ideal for tea and close enough to New Orleans to attract agro tourists.

The subtropical zone receives 50 inches of rain annually. He intends to plant 60,000 bushes on 10 acres owned by FiLoLi Farms of Brookhaven. McDonald, who works as managing partner of the forester and cattle company, intends to plant both large- and small-leaf varietals in an experiment that will take several years. Commercial production requires at least three years of growth, he said.

“Mississippi and tea sounds like a great partnership,” said McDonald. “It would be something that could be sustainable for the state, aside from timber,” he said.

Tea has never been cultivated in this part of the United States but state Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith said that should not present a problem.

Hyde-Smith said the area is good for tea production. “Being a close drive to New Orleans establishes a market,” she said. “We’re not too far away. Consumers are more likely to pick a domestic product when they have a choice.”

The planting is sufficiently large to determine whether there are any natural predators or threats, said McDonald.  “Tea plants are very resilient plants,” said McDonald. “We don’t know of any natural predators they have around here. You can run them over with a bushhog, and they’ll just grow back.”

Source: Clarion Ledger
http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20121015/NEWS/310150019/Reading-leaves-Lincoln-man-sees-opportunities-tea?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CHome%7Cs&nclick_check=1

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