Sometimes, you have to take an idea and run with it because you never know where it will lead you. That’s exactly what happened when proud Mississippi State alumni Jody and Brittany Reyer decided to start their own family farm in Lena three years ago.
“It all started because we had a beautiful baby girl,” says Jody, a management of construction and land development graduate (’04). “When our daughter was born, Brittany wanted to become a stay-at-home mom. So, we started making plans for her to come home.”
Brittany, an integrated pest management graduate (’07) who at the time was working as the Scott County Ag agent for the MSU Extension Service, suggested to Jody that they start growing strawberries to help support their growing family.
“I thought there was no way; we knew nothing about it,” reflects Jody, who at the time owned a welding business. “But we took our savings and gave it a go. We started out growing heirloom tomatoes in raised beds behind the house, so we could get familiar with it.”
Now, Reyer Farms is set to produce 21 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes throughout the year.
“Our tomatoes are a little bit on the weird side because they’re not any uniform size, shape or color,” says Jody. “We have a huge tomato that is yellow, orange and red and looks like it’s on fire. We have another tomato that when fully ripe is green and has dark green stripes just like a watermelon. We have tomatoes that are black, ones that are blue and ones that are heart-shaped. We even have tomatoes that have a smoky flavor.”
Keeping up with the local demand can be a lot to juggle at times, but Jody says working hard to meet this demand reflects “our commitment to grow the best product that we can give the consumer while being good stewards of the land God blessed us with.”
“We’re a small, 37-acre farm, so we have to be creative and cater to very delicate niche markets. If it has our name on it, it’s got to meet a standard,” he says. “When we have people who say they don’t eat tomatoes and have never liked them to buy and enjoy our tomatoes, I think that’s a good mark of success.”
Speaking of success, Reyer Farms is equally revered for its super delicate strawberries.
“Probably the most flattering comment that I got all year was from a guy from California,” says Jody. “He told me that the area that he lived in was a huge strawberry hub, where they grow acres and acres of berries and have a strawberry festival. He tried our strawberries and he said to me, ‘Son, that’s the best strawberry I’ve ever had in my life.’ I thought to myself, ‘Today’s a good day. We are doing our job well.’”
While heirloom tomatoes and strawberries are the farm’s biggest draws, Jody and Brittany are always looking to expand their already extensive array of produce offerings, which include figs, blackberries, squash, basil, dill, peas, greens, zucchini, eggplant, hot and sweet peppers, okra, turnip greens, sweet corn, turnips and seed sprouts, among others.
“Diversity is what makes life so good, so we don’t want to keep doing the same thing over and over. We want our customers to have options,” Jody says, adding that he and Brittany recently decided to begin selling heritage meat products.
“We have been raising chickens, but this is our first year selling pork and beef,” Jody says. “Our large black hogs are originally from England, and they’re a very hearty animal. They’re a very rare breed, so they’re prized for their meat that is super delicious.”
“Our cattle are a critically endangered breed called the Pineywoods, which were originally brought over by Spanish explorers. Their beef is extremely lean and very healthy and is a little different than Hartford or Black Angus beef.”
“Our customer base is very excited about it,” says Jody. “We couldn’t do it without the good customers that we have who take the time to ask questions, get to know us and care about what we do.”
In addition to the Livingston Farmers Market in Madison and Mississippi Farmers Market in Jackson, Reyer Farms products are featured at numerous Jackson-metropolitan restaurants including Walker’s Drive-In, Local 463 Urban Kitchen, Table 100, Babalu Tacos and Tapas, The Manship Wood Fired Kitchen and The Iron Horse Grill.
Though very blessed to be business owners, Brittany and Jody say more than anything, they are proud to be mom and dad to daughters Anna Paisleigh (“Butterbean”) and Ava Rose.
“Anna Paisleigh was actually planting tomatoes before she could talk. I tell everybody she’s the youngest tomato farmer in the state,” quips Jody. “She knows about all the facets of what we do, and when we have to go out and work, she stays out there with us. She’s usually the one who tells everybody which strawberries to eat, and she’s really good with the animals.”
“We want our daughters to be diverse and smart, so we will tell them they can go to any school they want to as long as it’s Mississippi State,” he says with a laugh, while adding, “I’m kind of hoping Anna will spend some time at the Wise Center.”
Offering a premium, fairly-priced product and providing customers with an experience they can’t get anywhere else always will be of the utmost importance to the Reyers.
“We’ve always wanted this farm to be something bigger than just us,” Jody emphasized. “We treat our customers like family. We want people to come out to the farm and see what we do and how we’re doing it, and we hope that they will taste the passion that we have for what we do.”
“We try to have fun and enjoy the life that we’re living because there’s nothing in this life that’s guaranteed. You have to get up every morning, get your heart right, go outside and see what the day brings,” he says.
1-2: Mississippi State alums Jody and Brittany Reyer started growing heirloom tomatoes in raised beds behind their home in Lena. Now, more than three years later, Reyer Farms is set to produce more than 20 varieties throughout the year.
3-5: Blackberries are among Reyer Farms’ extensive array of fresh produce offerings, which include figs, squash, basil, dill, peas, zucchini, eggplant, and hot and sweet peppers.
6-7: Reyer Farms’ heirloom tomatoes are becoming increasingly popular among restaurant chefs in the Jackson-metropolitan area.
8: The Reyer Family: Jody, Anna Paisleigh, Brittany, and Ava Rose.
9-12: Always striving for variety, Jody and Brittany decided to start selling fresh pork and beef this year. The extremely lean beef from their Pineywoods cattle is quickly becoming a customer favorite.
13-14: Originally from England, the large black hog is another rare breed featured at Reyer Farms.
15: Anna Paisleigh Reyer, affectionately known as Butterbean, enjoys helping parents Jody and Brittany take care of their newborn black hogs.