Interviewed by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
As a child on her family’s farm in Starkville, Susie Harmon learned to appreciate having fresh vegetables on the dinner table. One of 12 siblings, she was helping plant and pick crops since she could walk. Instead of growing to despise farm work, Harmon fell in love with it. She graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in sociology, and through the years, she has been a social worker in the Tupelo School District, driven a school bus, worked as an insert operator at the Daily Journal, run her own cleaning service and more. She is also a Master Gardener and admits her favorite pastime is planting and harvesting vegetables, most of which she still does at the family farm in Starkville, though she has lived in Tupelo since 1985.
Q: Is there much difference in a spring and a fall vegetable garden?
A: Yes, a big difference. You have cold-weather crops and warm-weather crops. Some of your cold-weather crops are potatoes, carrots, broccoli, beets; and warm-weather crops are lettuce, different varieties of corn, beans and peas. But you also plant at different times, even for a fall garden. Like, for my fall garden, I plant string beans the first week in August; greens in September; onions the end of September. It’s a lot to learn.
Q: You also process your own seeds for planting. What does this mean?
A: To process my own seeds, I let my plants flower out, like at the top of the broccoli plant, there will be seeds. I hang them and let them dry for planting.
Q: What tips would you give others for successful planting and growing?
A: Know about your soil. You can get a soil test from the Mississippi State Extension Service and have a better idea what will best grow in your soil. Know when and how much your plants need to be watered: Some things require a little water and others require a lot. Know if your plants need sun or shade. If you plant tomatoes in the shade, you’ll have no tomatoes.
Q: What do you do with your harvests?
A: I am at the Farmers Depot in Tupelo every Saturday… I can a lot and also sell a lot of canned stuff like string beans, salsa and tomatoes, and I make and can jelly and preserves from the fruit trees in my back yard. If I have anything left over after the market, I deliver it to different people. I give a lot away.
Q: Tell us more about what you give away.
A: I cook huge amounts of vegetables on Sundays and make plates for people. I have people who just come by my house to pick up a plate; I take plates to people who are sick and shut-in; and I also have plates for some of the homeless people in town.