By Brandi Perry
Located halfway between Quitman and Waynesboro in Clarke County is a farm that may have the largest muscadine crop in the entire world, but their story does not end there. These grapes are just a small sampling of what makes up this large farm.
The former owner had set up the vineyard and production facility for his new venture to create jams, syrups and other muscadine products. He even collaborated with Mississippi State University to find more types to be used for the juice market. But his dreams for the vineyard never came to fruition.
Owner Charley Phillips bought 900 acres of land from the Meridian businessman without much thought of what it truly took to run a muscadine farm. Before he became the owner, the farm had fallen into disarray with major overgrowth throughout the property. After some hard work and dedication to the grapes, they were off and running, even though at that time they were not truly sure what that meant. What resulted was the largest muscadine vineyard in the country that ships its valuable juice all over the East Coast, particularly the Carolinas. Ever had good Carolina wine? There is a good chance that the juice to make that wine came from Mississippi. Even though they pick around three million pounds of the tasty fruits a year, not all of them are sold and shipped in bulk. Farmers markets throughout Mississippi have enjoyed their muscadines and not just because they are delicious.
Native to the southeastern part of the United States, muscadine grapes have been utilized for more than 400 years. Native Americans would not only dry the muscadines for a food source but would also use the blue hue found in the juice of the grapes as a source of blue dye. Even though they continue to grow wild in areas throughout the south, especially along creek and riverbanks, many people are not aware that there are so many types of these delicious fruits. For instance, scuppernongs were named for the area in which they were discovered but just represent the bronze-colored muscadines.
Dark fruited muscadines are usually referred to as “bullis” with variations such as Bullace, Bullet Grape or Bull Grape. While the bronze and black varieties are the most recognizable, 100 years of muscadine breeding has yielded a dozen or more new strands. So, when the Phillips say they grow nine or 10 different grape varieties on their farm, it is not a stretch to understand how that happens.
Like most fresh fruits, there are a great deal of health benefits from consuming muscadines and their juice. First, they are fat-free and high in fiber. Additionally, they are high in antioxidants, especially ellagic acid which has demonstrated anticarcinogenic properties in the colon, lungs and liver in studies.
In 2020, the family decided they would enter the produce world and started using 20 of their acres to produce fresh vegetables for sure. The farmers market on their property is open from mid-May until mid-September. At any given time, you can find purple hull peas, crowder peas, tomatoes, watermelons, blueberries, okra, corn, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, butter beans and snap beans, in addition to jellies, jams, pickles and even muscadine ice cream. However, even during the off-season when the actual farmers market is not open, you can still buy the juice, syrup and jams and jellies from them.
A new addition to their farm just in the last month is the You Pick Flower Garden. There are very few places that visitors can visit and pay to pick whatever variety of flowers they want. That is exactly why the Phillips introduced this new trend that is sure to catch on for all ages and all special events.
Breckenridge Farm is no stranger to events. They hosted A Day on the Farm in July and offered food, music, produce and shopping with more than 20 vendors. The turnout was spectacular and that has them very excited about what possibilities may be just on the horizon for them. Their Touch the Truck event brought in a police car, ambulance, tractors, harvester, motorcycle, firetruck and a helicopter in addition to live music from Brooks Wood. For just $5, kids had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the vehicles they see nearly daily and ask questions of those who drive and work on them. While the kids were occupied, the parents found time to relax and enjoy some good food and music. There is no doubt these two events will pave the way for many more at Breckenridge Farms!
If you are going to visit, follow the signs to the farmers market. They are open Monda through Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm from mid-May to mid-September. There is nothing quite like picking up fresh fruits and vegetables that are still hanging on the vine just a few hours before. The taste is unmatched, and you will be not only helping a locally owned business but also ensuring local farmers can continue to provide for their families. Every year, the number of farm families in Mississippi diminishes, and we must do everything in our power to support them.
Breckenridge Farms is located at 181 Americana Drive in Shubuta, Mississippi. Check out their Facebook, where they post when they have events scheduled and when there is a new crop available at the farmers market. If you have any questions before making the trip to Clarke County, give them a call at 601-776-7477 or email them at breckenridgefarms@ yahoo.com. If you have more questions or want to learn more about their farm and what they do there, go to their website at breckenridgefarms.net and it should answer most of your questions!
Do not make any other plans for the day when you head out to Breckenridge Farms because you are going to want to spend the day!