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On the Shoulders of Giants


Jan Holley of Tremont recently received the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) Excellence in Leadership Award for 2012. The award, which recognizes volunteer leaders who have made significant contributions to Farm Bureau and Mississippi agriculture, was presented during Farm Bureau’s annual membership meeting in December.

In her work with agriculture, Jan says she stands on the shoulders of giants. Her family has produced many visionary, innovative agricultural leaders, including her father-in-law and mother-in-law, Sim and Dorothy Holley, who helped organize the Itawamba County Farm Bureau, and her father, Homer Wilson, a semi-retired entomologist who continues to walk cotton fields and take soil samples at the age of 78.

One creative way Jan carries on the family legacy is through an agritourism business she and her husband Danny operate each fall in partnership with his brother Joel, Joel’s wife Mayola, and their extended families. Holley Farm, located in the Appalachian foothills of northeast Mississippi, is designed to entertain its thousands of visitors while teaching them all about Mississippi agriculture.

Another way Jan strives to keep the spirit of her farming ancestors alive is through her active involvement in Farm Bureau and other agricultural organizations. Jan serves as the Itawamba County Farm Bureau Women’s Chair. She was one of 15 women from across the nation selected to attend the American Farm Bureau Federation Women’s Communications Boot Camp, which annually teaches women involved in agriculture how to effectively tell the farmer’s story to the media.

She is a member of the Mississippi Agritourism Association. She sits on an advisory committee for the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce and the Mississippi Tourism Association to promote agriculture and tourism in our state. Jan is a member of the Master Gardener Group and the Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. She serves the Mississippi Women in Agriculture program in many capacities, and was one of three women selected from our state to attend the National Women in Agriculture Conference in Oklahoma City.

“Before I began serving on our county Farm Bureau women’s committee, I didn’t realize how essential agriculture is in our daily lives, even though agriculture has been an important part of my life my entire life,” she said. “It took becoming involved in agricultural organizations for me to realize that without farmers we couldn’t exist.

“Farmers are responsible for the food in our mouths, the clothes on our backs and the shelter over our heads. That realization set me on a course to teach people to better appreciate agriculture. I try to emphasize agriculture’s importance to the kids who visit Holley Farm.”
This is Holley Farm’s fifth year in operation. Even though it has proven to be popular, Jan spent two years conducting research and visiting other farms before convincing family members that agritourism was the way to go.

“Even then, they were not totally convinced until they saw what it was and what it could be. Then they bought into it,” she said with a smile.

Jan says agritourism is not for the faint of heart or for people who don’t have a good labor base.
“We have 20-plus family members who work here on the weekends,” she said. “Without our children and their families we could not do this.”

Jan says you must also be good with people and not mind having large numbers of people on your farm. Plus, you must make your agritourism operation as personal as possible.

“Your visitors must feel as though they are a part of your family and that they are connected to your farm,” she said. “Ideally, a visit to your farm should become a fall tradition, something the entire family looks forward to doing together every year.

“If you are interested in agritourism, you need to do your homework and visit other operations,” she said. “You need to build upon the history and anything else that is unique to your area, and you must continually work to bring in new ideas to keep it a fun, quality experience. Several of us are former educators so that helps.”

Finally, Jan says you must love agriculture to succeed with this.

“Agritourism is a wonderful way to make memories for kids while teaching them about farm life,” she said. “When they are adults, they will think about farmers and food and how it is grown.”
In addition to their agritourism business, the Holleys have a large row crop operation, which they also own with Joel and Mayola.

Jan and Danny are the parents of three children and five grandchildren.

 

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The Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation is the state's largest general farm organization with more than 197,000 member-families statewide.  There are Farm Bureaus in all 82 counties in Mississippi where agriculture comprises a fundamental part of Mississippi 's economy.  Headquartered in Jackson , the federation is an independent, non-profit agricultural organization and is not associated with any arm of the government.  For more information about Farm Bureau, visit our website at www.msfb.org.

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