The principle of giving and a passion for farming have helped Howard James turn a hobby into a profitable business.
James is the owner of Jibbs Vineyard Quality Fruits and Vegetables, a Georgia Certified Farm Market through the Georgia Farm Bureau.
Jibbs Vineyard is named after Edith James, Howard’s mother, who was affectionately nicknamed Jibb.
Nestled in Dooly County, the vineyard sits on 150 acres of land in the farming community of Byromville. On the vineyard, James grows muscadines, peaches, plums, watermelons, collards, mustards, rutabagas and cabbages. James’ produce is sold on site at his market in season, as well as stores like Wal-Mart within a 50 mile radius.
“When people come out here (Jibbs Vineyard) they want to know how I got started with fruits and vegetables and how I got certified. I tell them everything I know. I do all I can to help,” James said. “We get so many calls. People want to know how we get our produce to taste so good,” he said proudly.
On a daily basis you can find James tending the soil or assisting senior citizens. “The elderly have a special place in my heart,” he said.
In the summer months he often greets his elderly customers with a slice of watermelon and allows them to sit in rocking chairs aligned on the porch of his storefront.
“Any of the elderly can get pretty much anything I got,” James said. The 66-year-old who practices giving as a principle said giving is the process of becoming blessed.
As a guiding principle, he gives more than he is asked to give.
“You don’t lose what you give. It comes back multiplied. If I plant one seed, I don’t get back one crop. So if you are looking to sell something, always give a little more than what they bought,” James said.
Having sold vegetables for 30 years, the small farmer did not become certified with the Georgia Farmer’s Market until 2010.
“The Farm Bureau liked what I was doing and they wanted to advance me as much as they could through advertising,” James said.
He said the process had requirements that he was able to meet such as having an up-to standard- facility and the use of fair pricing.
In addition to help he received from the Georgia Farm Bureau, James also received assistance from federal programs.
In the early 90’s James recalls receiving his first loan from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and his ability to pay it off.
“The purpose of the programs are to help you grow and get you to the point where you can become independent. I had an FSA loan and I eventually grew to independence,” James said.
“Doing so has helped me be an example for others.”
With decades of farming experience, one of the ways he serves as an example to others is through service.
“I’m a member of the National Black Grower’s Council and we specialize in helping minorities get started in farming and help them become successful at farming,” James said.
Through this council, James and other experienced farmers use grant funds administered to the council to distribute information and to offer field days to educate farmers.
“All of it is a part of getting knowledge out to the public,” he said. Some of the knowledge shared includes heir property, crop demonstrations and information about financial assistance. Some of the knowledge James has received has come through Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension workshops and trainings.
The father of three said one of the factors that has helped his farm stay afloat since purchasing the farm from his father in 1997 is being sincere and honest.
“Farming is not designed for scams and schemes. You won’t survive. If you’re in it for the long haul, you have to do what’s right,” James said.
For more information about Jibbs Vineyard Quality Fruit and Vegetables, visit https://bit.ly/3XSEDS2