In the past week, I dug Irish potatoes, planted sweet potato slips, planted two rows of purple hull peas and one row of cream peas, plus side-dressed (fertilized), tilled, and irrigated my two-row crop gardens. Any day now, when my sunflowers, sweet corn, and okra get a little taller, I’ll turn my Light Brahma chicken flock into my garden to help weed, fertilize, and catch insects.

I’ve been raising chickens and growing a garden since childhood, so it comes as second nature to me. I descend from a long line of Deep East Texas folks that knew how to feed themselves. But as we all know, times are very different now as most people feed themselves through grocery stores and restaurants. The good news is that there is lots of interest these days in producing fresh produce on one’s own land and own terms. Homegrown vegetables are naturally fresher than the store-bought versions and bring a world of satisfaction to those that find a way to produce them. In addition to nutritious food, gardening, and farming provide exercise, sunlight, fresh air, and mental stimulation. Nobody said it was easy!

Thankfully there are many books, websites, and YouTube videos to help get the ball rolling. If you prefer an in-person “crash course,” you are in luck as Prairie View A&M University and the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will be hosting a Backyard Farming and Management Practices Workshop at the Tyler Rose Center (420 Rose Park Dr Tyler, Texas 75702). The program is sponsored by the Smith County Soil and Water Conservation District, Texas Organics, Vital Earth, and Texas Farm Bureau Insurance.

This educational event is tailored towards small landowners and urban residential homeowners who have an interest in starting vegetable and small poultry production in their own backyards. The program will also cover composting along with basic hydroponics and aquaponics.

Topics and speakers include:

Composting – Clint Perkins, Smith County Extension Agent-Agriculture and Natural Resources

Backyard Poultry Production – Lee Dudley, Panola County Extension Agent-Agriculture and Natural Resources

Summer Gardening — Greg Grant, Smith County Extension Agent-Horticulture

Hydroponics and Aquaponics – Jeremy Peaches, Prairie View A&M University Urban Gardening Specialist

To register for the event, call the Smith County AgriLife Extension office at 903-590-2980 or email Smith County Prairie View Agent Antony Brown at [email protected]. The cost for the program is $10 per person with payment accepted at the door via cash, check, or credit cards. Lunch is included.  If you have any questions, please contact the Smith County Extension office 903-590-2980. The flyer and schedule are posted on the Texas A&M AgriLife-Smith County Facebook page.


Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is the author of Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, Heirloom Gardening in the South, and The Rose Rustlers. You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at and read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine ( More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at and