From the Farm to Emeril’s Kitchen: Farmer Jones Delivers the Best Collards and Produce

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    By Candace J. Semien | Jozef Syndicate reporter

    GREENBURG, La —When celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse needed great greens, his eye for flavor and freshness led him and his television crew to the fields of Sweet Jones Farm.

    There, they met J’Quincy Jones Sr., who is known across St. Helena and East Baton Rouge parishes as “Farmer Jones.”

    “He’s proud of his collard greens and rightfully so,” said Lagasse in voiceover. “The farm is not the biggest operation in the state, even the region — far from it — but boy, do they know how to grow good produce.”

    Jones prepared 25 pounds of collard and mustard greens for season four, episode one of Emeril Cooks, Legrasse’s Roku original show.

    The episode is called “Collard Greens for All,” and it opens at Sweet Jones Farm with Farmer Jones delivering 10–15 pounds of greens to two Baton Rouge businesses. At Southern Cofe, an urban cafe in Scotlandville near Southern University, owner Horatio Isadore has a designated display box for the local residents to grab a bag of free vegetables. “Sweet Jones Farms has some of the best products out there,” said Isadore.

    “I guarantee before the day is over with, they will be gone,” said Jones. Next, he delivers greens to Boil-n-Roux, an exceptional Southern kitchen restaurant. “The (greens) are always fresh, as you can see, and they’re good,” said Maurice Walker, owner.

    Then, the 24-minute Emeril Cooks episode goes to Greensburg, La., where Jones walks through rows of greens, corn, herbs, and tomatoes, talks to three of his goats, and works with a young farmer. He’s wearing brown cargo overalls, knee high work boots, and a straw hat held down with string around his chin. Jones’s voice is heavy with a distinct southern Louisiana twang and a passion for farming.

    “I did not come from a line of family farmers. I’m a first-generation farmer. As I started finding myself, I always wanted to do something that meant something,” said Jones, who has found farming to be a “good purpose-driven life.”

    One way he brings purpose is by establishing community gardens in the middle of neighborhoods so residents can pick food for free. So, the production team from Emeril Cooks follows Jones to North 38th Street in Baton Rouge to one of Louisiana’s 494 “food deserts.” The USDA identifies communities as “food deserts” because supermarkets or other food retailers that carry affordable and nutritious food are not near the residents.

    There, Jones meets the Rev. Errol Domingue, pastor of Elm Grove Baptist Church, who has asked Jones to establish a community garden on a vacant lot near the church. “We want the people here in this so-called food desert to experience healthy food rather than going to buy junk,” said Domingue.

    Jones and West Baton Rouge farmer Kardell Thomas go straight to work, planting tomatoes. Once completed, the church’s garden could produce a minimum of 1,000 to 2,000 pounds of seasonal vegetables a year.

    “That’s powerful,” said Domingue.

    After a short break, the cooking segment begins with Jones joining Emeril at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans.

    Collard greens from Sweet Jones Farm along with cabbage, mustard greens, radish leaves, carrot tops, and turnip greens were washed, chopped, and waiting to be cooked.

    Step by step, Lagrasse prepared three of his favorite collard dishes: gumbo z’herbs, green shakshuka, and spatchcocked chicken with braised collard greens.

    They were delicious, Jones said. “I take it very seriously that somebody takes my food and feeds themselves. That’s the power of growing greens to me.”

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