James of Jibb’s Vineyard
Home is where the harvest is for South Georgia farmer Howard James. From sun up to sun down he produces the best produce for Georgia consumers.
“I cover about 1,000 acres, which is about the amount that I farm,” said James, 62, of Byromville, Georgia. “I have everything from muscadine grapes, peaches, green plums, watermelon and persimmons to shelled peas, butterbeans and cut up collards.”
Owner and operator of Jibb’s Vineyard in Dooly County, James has dedicated his life to farming his family’s land — an affinity he’s had since age 5.
“I knew this was my calling,” James said. “Between 26 and 27 I started farming for myself, but I was 40 when I purchased my own farm. Today, my quality fruits and vegetables can be found in places like Walmart.”
What started off as a hobby of 18 vines of muscadine turned into 6 acres then a lucrative business fall 1983.
A true man of the land, James literally works from daybreak until that last glimmer of light disappears from across the hayfield.
“As long as there is light, I’m going to keep working,” he said. “I love what I do and could never see myself doing anything else.”
James views his farm work as more than a lucrative career. It’s a way to keep his family’s torch burning. He’s one of eight children and the only one who still farms.
“One of the greatest things we can share is what we’re able to pass on,” said James. “When our ancestors pass something on to us and if you’re able to hold on to it, then sell it to your own, which means it remains in that culture.”
James’ love for the land is something he believes should reach and inspire the next generation to consider agriculture as a profession. During every academic year, he invites local students to the vineyard to pick as many muscadines as they can.
“The Dooly County first-graders come here, and they can eat all they want,” he said. “It gives them some connection to the foundation of where the fruits and vegetables they’re eating comes from. The food is not just in the store.”
He also offers this advice to farming families wanting to sustain their land and/or business for generations to come:
“If you really want to encourage young folk to get back to the land, they need to be made partners,” James said adamantly. “You start them small and help them grow into the business so one day they can own it with confidence.”
And that poise is evident every time James climbs into his tractor, manicures his fields and greets vineyard visitors.
“Of course, there’s been difficulty to get this far,” he said, “but that’s a part of growth.”
- The best time to pick muscadines at Jibb’s Vineyard: late August, early September
- The best way to build a business like Howard James: start independent, produce quality products
- His words of wisdom about farming: “Whatever your desires and if God purposes you to be there, he will provide it.”