Click to Visit the MS Gen Web site
Copiah Queries, Obits, Wills, Deeds, etc.
Search this site and others ...
State of MS with Copiah in Red

Join the MS-Copiah Discussion list

Click to visit the USGen Web project
My View of the Vegetable Industry

This is a FREE site provided by the MSGen Web Project.

05/30/14 was the last day I modified this page.

God Bless America

The Copiah Co., Mississippi Vegetable Industry

1870 to about 1958


Sad to say, it is no more. A once thriving industry that carried Copiah Co., Mississippi thru the Great Depression of the 1930’s and was at one time a many million dollar per year industry is no more. I doubt that you could take a million dollars to Copiah Co., MS. today and buy a truckload of any kind of vegetables, let alone tomatoes.  The Copiah Co., MS. tomato has been recognized as the best tasting tomato on the market due to the soil it is raised in.


My father C.A.Roper (Hazlehurst Mercantile Co.) one Saturday about 1943-45 shipped over 50 rail carloads of tomatoes. We started about 9:00 am, after enough tomatoes had come to town worked all day and night Saturday, stopping Sunday so that the workers could go to church, and finished up Sunday afternoon. A rail carload of tomatoes was about 750 crates of 30 pounds of tomatoes. I was his fifth son, so starting about 9 years old (1939) I was his label boy. I did this till after my freshman year in College 1948-1949.  I guess I must have labeled more boxes, crates, hampers, and baskets of Copiah Co., MS. produce than any other person in Copiah Co., MS., maybe the World.


I have heard it said that the tomato business in Copiah Co., MS. was estimated to be worth at least 12 to 14 million dollars a year in the 1930’s and 1940’s when a million dollars was a lot of money. About 6 to 7 million in Crystal Springs, 5 or 6 million in Hazlehurst and 1 to 2 million in Georgetown, Utica, and Wesson, MS. It was also said that in the heart of the depression, there was more money in the banks of Copiah Co., MS. than there was in the Jackson, MS. banks. Wise Motor Co. of Hazlehurst, Ms sold more large trucks than any Ford dealership in the country in those years.


This industry ceased because the young men coming back from the wars found they could go to college on the GI Bill to get a better job than the stoop labor of vegetable farming. Also about 1945 we started to have diseases in tomatoes like “wilt’, “fungus”, “stem rot” and others that would nearly wipe out a crop and the new tomato varieties breed to resist these had not been developed. This is where the Crystal Springs State experiment farm came into being. As the older farmers died out, no one was there to replace them. Besides, some in Copiah thought pine tree farms were a better deal, less work and just lay back and wait while your trees grew big.


This vegetable business was deep into my blood. My Grandfather William B. Alford Sr.  (Alford & Miller Co.) was in the business, as was his father William Warren Alford at Gallman, MS.  Others at Hazlehurst, MS. were S. Kemp & Co., Ford Pitts, Roy Tomicich, and Kenneth Catching, to name a few.  Many more in Crystal Springs and elsewhere in Copiah.


Maybe if the world keeps going as it has, and this country keeps getting deeper in debt to the other nations, with no industry here to help pay the bills, we may be so bad off that even the people who despised the stoop labor involved in vegetable farming will return to the Earth for a living.  Thanks for hearing an old man list some of his childhood memories.  


Patrick E. Roper, September 11, 2008.

Content Copyright Rob Crawford,, County Coordinator    All rights reserved.

For Questions about MSGenWeb or to adopt a county, please contact the State Coordinator , or the Assistant State Coordinator