Tea is growing crop in U.S. In this Feb. 29, 2016 photograph, grower Jason McDonald, at The Great Mississippi Tea Company, near Brookhaven, Miss., shows some of the tea plants he hopes to develop into a strong sustainable cash crop. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Tea is growing crop in U.S.
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After Hurricane Katrina wiped out his timber 11 years ago, Jason McDonald wanted a crop less susceptible to Mississippi's potentially powerful storms.
 
Low maintenance was also a priority.
 
"I didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning," McDonald said.
 
A chance encounter with South Carolina tea drew him into the growing ranks of North American farmers from Mississippi to British Columbia. They are growing tea for the high-priced specialty market.
 
There's money to be made. More Americans are willing to pay premium prices for what they consider top quality, tea consultant Nigel Melican said in a phone interview from Bedford, England.
 
The specialty tea market is growing 8 to 10 percent a year. That is according to Peter F. Goggi's 2015 market review for the Tea Association of the U.S.A. Inc. Such teas are particularly attractive to millennials, who "find delight in the discovery of new and differentiated flavors, ethnic or new cultural offerings and craft selections," he wrote.
 
Melican said U.S. wages are too high to compete with overseas farmers who grow the commodity tea commonly found on grocery shelves.
 
For example, a 4-ounce box of 50 Lipton black tea bags can be found online for $3. Connecticut-based Bigelow Tea sells the South Carolina-grown product at $7.95 for a box of 12 tea bags that weigh less than an ounce.
 
Compared with some prices, that's peanuts.
 
Eliah Halpenny of Big Island Tea on the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii sells her black and green teas wholesale for about $42 an ounce. Her online retail prices work out to more than $75 an ounce.
 
Light of Day Organic Teas in Traverse City, Michigan, where plastic-covered "hoop houses" shelter tea plants eight months of the year, sells its home-grown white tea for $256 a pound or $32 for a 1.5-ounce tin. It takes 70,000 hand-picked leaf buds to make a pound of white tea. That is according to owner Angela Macke.
 
"I don't recommend it to anyone as a commercial crop. You've got to love it," Macke said in a phone interview.
 
About 60 U.S. farms, with only a handful created before 2000, are growing tea, said Tygh Waters. He is president of the U.S. League of Tea Growers and founder of Piedmont Tea Co. in Athens, Georgia. Tea is grown in at least 15 states and the Canadian province of British Columbia. Outside of Hawaii, it generally takes about five years for plants to grow big enough to survive repeated harvests, Walters said.
 
A tea bag helped decide McDonald's future. This was after the 2005 hurricane wiped out 75 percent of the pine trees on his farm of nearly 5,000 acres near Tylertown. It is about 40 miles from what is now his Great Mississippi Tea Company in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
 
On a visit to South Carolina, he was served a tea called American Classic. The message on the teabag's envelope intrigued him - this tea was homegrown.
 
That led him to the nation's oldest working tea farm: Charleston Tea Plantation, started by Lipton in 1963 with plants that had grown wild on a defunct farm in Summerville, South Carolina. There, McDonald learned that tea comes from Camellia sinensis, which needs high heat, acidic soil, ample rainfall and humidity. Mississippi State University researchers helped him determine what varieties might be best for Mississippi.
 
After an unusually cold winter killed off nearly an entire year's stock in Mississippi, McDonald began buying seeds from overseas. He got seeds from places such as Nepal and Kenya. Now he's looking to cross cold-hardy and heat-tolerant plants. He wants to produce a hybrid that will thrive in Mississippi.
 
He's also planted seeds from a Hattiesburg woman named Penny. She gave him two huge plants for a promise to name some of their offspring after her. He says those seedlings are growing much faster than other varieties. Hoping for a copper-hued tea, McDonald named them "A Penny's Worth of Copper."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is growing tea lower maintenance than cattle?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (10)
  • mayaw-6-bar
    3/21/2016 - 01:25 a.m.

    Growing tea is lower maintenance than farming cattle because cattle can escape, compared to tea which stays in one place. In this article, in paragraph 3, it states that, "'I didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning,' McDonald said." McDonald has probably had experience with farming cattle in the past, so if he chose tea over cattle, then tea is less maintenance. Therefore, growing tea is lower maintenance than farming cattle because cattle can escape, compared to tea which cannot go anywhere. I liked this article because when I think of farming, I do not think of tea farming, so this article as made me more open minded towards all of the different kinds of farming. I thought it was crazy that an ounce of tea could sell for $32.

  • charliet-orv
    3/21/2016 - 03:03 p.m.

    Tea can't move. So it can't run away.

  • kayleeu-2-bar
    3/21/2016 - 07:04 p.m.

    Growing tea is lower maintenance than cattle because cattle can escape as tea doesn't leave the ground. When hurricane Katrina wiped out a farmers timber he decided to go into the tea business because he "didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning." For tea you don't have to wake up so early to take care of it.

    My opinion on this article is that its so cool how much you can but tea for.

  • Steve0620-yyca
    3/21/2016 - 09:35 p.m.

    I think that it is a good idea to have crops which are cheaper when a hurricane or storm hits. A man named Jason McDonald wanted to have low maintenance for his crops. He sold different types of tea and sold them in markets. He is trying to make the teas and other products cheaper. Many people are buying what he made from his garden. There are many different types of tea which people like. Researchers from Mississippi also studied to see which tea would be best planted for the different areas of soil.

  • theaw-4-bar
    3/22/2016 - 12:52 a.m.

    Growing tea is lower maintenance than containing and 'farming' cattle because it is less time consuming. A farmer named McDonald said, "I didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning," This means long hours, whilst when growing tea you do not need to constantly feed it, or move it, or milk it. I liked this article because I like tea. I found this article interesting because I have been to a cattle farm in Sweden, and seen how high maintenance it is. I also hope that the tea he was growing was all-organic, non GMO. I thought this article was funny because the farmer was called McDonald.

  • raymunda-4-bar
    3/23/2016 - 10:02 p.m.

    Growing tea is a lower maintenance than cattle because, cows are harder to take care of, since they are motive creatures and you have to feed, and take care of them. Contrary, tea is easy to take care of, since all they have to do, is to water the plant in good soil, wait for it to grow, and voila, their new plant has grown. Plus, McDonald explained that " [He] didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning." (Paragraph 3, Janet McConnaughey) This shows that the cows are harder to control, since McDonald even admitted, that he doesn't want hassle by waking up early, just to feed the cows.
    This article is interesting because tea is a very cheap plant to produce, yet has tons of different flavors, is adored by many, and is sold at high prices. I guess that's how the world REALLY cares about tea. What shocked me the most, is that I didn't know that tea was made in the US?! I thought it was not the right soil and you had to import it to somewhere else! That's insane!

  • carolinev-2-bar
    3/25/2016 - 12:29 a.m.

    Growing tea is a lower maintenance job the job than farming cattle because it is very hard to keep track these moving mammals whereas tea trees stay in one place. In paragraph three the article stated,'I didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning,' McDonald said.” Before the disastrous hurricane Katrina farmer McDonald raised and farmed cattle but after the storm he had a chance to start over so instead of having to tend these animals all the time even at 3 or 4 in the morning he wanted to take a chance in the tea industry.
    I enjoyed this article because I thought it was very interesting also I love tea. I read this article because I was drinking tea while doing looking up tween tribune stories.

  • josepht-2-bar
    3/25/2016 - 12:46 a.m.

    Growing tea requires a lower maintenance, because it won't run away. "I didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning," McDonald said. And he probably owned cattle before and knew how much time and effort it is to raise cattle. I think that this article was interesting because his name is McDonald.

  • jackw-4-bar
    3/25/2016 - 10:14 a.m.

    Growing tea is lower maintenence than cattle because you have to chase the cattle around in the morning, which you don't have to do with tea. This article surprised me because tea isn't that expensive, so I don't know why you would farm that instead of something more expensive.

  • alexanderc-6-bar
    3/25/2016 - 03:56 p.m.

    Growing tea is lower maintenance than farming cattle because cattle can escape, compared to tea which stays in one place. In this article, in paragraph 3, it states that, "'I didn't want to be a cattle farmer and chase down cattle at 3 or 4 in the morning,' McDonald said." McDonald has probably had experience with farming cattle in the past, so if he chose tea over cattle, then tea is less maintenance. Therefore, growing tea is lower maintenance than farming cattle because cattle can escape, compared to tea which cannot go anywhere. I liked this article because when I think of farming, I do not think of tea farming, so this article as made me more open minded towards all of the different kinds of farming. I thought it was crazy that an ounce of tea could sell for $32.

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