BUSINESS

The Debutante Farmer grows tomatoes in Oxford

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Courtney Kamm
The Oxford Eagle

A Mississippi woman is making a name for herself nationally as the Debutante Farmer – two words that aren’t often seen together in the same sentence because one symbolizes glamour and the other, dirt.

elizabeth-204x300When Elizabeth Heiskell and her husband, Luke, decided to plant a vegetable garden at their home, their tomatoes weren’t the only things that flourished.

“I made my husband do all the dirty work,” Heiskell said.

While Luke Heiskell did all the planting, Elizabeth Heiskell focused on the retail, often driving to Memphis to sell almost 5,000 pounds of tomatoes from their garden.

image1“I became an early drinker,” Elizabeth Heiskell laughed. “You would too if you were faced with this many of one thing and nothing to do with them.”

So Heiskell decided to combine the two things that were taking over her life, vodka and tomatoes. Her husband supported the idea.

“If you’re going to drink vodka in the morning, at least add the tomatoes,” he said. Thus, Debutante Farmer Bloody Mary Mix was born.

Before creating Debutante Farmer, Elizabeth Heiskell was much more than a tomato gardener. Growing up in the Mississippi Delta, Heiskell enjoyed cooking and studied in Hyde Park, New York, at the Culinary Institute of America.

Heiskell later became the head culinary instructor at the Viking Cooking School in Greenwood. She also represented Viking on exclusive Silver Sea cruises through Spain, Portugal and Hawaii.

Before founding Debutante Farmer, Heiskell moved to Oxford where she and her husband live on Woodson Ridge Farms, providing fresh produce to local chefs, restaurants, and families in the surrounding communities. The farm also grows other healthy vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers.

If you are looking to purchase their famous Bloody Mary Mix, it is sold at Oxford Floral on Jefferson Avenue and in more than 75 retailers across the Southeast.

You can also order Debutante Farmer Bloody Mary Mix online, along with Heiskell’s cookbook Who Stole the Cornbread From My Dressing.

Heiskell was featured on NBC’s Today Show at the beginning of the month, where she talked about her shift from “foodie to farmer.”

The farm where these famous tomatoes are grown is more than just grass and seeds. Woodson Ridge Farms hosts parties, family gatherings, weddings and caters events.

Heiskell also runs the Debutante Farmer catering company with event coordinator, Sarah Virden Gillis.

“We have catered all different sized events from graduation parties to small family reunions,” Gillis said.

Her favorite part of the job is being able to work with different groups and watch their dreams become a reality.

“The looks on their faces when they walk into the venue all decorated is the best,” said Gillis.

You can view the Debutante Farmer catering menu online. Debutante Farmer is more than a brand name, it’s a story of one woman, her glass of vodka, and hundreds of tomatoes.

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