Jason Brown works with volunteers to harvest sweet potatoes at his farm in Louisburg, North Carolina.
Can you imagine giving up a high-paying job in professional sports to pursue a completely different dream? That is exactly what Jason Brown did. At one point, he was a player in the National Football League (NFL) with a $37-million contract with the St. Louis Rams. He decided to leave professional football behind and become a farmer, so he could grow food to give to others. He made a plan to do this even though he had never farmed a day in his life. He says he studied how-to videos on YouTube to learn. He also asked for pointers from farmers in Louisburg, North Carolina, where he bought his farm.
In the fall of 2014, Brown harvested his first crop of sweet potatoes. Part of his plan is to donate the first crops of every harvest to local food banks, where food is stored and eventually given to people in need. That’s why Brown calls his farm “First Fruits Farm.” From last year’s first harvest, he gave away 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes and 10,000 pounds of cucumbers.
Brown grew up in Henderson, North Carolina, and was a top football player at North Vance High School. He was also a member of the National Honor Society. He later became the starting center for the football team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. When he joined the NFL, he first played for the Baltimore Ravens and then for the Rams.
After Brown was cut from the Rams, other teams were interested in him. But he chose to leave his football career behind to live his life helping others. His Christian faith and the idea of living a life in service are what inspired him to make this change. His family has been very supportive of his decision. He and his wife Tay, who is a dentist, have four children.
For each harvest at Brown’s farm, members of the group he donates to help glean, or pick the crop. They bring their own trucks and people to work the fields. Some of the organizations that Brown donates to are the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, the Society of St. Andrew, and the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
Brown has plans to plant twice as many acres of sweet potatoes this year, so he’ll have more crops to give away. He would like his upcoming harvests to be festive events. Brown believes that working in the fields followed by a celebration with food and music would be a great way to honor his faith and promote fellowship in his community.