On February 23, 2022, the Office of Graduate & International Programs, Temple Environmental Law Society, OUTLaw, and the Student Wellness Association welcomed Jason McDonald, president of The Great Mississippi Tea Company, for an event called “Farm to teacup: how environmental, sustainability, and organic food laws affect the building of America’s fastest growing tea farm.”
Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, after water. Almost all tea consumed in the United States is imported, but McDonald and a few other intrepid American tea farmers are bringing the tea industry to U.S. domestic soil. His company has planted over 60,000 tea bushes on their farm in Lincoln County, Mississippi.
McDonald, who attended law school, described how environmental, sustainability, and organic food laws affected building his tea farm. He gave an overview of the regulations related to land preparation and agroforestry, growing, harvesting, post-harvest, organic standards, and trademark and business practices.
Speaking to a full classroom of students, faculty, and staff, McDonald also answered questions about how international laws can affect U.S. tea, how labeling practices can be confusing and misleading, why they maintain high ethical standards, and how their business model breaks from traditional plantation farming to a model that creates sustainable wages.
Later that day, McDonald’s husband Timothy Gipson, who is co-owner of the company, led a tea-tasting for the law school’s tea club. For the first time, students were able to sample Mississippi black and oolong teas, as well as their signature Grilled Southern Peach tea.
During the discussion, McDonald and Gipson also spoke about their experiences as being the first same-sex married couple in their rural Mississippi county and the process they went through to procure their marriage license.