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THE DIRT Summer 2014

We connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families

SUMMER FUN WITH LITTLE ONES! School may be out, but good food can be good (educational!) fun! 4

FIELD TRIP TO THE COAST! Newest farmer-led instructional videos focus on Coastal Growers 6

Behold, a Real Green Lawn. Chemical-Free Yards are Stunning—and More Important than Ever.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT Mitch Lawson, Rise ‘N’ Shine Organic Farm 14

Tag football. Hide and seek. Corn hole. Grilling out with neighbors. These are just a few of the funtastic activities that take place every weekend on that most American plot of green: our lawns. Lush, green grass is as much of a status symbol in many neighborhoods as cars and job titles. But there’s a cost to that expanse of monochromatic monoculture, and there’s a dirty little secret hiding in plain sight in our yards. According to the National Fish and Wildlife Service, homeowners use up to 10 times more chemicals per acre than farmers. “These CONTINUED ON PAGE 8


200-A Ottley Dr. Atlanta, GA 30324 678.702.0400


Mandy Mahoney, PRESIDENT Linda DiSantis, VICE PRESIDENT Ellen Macht, TREASURER Kurt Ebersbach, SECRETARY Robert Currey Naomi Davis Dee Dee Digby Jessica Reece Fagan Cheryl Galway Julia Gaskin Roderick Gilbert Diane Harris Jenni Harris Connie Hayes Mark Hennessy Carroll Johnson Melissa Libby Cashawn Myers Rashid Nuri Joe Reynolds Brennan Washington



Farmer Services Assistant


Farmer Services Coordinator


Farm to School Director


Conference Coordinator/Atlanta Local Food Initiative DIrector


Northeast Georgia Farm to School Coordinator


Communications Coordinator


Development Coordinator


Director of Operations


Development Director


My Market Coordinator


Executive Director


Farm to School Coordinator


Director of Programs


Administrative Assistant

THE DIRT Summer 2014• Published Quarterly Georgia Organics, Inc. 200-A Ottley Dr., Atlanta GA 30324, Volume 16 Issue #2 Copyright © 2014, Georgia Organics, Inc. All rights reserved.

FOLLOW US! @georgiaorganics GeorgiaOrganics


Confessions of a Tree-Hugging Tree Killer My mother told me I should cut down that tree, but I didn’t listen. She is an avid gardener, and she knew that small red maple would grow big, spread shallow roots and cast shade throughout my small yard, ruining any chance to grow sun-loving perennials and vegetables. I dragged my feet, and it cost me. Fifteen years later, I stood before the Atlanta Tree Commission, abashed and contrite, trying to get a permit to cut down my amply sized maple tree. It was a curious dilemma, trees vs. food, particularly for a self-identified “treehugger” who worked for Georgia Organics. How do you weigh the value of trees against the ability for families to grow their own food? I have to say I tripped the Commission on that one. In the end, I got the permit and paid a hefty fine to be allocated towards preserving our city’s beloved canopy. Today, there are raspberries, lettuce, kale, herbs, onions, cilantro, and blueberries in my front yard, and even a pomegranate tree that finally bore fruit last fall. It is a vast improvement from the small grassy patch I once had, at least in my eyes. Others might find it an unusual—even distasteful— diversion from the manicured landscapes that dominate the neighborhood (even with their pesticide application warning signs). Most people don’t realize that homeowners are the biggest pesticide applicators per acre, not farmers. And these pesticides are not safe. According to Beyond Pesticides, a national nonprofit, 19 of the 30 commonly used lawn pesticides are known carcinogens. These are the very lawns our kids and animals play on, not to mention the birds, insects, and soil life. How did we get here? We have had a long history and desire to tame wilderness, and lawns have come to symbolize the ultimate order and mastery over nature. Lawns represent the idyllic pastoral landscape, as well as leisure activities. Who doesn’t want to toss a Frisbee or run barefoot when they see a wide swath of green goodness? But lawns are the monoculture of urban and suburban zones and their impacts on our land, water, and wildlife should be reassessed. In 2007, I noticed something peculiar happening in Atlanta. Everywhere I looked, it seemed that people were digging up their yards and planting food gardens. Raised beds sprung up overnight. People went crazy with tomato cages. More and more chickens could be heard in unexpected locations. The food movement


had arrived at lawn’s edge and began to take it over. Michael Pollan’s and Barbara Kingsolver’s books, “The Ominvore’s Dilemma” and “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” provided the inspirational fodder to take up the trowel. Since then people have been discovering the wonders, tastes, and nutrition that can be found in their own yards, container gardens, and neighborhoods. It’s empowering to take your colander in the front yard and return to the kitchen with harvested greens just in time for dinner. It’s also a great place to learn about nature and reconnect with your senses. I could stare for hours at the bees swarming my flowering oregano or the crazy antics of my chickens.

I still feel sheepish every fall when I remember the beauty of that maple tree or how the warblers congregated in it during migration. I suppose it is my personal “omnivore’s dilemma.” Now, an imposing and expanding water oak is casting deeper shadows across my yard and seeking revenge on my Bunyanesque past. Nature will have the last word. She always does.



Farm to School The Farmers Market: Classroom and Playground The best lessons are taught when a child doesn’t know they are learning. And at many farmers markets around the state, kids are learning week after week. At Community Farmers Markets in Atlanta, generous volunteers from all over the city put together activities that teach the importance of sustainability, cooking, gardening, and so much more. At the Forsyth Farmers Market in Savannah, the Little Green Wagon is a place for children to plant seeds and

Learning in the Garden

watch them grow over the course of several market visits. Mainstreet Farmers Market in Statesboro often features bands from local schools on their main stage. One day it will be up to our children to ensure good, clean food is available for everyone. During every trip to the market, children are learning more about where their food comes from and the importance of eating well. —Danielle Moore


Garden tasks are great learning experiences. At every stage of plant growth there’s a different job to be done and something new to learn. • Children can dig a hole, plant a seed, and cover it up with dirt. • They can water their seeds, and watch them grow. • With adult help, they can pull the weeds that grow next to their plants. They can even help harvest. _____________________ Watch our video on gardening with preschoolers!


Watermelon Salsa

So many delicious seasonal summer foods can be prepared simply, and kids love to eat them! Here is a recipe for Watermelon Salsa from the Georgia Dept. of Public Health’s SHAPE initiative. INGREDIENTS

3 cups finely diced seedless watermelon Great job for kids! Watermelon is soft enough they can even cut it with a spoon!

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced* 1/3 cup chopped cilantro Kids can help tear the cilantro into little pieces, or cut it with scissors.

1/4 cup lime juice Squeezing


lemons and limes is always a fun job for kids.

1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir well to combine. 2. Served chilled or at room temperature.

1/4 cup minced red onion 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste Let kids help measure!


*Feel free to use less jalapeno pepper, or omit it altogether.

Want to try more kid-friendly recipes?

Our Farm to School Annual Report!

Between the Golden Radish Award, the Lettuce Try It campaign for National Farm to School month, and our pilot program in Northeast Georgia, 2013 was a banner year for our Farm to School Program. Behold everything we did in our new annual report! Download it:



Between the garden, kitchen, and farmers market, good food can be good fun!

Apply for the 2014 Golden Radish Award!

If your school district is engaged in farm to school, tell them to apply for the Golden Radish Award! The Golden Radish Award is given to school districts and Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) in Georgia who are doing extraordinary work in farm to school. This year the award will recognize school districts/LEAs for all aspects of farm to school—from local food procurement to hosting taste test to gardening with students. Gold, Silver, and Bronze Radishes will be given to recognize school districts/LEAs with varying levels of farm to school programs. Districts/LEAs must submit their final applications by June 30. Tell your school leaders to check out the criteria and apply on our website. The award is presented by the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia Department of Agriculture, Georgia Department of Public Health, and Georgia Organics. Awards will be given on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014 at the State Capitol in Atlanta.

2014 Conference Videos Online!

Did you miss our conference earlier this year, but really want to know more about crop planning? Do you dig soil biology? Want to #farmhack your way to greatness using open source technology? Thanks to the wonders of Vimeo (and our friends at 2600 Productions) you can still learn from some of the best—videos from many of the sessions are now online. CHECK OUT THESE VIDEOS AND MORE AT

Roxy lettuce Just one of over 650 varieties including high-yielding hybrid, unique heirloom and open-pollinated varieties.

To request a free catalog, visit or call 802.472.6174

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In The Field Growing Organic Peanuts JIMMY HAYES, HEALTHY HOLLOW FARMS

“It is nice to have irrigation, especially around planting time and pegging time, because that's the critical time for the peanut to have water.” WORDS OF WISDOM

Animal Welfare Approved Farrowing Facility BEN DEEN, SAVANNAH RIVER FARMS

“I prefer to farrow indoors versus outdoors. We have a very big mortality rate on the outside compared to inside. " WORDS OF WISDOM

COASTAL SERVICE For the latest set of farmer-led instructional videos in our Field Trip! series, the team at Anthony-Masterson Photography focused on the Georgia coast, where members of Coastal Organic Growers are doing amazing things in sandy soil. To see more videos, check out

Growing in Sandy Soil

Growing Ginger



"Fertilizer is put in the tractor along with the seeds and the seeds and the fertilizer are distributed together." WORDS OF WISDOM

Brooder House Watering Systems


"These plants need a lot of water in order to keep the leaves succulent."

Farm Hack: High Tunnel to Chicken Coop



"One more huge advantage to this is the cost—it's super-inexpensive."





"So what's this all about? It's about taking misfortune and turning it into a great opportunity."

Gwendolyn and Brennan Washington, farmers and summer fashion plates

Hey Brennan Washington of Phoenix Gardens —How'd You Name That Farm? Six months after we bought our farm, we got a notice from the county that our property was going to probably be seized for a major road project. We were sick about it and were on pins and needles for about a year. The county eventually contacted us and said they would only need a small piece for a right of way. After breathing a sigh of relief, we named our place Phoenix Gardens because, like the mythical bird, our dream rose from the ashes. _________________________ To find out more about Phoenix Gardens, check them out at

Regional Groups Vital to Statewide Good Food Shift Farmer Services Coordinator Donn Cooper, our man in the field

When you have the largest land area east of the Mississippi River, the second most counties in the country, and distinct geographical regions and environments, there is no one-stop shop for meeting the needs of farmers across Georgia. Instead, from Rabun to Camden, the state is fortunate to boast a number of energetic farmer-driven groups emerging to serve their communities. Eric Wagoner deserves immense credit for this evolution. His Locally Grown software created new online markets in every corner of Georgia and the coun- DIG DEEPER GEORGIA MOUNTAINS try, enabling farmers to come FARMERS NETWORK together around the common cause of selling their goods and creating innovative marketing AUGUSTA LOCALLY GROWN and educational organizations. Northeast Georgia Locally Grown developed from an on-

line market and buying point in Clarkesville into the Georgia Mountain Farmers Network, a producer-based nonprofit stretching from metro Atlanta to the South Carolina line. Augusta Locally Grown has also spawned a robust network of growers and consumers, creating educational and fellowship opportunities. Coastal




(highlighted on the previous THE SOUTHEASTERN page) similarly arose to address AFRICAN AMERICAN homegrown issues far-flung FARMERS ORGANIC from Atlanta, namely promot- NETWORK ing consumer demand for sus- tainable food and overcoming the challenges of farming organically in the heat and sand of southeast Georgia. The Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education in Albany is working to solve problems specific to its part

of the state. Day by day, its programs are empowering sociallydisadvantaged farmers and providing opportunities for local food in local school systems. From the West Georgia Cooperative outside of Columbus, to the Okravores in Tifton, to the Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network, the nation’s largest African-American organic farming organization, the list goes on. In a state as diverse as Georgia, it takes multiple villages. Georgia Organics is proud to partner with them.

Tour up to 14 different Northeast Georgia sustainable farms, share conversation over farm-fresh meals, and grab some produce along the way! Georgia Organics is a proud sponsor of this event. For more information, or to buy tickets,


Nominate the Next Georgia Organics Board Member Members of Georgia Organics are invited to provide nominations of candidates to serve on the Board of Directors. The Board supports Georgia Organics’ mission to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families. To nominate someone for the board, go to



pesticides are going from our lawns and gardens into our drinking water and into our bodies,” wrote physician Diane Lewis in a recent op-ed for the New York Times. Luckily, there are myriad ways to make your lawn an attractive—even productive!—backdrop without resorting to expensive chemical and fuel-intensive practices. Some of Georgia’s most respected farms, like Phoenix Gardens in Lawrenceville, the Global Growers network in Dekalb County, and the Funny Farm in Stone Mountain, are literally in the yards of suburban homes. WHEN THE GRASS ISN'T GREENER

Sustenance Design, LLC

“Prior to the 1950s there really weren’t ‘lawns,’ just natural areas that filtered water runoff or grass and gardens around houses,” said Danna Cain of Home and Garden Design in Atlanta. “Veggie gardens were a big part of that and they were called ‘Victory Gardens’ during World War II. In the post atomic age, the ‘lawn’ was created as the ideal for a suburban homeowner.” That ideal comes at a cost: About 100 million pounds of pesticides are used by homeowners in homes and gardens each year, according to watchdog group Beyond Pesticides. Of 30 commonly used lawn pesticides, 19 are linked with cancer or carcinogens, 13 are linked with birth defects, 21 with reproductive effects, 26 with liver or kidney damage, 15 with neurotoxicity, and 11 with disruption of the endocrine (hormonal) system. And these chemicals frequently make their way indoors due to pesticide drift: according to a Beyond Pesticides report, “pesticides in our home can concentrate to the point where they expose children to levels 10 times

"It’s more than just something that we’re looking at." For Sustenance Design's Lindsey Mann, our lawns are an opportunity for health and beauty.

Why do people need to change how they think about yards? The toxic chemical inputs are the first thing that needs to go. Secondarily, we could increase biodiversity, and we could increase usefulness. Pollinator gardens and edible plants are ways to increase the usefulness of a landscape. It’s more than just something that we’re looking at, it’s something that provides therapy, that provides food. Increasing use, increasing diversity, but stopping chemical inputs is first.

How could someone costeffectively make a transition? They can start working with what they have, with the plants that want to grow. A lot of “weeds” in our area are actually very beautiful plants. The



dandelion is edible, it’s beautiful, it’s a pollinator plant. A dandelion is a great example. People hear the word “weed” and they start freaking out.

Are they going to look weird among typical neighborhood lawns? I think that they look beautiful. I think they look more natural. I’ve started seeing monoculture lawns as uninteresting, and almost fake. When I see a monoculture lawn, I see chemical guzzling and water guzzling. And so I think [the ecological aesthetic] looks beautiful. It’s a much more sophisticated approach. —Kait Gray


3 Ways to Shake Up Your Lawn

Sustenance Design, LLC

Want to transition from a conventional lawn? Danna Cain of Home & Garden Design is here to help.

higher than pre-application levels.” Maintenance on traditional lawns also requires fossil fuel-emitting push lawn mowers that, depending on who you listen to (either the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Union of Concerned Scientists, or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality), emit the same amount of air pollution as operating eight, 11, or 25 cars for an hour. Riding mowers are worse, emitting the pollution equivalent of up to 34 cars per hour.

grasses, that are more drought-tolerant and are shade-tolerant.” Clover is a great first step. It’s a tough, lovely ground cover with flowers that make pollinators happy and roots that fix nitrogen in the soil. Upkeep is also less intensive for lawns that embrace natural processes. “Personally, I would rather weed and cut back perennials several times a year rather than be obligated to mow once a week,” said Cain.


FARM YARD Duane Marcus of the Funny Farm is a grower

“OK!” you might be thinking, “Conventional lawn care is bad! But how can I transition my yard into something more natural? Where should I start?” First, what do you want to get out of your new lawn? Food? A habitat for pollinators? (If you’re thinking about the first one, you should be thinking about the second one.) A place for your family to relax on a nice afternoon? “If people want open space, there are lots of organic solutions to the lawn,” said Lindsey Mann, founder of edible landscape design firm Sustenance Design. “There’re mixes of fine fescue, there are mixes of different

and an experienced landscaper, and he knows firsthand that food production need not cut into aesthetic appeal. (Don't take our word for it—check out the photo of his yard on the cover.) Fruit trees and berry bushes make productive and stunning additions to any yard, and many ornamental herbs like rosemary, lavender, and thyme also have culinary and medicinal uses. And as the rise of square foot gardening indicates, even small yards contain a world of food-production possibilities. “A very small space can produce food for CONTINUED ON PAGE 10

‘FAUX LAWN’ … GROUND COVER THAT EMULATES A LAWN The concept here is that you plant something very low growing to replace the image of a lawn. Something evergreen is best. This concept tends to blend the best with neighbors who have traditional lawns. In the shade, mondo grass is awesome. There are regular, dwarf, and miniature versions. The regular variety can even be mowed if desired, to provide a more walkable surface. Either can tolerate light to moderate traffic from kids and dogs once established. If that’s not a concern, consider native ground covers such as “Green & Gold” Chrysoganum or heuchera. If more height is acceptable, Hellebores is lovely as well as large drifts of evergreen fern such as Autumn Fern. In very shady rear lawns, we’ve even encouraged what we call “eco lawns.” They are a blend of naturally developing moss, violets, and low-growing wildflowers. FORGET ABOUT A ‘FAUX LAWN’—JUST LANDSCAPE! If there’s no need or desire to blend with the neighborhood, then just landscape the entire space. Integrate shrubs, perennials, and ground covers to fill the whole area. This is an opportunity to diversify your plant selection. You can introduce more natives, more flowers, and invite birds, butterflies, pollinators, and beneficial insects while providing you with four seasons of color and interest. GO WILD In neighborhoods where anything is acceptable or in a rural setting, consider planting the entire area with wildflower seed. This will result in an intriguing cottage style garden that will be a real boost for bees and pollinators. This is a very inexpensive choice. —Kait Gray



DIG DEEPER Their goal: To educate about the benefits of environmentally responsible lawn care and gardening.


four people, easily, all year round,” Marcus says. He estimates he grows the food he sells at markets on less than 1/8th of an acre. If you’re going to be growing food, you should also be thinking about how to create habitats for pollinators and other beneficial wildlife. It’s surprisingly attainable, says Benjamin Portwood of Edible Yard and Garden in Decatur. “Landscapes can be improved and enhanced by using species that serve more functions than just beauty,” Portwood says. “Modern lawns tend to be a monoculture maintained using strong chemicals that reduce biodiversity and contaminate groundwater and stormwater runoff. At the same time, they /lawn This nonprofit has a wealth of resources for organic lawn care.

only feed one function.” ONE LAWN AT A TIME

But how much change can one yard really make? More than you’d think. According to, U.S. lawns cover between 30 and 50 million acres. “Combined, our individual plots add up to much more space than wild space exists today,” said Mann. “In the end it’s so worthwhile because of the environmental benefits and the health benefits.” Food, not lawns. Beets, not Bermuda grass. “If you invite it, it will come,” says Cain. “We’ve even witnessed butterflies and hummingbirds arriving on the very day that we install herbs and flowering plants.” The lawn is already a habitat for so much—neighborhood A global community working together to grow and share food, seeds, medicine, and knowledge.

gatherings, sun tanning, reading a good book on a Sunday afternoon. Chemical-free lawns can be just as stunning as the sea of grass we’ve regarded as ideal for far too long, and they cost far less both financially and environmentally. If yards are status symbols, wouldn’t it be great for the new ideal to be verdant swathes of culinary, medicinal, and ornamental plantlife grown in cooperation with Mother Nature? Marcus’ yard is a feat of permaculture, and at first some of his neighbors weren’t as enthusiastic as he was about the changes he was making to his subdivision’s flora fabric. But a curious thing has happened in the seven years he’s lived there—more and more, his yard has become an entry point for

neighbors and passersby to talk to him about horticulture and growing methods. It’s how he met a fellow herbalist who talked to him about comfrey—and then brought him some. It’s why he got a handmade card from an elderly neighbor, thanking him for planting the beautiful flowers she loves to walk by. Yards like Marcus’ make an impact on the environment in more ways than one. Yes, they’re reducing chemical inputs. Yes, they’re creating habitats for wildlife and space to grow pure food. But they’re also an opportunity for a beautiful outward expression of personal values, and an opportunity to share that value with your neighbors. And that’s more beautiful than any chemicaldrenched monoculture. Additional reporting by Kait Gray

Offering over 10 years of affordable classes on gardening, husbandry, and more

Basics of Seed Sowing Saturday, August 16, 9:30am-12:30pm Pest and Disease Management Tuesday, August 26, 6:30-8pm Garden Bed Building Saturday, September 6, 9:30am- 12:30pm How to Grow a Veggie Garden Wylde Center Plants INCLUDED! Saturday, September 13, 10am-12pm

Chickens are Easy! Intro to Keeping Chickens Saturday, September 20, 10am-12pm Edible Gardening Featuring the Oakhurst Garden Tuesday, September 23, 6:30pm-8pm How not to Water your Garden Saturday, October 4, 12:45pm-3pm Pruning and Perennial Care Saturday, October 11, 10:30am -12:30pm

More classes and info at



Find us


The Porter's Nick Rutherford


The Porter is a culinary crown jewel in Atlanta, and Nick Rutherford is "co-owner, executive chef, vintage list curator and the ultimate handyman" behind an incredible restaurant that sources from many an incredible farm. What inspires you as a chef?

I get inspired when I travel and get to taste what chefs are doing in other cities and countries. I was recently in Chicago and enjoyed eating all this rich food. Due to the cold winter, Chicagoans don't mind a hearty dish of Foie Gras and scrambled eggs. I'm not sure it would work in Atlanta unless we got another snow storm! The Porter is known for both great food and great beer— how do the two relate?

Anthropologists and historians like to argue over when civilization started and we settled down and had agriculture instead of being hunter gathers, was the grain we grew mostly for bread or for beer? I feel the same way, beer is just as important as food, in fact sometimes beer is food. How does seasonality play a role in your menu planning?

My specials menu is 100 percent seasonally based. I buy whatever is available from local farmers and create the menu based on what is available. The list of farms on your menu is impressive—how has working with farmers affected you as a chef?

It's an honor when a farmer comes by with his product. He or she is trusting you to serve it in a way that shows all the best aspects of the product and gets people excited about it, no matter if it's heirloom tomatoes or foraged mushrooms. We love that there's a community outreach section of the Porter's website. Why is it important for you to support the groups mentioned there?

Because just as it take a village to raise a child, it takes a community to make a restaurant what it is. We try to support the communities that support us. It's good karma.

The Good Shepherd Agro Ecology team. From left: Eugene Cooke, Tanisha Nicholson, Nicole Bluh, Imran Battla, and Teena Myers.

Hugelkultur in Atlanta’s West End Offers Mounds of Benefits

On many levels, organic farms are works of solution for some site-specific challenges. The art. Using processes perfected by nature to four-acre plot had been farmed before, as a grow environmentally responsible—and de- garden intended to grow fresh produce for the licious—food takes skill, hard work, and a surrounding community, but it was low-lying touch of artistry, and that’s all on display at and prone to flooding. Another challenge: two trees, a tulip poplar and a oak, were the Good Shepherd Agro Ecology Cendying. “We had to look at resources in an ter in Atlanta’s West End. innovative way,” Cooke said. Farmers Eugene Cooke and Nicole Hugelkultur mounds solved both Bluh designed the site, utilizing a farmREAD problems. During a marathon working method called hugelkultur: MORE on the day, GSAEC volunteers, Urban GrowUsed for centuries in Eastern Europe blog! ers Trainees from the Truly Living Well and Germany, hugelkultur (in GerCenter for Natural Urban Agriculture, man hugelkultur translates roughly as and members of the surrounding neighbor“mound culture”) is a gardening and hood came together to roll the cut-up trunks farming technique whereby woody into three three-pronged triskelion mounds, debris (fallen branches and/or logs) which were then covered with branches and are used as a resource. twigs from shrubs around property that were It’s a technique that’s seen increased interest woven around the logs like a net with twine. as permaculture and agro ecology principles They finished off the mounds with straw, enter the gardening mainstream (yay for leaves, and finally, soil. that!), and it’s an ancient, ingenious, and efThis shared activity built two things – fective way to maintain nutrient cycling. mounds, and a collective stake and sense of For Cooke and Bluh, hugelkultur was a good accomplishment. GEORGIAORGANICS.ORG 11


Several Georgia Organics staffers took part in this fourth annual event— Admin Anika White (pictured), Farmer Services Coordinator Donn Cooper, and Farmer Services Assistant Perri Campis tabled, and Farm to School Director Erin Croom led a workshop about growing and selling to schools. Boardmember Brennan Washington led a session on intensive small-scale farming.


We got an awesome opportunity to hang out with our chef advisory team and Atlanta-area members ­—all in our new expanded digs! Thanks to our friends at Ansley Wine Merchants, attendees sampled vinos produced sustainably, organically, and biodynamically. It’s hard to beat wine, cheese, and getting to meet so many great supporters of sustainable agriculture in Georgia.


Washington, D.C., March 30-April 1

Georgia Organics Farmer Services staff and board member Brennan Washington participated in a farmer listening session with Middle Georgia farmers to hear their concerns and needs. Great things are happening in Middle Georgia, and the whole state needs to know about it!


Georgia Organics Farm to School Director Erin Croom was part of a delegation from Georgia who attended a national gathering in support of efforts to improve school nutrition coordinated by the Pew Charitable Trusts. (Photo above, from left: Croom, Carrollton City Schools Nutrition Director Dr. Linette Dodson, Georgia PTA Health and Wellness Chair Heather Young, and Burke County School Nutrition Director Donna Martin.) Croom met with five Georgia Congressional members and their staff— Rep. John Lewis, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, Sen. Johnny Isakson, and Rep. John Barrow—to talk about how the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act has improved the nutrition of school meals.




Communications Coordinator Brooke Hatfield led a taste test at Kinchafoonee Primary School (where her mother Susie teaches first grade!) as part of a day where students explored career clusters assigned by the Georgia Department of Education. She told students that farmers are really, really important, and that every time we have a meal we should thank the farmers who grow our food.

National Farm to School Webinar, March 27 Tiger & Clayton, March 31 GEORGIA MOUNTAIN FARM NETWORK WORKSHOP

At the first official meeting of the Georgia Mountains Farmers Network, members toured Mill Gap Farm in Tiger. Mill Gap Farm's Amy Mashburn, left, shared the love with Joni Kennedy from Melon Head Farm. School nutrition directors from Habersham County Schools and Rabun County Schools were also in attendance, and everyone enjoyed dinner at Fortify kitchen and bar in Clayton, which is headed by chef Jamie Allred. (Allred and many of the farmers in attendance are involved in our Northeast Georgia Farm to School Pilot in Habersham County.)

USDA Farm to School is hosting bi-monthly webinars on the basics of local food procurement in schools. Georgia Organics’ Teri Hamlin helped lead a national webinar, “Working with Distributors,” which drew on her experience in the Northeast Georgia pilot program. Teri shared the best lessons learned about working with a distributor, highlighting the importance of having a strong working relationship between the distributor, school nutrition director, and local farmers.


Georgia Organics' Farm to School staff presented three times at this national conference, sharing our successful state-wide campaigns (5 Million Meals and Lettuce Try It), our successful state-wide network (Farm to School Alliance), and our work to date for growing farm to preschool at a state-wide level. So many Georgia farm to school champions were in the house! Here's our crackerjack staff, as well as folks from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, Southeast Region, UGA Extension, the Southwest Georgia Project, our Northeast Georgia Farm to School Program, the Athens Land Trust, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.




GO Farm to School and Farmer Services staff talked to students in FFA from across Georgia, gave them a taste test of organic strawberries, and asked them to put on our map the farm to school activities they do at their school. So many gardens, taste tests, farm field trips, and cooking in class!

MARCH 18 11th Annual Agriculture Awareness Week Georgia Kick-Off Celebration & Flavors of Georgia Atlanta

Evans, April 26 BENDERDINKER

Program Director Michael Wall had a blast—er, worked very diligently, at this very cool "festival on the water," which paired local food with kayaking on the Savannah River. Several floating "Local Food Stops" handed out all manner of farm-fresh deliciousness while bands serenaded participants. The event benefitted Augusta Locally Grown and Savannah Riverkeeper.

MARCH 22-23 Georgia Organics/Love Is Love Farm Shiitake Mushroom Workshop Decatur MARCH 26 Georgia Department of Agriculture Auxin-Resistant Crops Summit Macon MARCH 31 Georgia Organics/Georgia Mountain Farmers Network Farm Tour at Mill Gap Farm Clayton APRIL 13 Slow Food First Coast/Florida Organic Growers Farm Tour at Harriett’s Bluff Farm Woodbine

APRIL 14 USDA Farm Bill Organic Stakeholders Listening Session APRIL 17 Georgia Multicultural Sustainable Agriculture Conference Perry APRIL 22 Georgia Grown Symposium Perry APRIL 24 Edible Agriculture Tour (EAT) Georgia at Sweet Auburn Market Atlanta APRIL 26 Southeastern Sustainable Livestock Conference Duluth MAY 1 FFA Career and Trade Show Macon MAY 29 Team Agriculture GA Spring Workshop Douglas



Mitch Lawson, Rise ‘N’ Shine Organic Farm me become more self-sufficient. I worked on a farm in North Carolina when I was 26 to learn how to farm and see if I liked it—and I found I loved it.

How did you start Rise 'N' Shine Farm?

We started our farm in 2004 on two acres of rented land in Ranger, and some friends and I built a barn out of scraps. Back then, a lot of people didn’t know what organic was. Now we’re in our tenth season, cultivating 25 acres, and it’s hard to find someone who does not know what organic is. We grow over 40 types of vegetables and fruits and several varieties within each type. The majority of what we produce is marketed through our CSA program, which you can check out at

Why organic?

I would not grow any other way—I do it because I believe in it. I would not be a farmer if I was not growing organic. In my former position, I understood the effects of runoff. If I was going to farm, I did not want it to do any harm to those aquatic ecosystems. Why are you a member of GO?

What do you do on the farm this time of year?

We have a staff of eight or nine people this time of year, so I manage staff and often fix equipment. When the weather allows, I’m either planting or cultivating crops in addition to doing all the office work. How’d you get into farming?

I used to do river advocacy for a local nonprofit. I wanted to look for a new career and had always enjoyed having a backyard garden and always enjoyed projects that helped




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The workshops and training opportunities have been helpful. I learned a lot from one workshop on food safety and how to handle food safely. I applied a lot of what I learned in that class to Rise 'N Shine. I greatly believe in the work that GO is doing. It’s very important work and I wish I had the time to be more involved. Maybe someday!

________________________________ Find out more about Rise 'N' Shine Organic Farm, including their CSA, at


Farmers’ Market. Chipotle will provide a brief demonstration on making salsa, followed by a scavenger hunt to find the ingredients on the recipe. Winners receive cash. For more information, go to

Did you know that you can support Georgia Organics in your company’s employee giving campaign? You can donate to Georgia Organics JULY 15 Organic Peanut Field Day, through EarthShare of Georgia and have a small Stilson Learn about organic peanut donation taken out of your paycheck, which adds up farming at Healthy Hollow Farm, where Georgia to a significant contribution at the end of the year! Organics and Coastal Organic Growers will Call Alice to enroll: (678) 702-0400 be teaming up for a field day. At this certified organic farm, participants will be learning about the details of peanut farming and participate in Have an event coming up? Send information demonstrations of specialized machinery. To sign to For more up, go to events, check out the calendar on our website:

Events Calendar

JUNE 28-29 Georgia Mountains Farm Tour, Various Locations in Northeast Georgia Get a chance to tour up to 14 different Northeast Georgia sustainable farms, share conversation over farm-fresh meals, and grab some produce along the way! The tours run from 1-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Your farm tour ticket purchase helps the Georgia Mountains Farmers’ Network purchase shared equipment, group insurance, and serve as a place for sharing new ideas and innovations for successful farms. This event is sponsored in part by Georgia Organics. To buy tickets or find more information, go to www. JULY 5 Three Little Pigs Farmer Mixer and Benefit, Blairsville The Southeast Young and Beginning Farmers Alliance is holding a benefit to raise money for gathering resources, community building experiences, and learning opportunities for the small farmers of the Southeast. So they're throwing an awesome mixer at Sun Dog Farm! Some crazy talented chefs— Todd Mussman, Steven Satterfield, Nick Melvin, Terry Koval, and Jarrett Stieber—will be cooking out 3 whole hogs and delicious farm-focused sides. $50, but farmers and chefs get in for FREE! threelittlepigs.

JULY 17 Evans Towne Farmers Market Summer Tomato Sandwich Contest, Evans Come compete for the title of the best tomato sandwich maker around. The Urban Ag R&D project provides heirloom tomatoes, and you may bring whatever add ons you want. To enter, contact JULY 20 Sixth Annual JCT. Kitchen Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival, Atlanta This popular event combines the efforts of 40 accomplished chefs, 17 mixologists, and more than 30 farmers to create delicious tomato creations. All proceeds go to Georgia Organics and the Giving Kitchen. To buy tickets or find more information, go to AUGUST 2 Chipotle Salsa Scavenger Hunt at Athens Farmers Market, Athens See July 12 event listing, but this time we'll be in Athens! SEPTEMBER 7 Southern Chef’s Potluck, Palmetto Great southern chefs will be teaming up for a Sunday potluck at Serenbe benefitting Wholesome Wave Georgia. For more information, email

SEPTEMBER 13 Lynn Pugh's Organic Farming and Gardening Course This course will provide fun basics for both farmers and backyard gardeners. No experience JULY 12 Chipotle Salsa Scavenger needed—Lynn teaches using hands-on Hunt at Freedom Farmers’ Market, Atlanta Join Georgia Organics for a salsa preparing experience in Cane Creek Farm. To sign up, go to demonstration and scavenger hunt at the Freedom

Georgia Organics is proud to be the fiscal partner for The Homestead Atlanta, an educational resource that has forged a community around urban homesteading.

JUNE 29 Mycoadventure: Foraging And Preparing Wild Mushrooms Get out of the city and under the forest canopy to forage for wild mushrooms with Steven Bell of 5th Kingdom. You’ll learn where to find and how to ID some of the best mushrooms the summer forest brings like the Chanterelle, Chicken of the Woods and Oyster Mushrooms. We’ll talk about mushroom ecology, sustainable harvesting, and more as we forage, then end the class with a mushroom cookout/ cooking lesson right from our baskets. JULY 27 Indoor Oyster Mushroom Cultivation Join Steven Bell to learn about growing mushrooms in both newspaper and straw, and build your own tabletop mushroom gardens to take home. Participants will also tour the mushroom farm and learn about mushroom biology and farming methods. AUGUST 24 Edible & Medicinal Plant Ramble Come on a plant walk with Lorna Mauney-Brodeck to learn about the edible and medical plants all around us. Learn to identify and use plants you can find in your own backyard.

Georgia Organics members get reduced rates. THEHOMESTEADATL.COM


CONEX Recycling Corporation is one of the Southeast’s leading recycling solutions. Choose Conex to serve your recycling needs for • apartment and condominium communities • small businesses, major corporations & government entities • hotels, hospitals & campuses • and special events!

“One Agent, One Relationship, Multiple Markets” Brad Clenney, AAI Accredited Adviser in Insurance

P.O. Box 190 8 Liberty Street Blakely, GA 39823 Phone: 229-723-0880 Fax: 229-723-2080


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THE DIRT is a publication of Georgia Organics, Inc.

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Grow farmers in Georgia Sponsor a new or beginning farmer’s training through our mentorship program.

Beef up a farmer’s toolbox Fund an organic farming skills workshop for 30 growers.

Get kids ramped up on radishes Train 5 cafeteria staff on farm to school.

Multiply your local food investment Get 25 newbies hooked on the farmers market through the My Market program.

Turn farmers into rockstars Fund a veggie taste test for an elementary school.


Members make our programs a reality!






Georgia Organics' the Dirt: Summer 2014  

Chemical-free lawns are stunning—and more important than ever.

Georgia Organics' the Dirt: Summer 2014  

Chemical-free lawns are stunning—and more important than ever.