Page 1

Program expansion news for Farm to School! 4

Georgia Organics triples down on Farmer Services, 6

Four farmers graduate from Journeyman Farmer Program, 7

Spring 2017

Best. Growth. Ever. Organic Certification is an unstoppable force hitting the United States, reducing poverty, healthcare crises, and environmental degradation. Find out how Organic Certification is bridging the urban-rural divide, and how Georgia Organics is making sure Georgia farmers reap all the benefits. Read more on page 10.


STAFF ALICE ROLLS Executive Director SARAH BARTLETT Director of Development CAROLINE BENEFIELD Development Coordinator PERRI CAMPIS Farmer Services Fellow EMILY CUMBIE-DRAKE Director of Programs KIMBERLY DELLA DONNA Farm to School Director JILL GERAGHTY Conference Coordinator SUZANNE GIRDNER Community Outreach Manager SARAH HART Administrative Assistant ABBIE KING Farm to School Coordinator KIMBERLY KOOGLER Farm to School Assistant ANDREW LADD Director of Operations SUMER LADD FoodCorps Fellow TENISIO SEANIMA Farmer Services Coordinator MICHAEL WALL Farmer Services Director


Them. Us. Urban. Rural.

A Head Start on Healthy Eating

They say there are two Georgias. They are wrong. There are many more Georgias than that. Saying there are just two reflects an Atlanta-centric perspective, as usual. Atlantans see it this way: There’s us in the city, and then there are the country folks out in the boonies.

By: Kara LeClair, RDN and Kenna Ho, MS

Rural Georgians may see it this way: There’s us good folks here in the country, and those city slickers up there in the city. (I’m portraying these viewpoints in the nicest way. These days, the words may come out a lot nastier.) I see these perspectives as flawed and harmful. West End and Morningside are two neighborhoods in Atlanta as distinct culturally and demographically as Fort Valley and Albany are. The truth is, there are actually as many Georgias as there are counties, cities, and individuals. The human tendency to categorize and lump others into convenient boxes with inaccurate labels is getting us into trouble. “We are the best! We are better than those dummies for sure!”

The Good Food Movement can only succeed if we realize that we, each of us, are on the same team. If we wanted, this sentence allows us to plug in any moral values we choose to cling to, the ones we use to feel really good about ourselves. They are wrong. We are right. These are the common embodiments of what’s called social identity theory, which is a psychological term first used in 1979 to describe the human tendency to categorize each other into groups, and then to make up negative traits for the groups we aren’t in. I’ve been living in Atlanta for 20 years, but I was born in South Georgia and grew up in a rural area. When I am lucky enough to get to spend time in rural parts of the state, family members and dear friends sometimes share very disparaging opinions on the city and its occupants. That hurts. In Atlanta, I have friends and fellow Good Food Movement advocates who disparage the folks in rural Georgia. This hurts, too. I argue, in fact, that this sorting and judging is holding us all back. The Good Food Movement can only succeed if we realize that we, each of us, are on the same team.


Rural Georgia will not see an economic rebirth without the support of Atlantans, who are scouring markets for organic, fresh produce from the farms of South Georgia. Atlantans: those gorgeous and mouth-exploding peaches and watermelons that replenish your bones during the heat of summer were produced with love and care by someone you may not agree with politically. But you need their skills as much as they need your debit cards. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement that, if goes sour, could lead to mutually assured division. The bottom line is that organic operations hold a promise to see rural and urban Georgia thrive. All we have to do is link all the varied Georgias together, so that economic and environmental health can be felt by all.

Michael Wall Director of Farmer Services

Toddlers usually stir from their naps as parents shuffle in and out of the Burke County Early Head Start every afternoon. However, on Wednesdays at the beginning of this school year, the day ended just a little bit differently, thanks to Georgia Organics’ after-school farmer’s market pilot funded by a 2016 National Farm to School Network Innovation Award and a grant from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Georgia Organics believes that engaging children with fresh, local flavors, hands-on experiences and farmer interactions can be transformational-- and that’s the vision behind our Farm to School Program and Georgia Food Oasis Program. In Burke County, that vision is coming to life. Rather than rushing off, parents lingered in the grass with their children just outside the front doors. Here, they reliably found two, or even three tables lined up under tents, covered with fresh fruits and vegetables. The program director at Burke County Early Head Start, Allene Reed, warmly coaxed families to check out all the healthy and delicious produce that awaited them under the shade of the tents.

From August to October, many families looked forward to the market, especially to Farmer Pete’s collard greens. There became a flow of regulars, a sense of familiarity in seeing the tents and a sense of curiosity pulling the families in. “What do y’all have today?” was a common and welcomed inquiry. But the success wasn’t just in getting the families to approach the tents; Farmer Pete consistently sold out of his produce. Peaches, sweet potatoes, and peppers flew off the table, and the greens never lasted beyond the first hour! Families did not come to the market just to buy fruits and vegetables. Each week we cooked up a delicious recipe for everyone to try. The recipes ranged from easy five-ingredient sweet potato muffins to stuffed peppers and cold salads. The taste-test always featured at least one of the items being sold that week and aimed to show families easy and unique ways to prepare what they were taking home. One of my most popular taste-tests was our shredded collard salad with tomatoes and cucumber. I saw a lot of light bulbs go off for this recipe.

The final market day featured a special tastetest and activity geared toward the children, who had the opportunity to take turns using a food mill to crank out their own applesauce. After sampling their creation, they also got to take home a small jar. As the market came to a close, caregivers, staff and parents urged Farmer Pete to continue it next season. Georgia Organics looks forward to exploring other ways to engage preschoolaged children in farm to school activities this year. In the busy monotony of a week day, it became a moment to pause, socialize, easily obtain great fresh produce for dinner, and to build a relationship with the farmer who grew it. For more information on farm to school programming in Burke County, visit Burke County School’s Harvest Bright page at facebook.com/harvestbright. For more information on farm to school in Georgia and resources available to you, visit our Georgia Organics farm to school page at georgiaorganics.org/for-schools.

Registration Now Open! 6th Georgia Farm to School Summit Georgia’s premier gathering for school nutrition, K-12 and early care educators, farmers, students, parents, and activists committed to farm to school Presented by:

Hosted by:

Date: Oct. 5-6, 2017 georgia farm to school alliance

• Thursday in-depth workshops and field trips • Friday full day of education sessions

Location: Helms College • Augusta, GA

For more information, visit: georgiaorganics.org/2017GAFarmtoSchoolSummit GEORGIAORGANICS.ORG


Farm to School Expands to Youngest Kids

Georgia Food Oasis Galvanizes Community Farm

Georgia Organics has been at the forefront of the national farm to school movement for years, engaging public school kids in hands-on culinary, nutrition, and gardening education and inspiring a lifelong love of fresh food choices. In 2017, building on more than a year of planning and stakeholder collaborations, we are thrilled to significantly expand that work beyond K-12 to now also begin serving Georgia’s youngest children in their critical developmental years at early care centers across the state with our project partners. Let’s work together to improve health and educational outcomes for our little ones by incorporating local fruits and veggies into meals and snacks, supporting early care providers and educators to teach gardening and nutrition, and give kids a chance to explore with their

is a self-described “doer.” In 2016, Davis spent time at Signal Mountain Farm in Chattanooga, TN , learning the ropes of organic farming. When she returned to Columbus, GA , Davis became active in Georgia Organics’ program, Georgia Food Oasis, which works in Augusta and Columbus to engage and inspire the local community to improve fresh food access. She attended meetings, volunteered, and ultimately took a part-time job with Georgia Organics as our Columbus Food Oasis Ambassador. In the fall, Davis was ready. It was time to start her own farm operation. “I wanted to go out and do it instead of talking about it, because I’ve been talking about it for so long,” said Davis. Since breaking ground in January 2017, Davis’ operation—named Elijah’s Farm, after her son—has made astounding progress, becoming a beacon of hope in Columbus while inspiring the community to take action. On just 10,000 square feet—about one-third of an acre— Elijah’s Farm is located on the property of Cascade Hills Church and aims to become the intersection of community, health, economic activity, and philanthropy. When her produce comes up this summer, Elijah’s Farm plans to give away 10% of their produce to those in need, train volunteers to start their own farms, and loan equipment to assist other operations. “Not only do we want to produce good food, we want to give back, we want to involve people and improve the connectivity in the city,” said Davis. “The second part of our vision is to give food to people who need it.” The vision to produce and give food away was largely made possible due to the business training Davis received at the 20th Anniversary Georgia Organics Conference on February 17-18, 2017 in Atlanta. Davis attended a session led by Lee McBride about SPIN Farming (Small Plot INtensive). Their model is perfect for Davis’ 10,000 square feet, and the session helped her plan a production schedule to ensure she will be able to donate produce and turn a profit. Support for Davis’ vision has been incredible. After securing a USDA Beginning Farmer Loan, Davis also formed a partnership with a local business that gives her unlimited access to their greenhouse to grow seedlings. A local plumber assisted with an irrigation system and sold Davis all of the equipment at cost. Davis also received a micro-grant from Georgia Organics to purchase her first round of seeds, jump-starting the operation. “Food Oasis, it’s just been amazing,” said Davis. “It’s helped with the discussion of increasing access to truly healthy food, but really helping individuals like myself and others take action to make these things happen.” Since Elijah’s Farm broke ground, the buzz around town about her project and Georgia Food Oasis in general has blown Davis away. “I’m getting calls from people I don’t even know saying that they’ve heard about the Georgia Food Oasis and they want to get involved and asking how they go about doing it,” said Davis.

taste buds the delightful flavors of local, sustainably grown foods. What could be more inspiring than that? This new farm to early care and education programming is made possible by a generous grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Conference Highlights

K. Rashid Nuri, founder of Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture and former Georgia Organics Board Member, was honored with the 2017 Land Steward Award,

given to those who have contributed greatly to the organic movement in Georgia.

CheFarmer Matthew Raiford (left) pictured with former Land Steward Award Winner and Georgia Organics Board Member Daniel Parson following Raiford’s keynote address.



Tony and Linda Scharko were honored with the 2017 Barbara Petit Pollinator Award for outstanding community leadership

in Georgia’s sustainable farming and food movement. “Tending to, caring for, and cultivating Atlanta’s next crop of growers, that’s what the Scharkos do,” said Isia Cooper, farmer at Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet, who presented the award.

Saturday’s keynote Barbara Brown Taylor, a New York Times bestselling author, electrified the Farmers Feast crowd with a stirring tribute to the toils, skills, and wisdom of the farmer.

Photo Credit: Ellen Thommesen

Sharayah Davis

"I’m getting calls from people I don’t even know saying that they’ve heard about the Georgia Food Oasis and they want to get involved and asking how they go about doing it." -Sharayah Davis, Columbus Food Oasis Ambassador

It’s also helped to recruit volunteers. Members of the military, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Georgia Food Oasis community turn out at least once a week to assist Davis on the farm. “The support means so much to me,” said Davis. “I think about the people and the individuals who have jumped in with both feet and have either lent their time, or a hand, or equipment, or finances. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible. It’s humbling. It’s emotional. It’s just a really good feeling to know that there’s such great support here for this.” Now that’s how you get things done. To get involved with Georgia Food Oasis in your community, visit georgiaorganics.org/georgia-food-oasis

facebook.com/ georgiafoodoasis

seeded by Georgia Organics




Georgia Organics Names First Director of Farmer Services

Georgia Organics' Farmer Services Team (left to right): Perri Campis, Farmer Services Fellow; Michael Wall, Director of Farmer Services; and Tenisio Seanima,

Farmer Services Coordinator

"We’re delighted to expand our Farmer Services Team and have Michael’s experience and leadership at the helm of this work." -Alice Rolls, Executive Director of Georgia Organics

“Working on Farm to School with Georgia Organics enabled me to fuse my passions for local, sustainable agriculture and education, and I am honored to work alongside our dedicated staff to empower more Georgians to eat, cook, and grow local, organic food in my new role,” said Cumbie-Drake. “I look forward to working with our team to ensure our programs have the greatest impact possible.” Georgia Organics is thrilled to see continued growth of their team and looks forward to the great accomplishments now possible with such strong leadership.

Upcoming training locations: Lowndes, Greene, Gwinnett, Houston, and Walker counties

www.sustainagga.org 6


Funded by:

The Georgia Organics Farmer Services Team capped another year of great work by honoring four graduates from last year’s Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program (JFCP) and awarding a Tiny Farmhouse to a farmer, both in partnership with the University of Georgia (UGA). Led by the UGA Cooperative Extension , with support from partners across the state, Georgia Organics and UGA Extension provided comprehensive training for beginning farmers designed to reduce the barriers young and beginning farmers face when trying to grow new agricultural businesses from the ground up. The program aims to encourage and prepare young and beginning farmers to enter the agricultural profession and address the fact that the average farmer in the United States is close to retirement. “Beginning farmers and ranchers are the key to preserving small farming in the United States, and the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program is our way of sustaining small farmers in Georgia’s agricultural sector,” said Georgia Organics Farmer Services Coordinator Tenisio Seanima.

Graduates Julie Best, of Clayton; Azalea Moss, of Austell; Lonnie of Toccoa and Martine Olsen, of Clarkesville received business training, production training, and either an internship or mentorship depending on their circumstances. "This program—with its emphasis on business planning, small ruminant production and vegetable farming—was designed to help these farmers turn their passion into a livelihood,” said Julia Gaskin, sustainable agriculture coordinator for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Journeyman Farmer program coordinator. “We hope this program will help give them the skills they need to support their own families while they follow their hearts." JFCP will continue in 2017, providing courses in seven counties for anyone who has been farming less than ten years continuously: Carroll, Screven, Dougherty, Metro Atlanta, Banks, Houston, and Greene.


For more information on the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program, including upcoming workshop dates, visit sustainagga.org.

Tiny Farmhouse, Massive Teamwork Tiny houses are trendy, but did you know they can be a valuable asset to an organic farmer? The tiny farmhouse, built by University of Georgia (UGA) undergraduate students taking a course in sustainable building, was donated by Georgia Organics to member Terri Jagger Blincoe, of Ladybug Farms in Clayton . Georgia Organics is proud to partner with UGA to offer innovative affordable housing solutions for Certified Organic farmers, farm workers, interns, and others. A Georgia Organics selection committee received several applications from farmers interested in receiving the tiny farmhouse. The farmers wrote essays explaining how they would use the house if they were to win. "Blincoe stood out because she was an established farmer who had a history of hosting younger apprentice farmers," UGA Horticulture Associate Professor and former Georgia Organics Board Member David Berle said.

Blincoe was thrilled, tearing up when she found out she won the tiny farmhouse, which will secure hands-on support and revenue for her farm. “I will be offering 2-4 night stays to folks interested in a working farm experience— hands on growing and harvesting produce, tending to animals and eating good food,” said Blincoe. This is the second tiny farmhouse Georgia Organics has donated to a Certified Organic farmer. Green Building and the Tiny House Movement, a course offered jointly through the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and College of Family and Consumer Sciences

(CFCS,) launched in Fall 2015. “This project would not happen without UGA and their sustainable building class who designed and built the tiny farmhouse,” said Alice Rolls, Executive Director of Georgia

Photo Credit: Sharon Dowdy, University of Georgia

Georgia Organics has tripled-down on its commitment to farmers. The Farmer Services Team now has three staff members, up from one, including its first Director of Farmer Services in the organization’s 20-year history. Michael Wall leads the Farmer Services Team – Farmer Services Coordinator Tenisio Seanima and Farmer Services Fellow Perri Campis – in the organization’s efforts to bring affordable healthcare options closer to organic farmers, train beginning farmers through the Journeyman Program, and increase the number of farmers and ranchers achieving organic certification. “We’re delighted to expand our Farmer Services Team and have Michael’s experience and leadership at the helm of this work,” said Alice Rolls, Executive Director of Georgia Organics. “This new position will enable Georgia Organics to expand support for organic and sustainable farmers across the entire state, including working towards our goal of 200 certified organic farms in Georgia by 2020.” Prior to his work at Georgia Organics, Wall worked as an awardwinning journalist for newspapers in Atlanta, rural Georgia, and the Virgin Islands. Wall serves on the board of directors of the Atlanta Audubon Society and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group. His family currently farms land in Dooly and Terrell counties in South Georgia. “Our farmers do critically important work,” Wall said. “They are economic development engines that also provide us with healthy fresh foods, while rejuvenating our soils and working to feed their own families. That’s almost too much to ask of them. But if we can support them in any way, that’s what we are here for.” Filling his vacancy as Director of Programs is Emily Cumbie-Drake, former Farm to School Director. Cumbie-Drake now oversees all of Georgia Organics community engagement programs, including its nationally recognized Farm to School Program, the Georgia Food Oasis Program, and the Georgia Organics Annual Conference. Prior to her work at Georgia Organics, Cumbie-Drake worked at Emory University’s Office of Sustainability Initiatives.

Georgia Organics and UGA Celebrate Groundbreaking Partnerships

(Left to right): Alice Rolls, Executive Director of Georgia Organics; Terri Jagger Blincoe of Ladybug Farms; Emma Courson, UGA Student; and David Berle, UGA Associate Professor of Horticulture Organics. “We give a valuable asset to a farmer, but it’s also an amazing educational opportunity for students to learn sustainable design.” For short, that’s called a “win-win,” just like this incredible partnership has been over the last few years. If you are interested in donating to the Tiny Farmhouse project, contact Sarah Bartlett at SarahBartlett@georgiaorganics.org



Food Safety on Small Farms By: Chelsea Losh-Jones, Babe + Sage Farm The

Food Safety Modernization Act of

2011 (FSMA) regulates the way foods are grown,

harvested and processed. FSMA requires the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review or inspect a host of reports, plans, strategies, standards, notices, and other tasks from farmers and food processors. This article is the first in a series written by farmers as they work their way through FSMA. FSMA has many farmers nervous about what’s coming down the pipeline and how it will affect their farm. After some in-depth research, let me tell you—don’t worry, it’s really not that scary. Most small farms, including ours, will be qualified exempt from most FSMA rules. Basically, if a farm has less than $500,000 in sales of all food (not just produce), based on an average of the previous three years, and more than 50% of your sales are to “qualified end-users,” then you are considered exempt from many of FSMA’s requirements. Although we are fully committed to food safety, this “qualified exemption” is a way to reduce some of the administrative burden for small farms. Some examples of "qualified end-users" are your CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members, buyers at farmers markets, chefs at restaurants, and, for Georgia growers, groups like PeachDish or Fresh Harvest —at least, for now. Still, at Babe + Sage Farm, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to ensure we’re compliant with most of FSMA’s requirements, even the ones we’re exempt from. We want to document that we’re taking steps to keep our customers safe, and we want to reduce our chances of making a product liability insurance claim. We’ll need to make some small changes on the farm, like putting together a farm safety plan, developing a few more records, and labeling our produce, but it will not be much of a burden. One way to prepare for a federally required FSMA inspection is to go through the GAP certification process (Good Agricultural Practices). Though voluntary, many wholesale, farm-to-school, and restaurant buyers may require GAP certification in the near future. If that’s your customer base, you may want to consider getting ahead of the curve.



New Communities, Global Growers, GFVGA,and Common Market GA present:

On-Farm GAP & Food Safety Workshops: AM: Infrastructure Solutions PM: Food Safe Handling, Packaging, Storage, and Transport

When: Tuesday, June 29th, 9am-12pm and 1pm-4:00pm

Where: New Communities 801 Old Pretoria Rd., Albany, GA

Topics Covered: The morning workshop focuses on practical farm infrastructure for small and limited-resource farms. In the afternoon, we will discuss packhouse management and wholesale requirements for packaging. Each workshop features a classroom section related to GAP practices and certification along with farm tour with hands-on examples. Feel free to come to one or both.

Who: The Babe + Sage Farm family (left to right): Bobby, Tripp, and Chelsea Losh-Jones GAP requires an audit and certification that are expensive for many smaller operations. If you are interested but cost is a concern, you may qualify for mock audits, cost share programs, paperwork help, and/or group certification programs. Billy Mitchell at Global Growers (billy@globalgrowers.org) is working with other agricultural organizations in Georgia, and has a lot of information on available resources. What documentation will help you be prepared for certifications like GAP and FSMA? A Farm Risk Assessment Map, a Food Safety Manual, an Action Plan, Completion Records, and Labels are all a big part of the

process. These names may sound onerous, but you likely have most of this information already. Your Farm Risk Assessment Map is simply a map that shows where people, animals, and vehicles move, where crops grow, and where you may come into contact with different water sources on your farm. The map can be hand-drawn, and the purpose is to start thinking about ways to limit the possible transfer of pathogens from your surroundings to your crops. Your Food Safety Manual spells out the steps you’re taking to manage contamination risk from seed to sale. You may already be doing many of these steps, such as sanitizing your equipment or excluding chickens from the garden, for example.

Your Action Plan lists who is in charge of implementing food safety practices, who to call when something goes wrong, and how it gets fixed. Your Completion Records are a basic record of when food safety-related tasks were completed (i.e. Chelsea cleaned the harvest bins on April 4th). Finally, you must label produce or your market display with the name and complete address of your farm. This documentation is all about creating traceability: if someone gets sick, we can figure out where it came from and how to fix it. In addition to preparing you for GAP certification, these records can get you lined up for Organic Certification as well. We're looking to start the Organic Certification process in a couple of years and plan to use GAP record keeping to help us get into the right record-keeping groove. Georgia Organics can guide you through this process, as well as offer marketing support, educational opportunities, and cost share reimbursement for getting Organic Certification through their 200 Organic Farms campaign. I encourage you to start thinking about FSMA, not get discouraged, and reach out to Georgia Organics if you have any questions. Let’s get modern, y’all!

Do you have questions about the FSMA? Drop us a line at farmerservices@georgiaorganics.org

How to Register:

Workshops geared toward small and limited resource farmers in Georgia.

Cost: Suggested $5 donation - funds go towards raffle of Wholesale Success

Email billy@globalgrowers.org to receive complete schedule and driving directions. Free coffee, tea, lunch and food safety templates provided to all participants. You can register for one or both workshops. THIS WORKSHOP IS A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN GLOBAL GROWERS, COMMON MARKET GEORGIA, AND THE GEORGIA FRUIT AND VEGETABLE GROWERS ASSOCIATION.

Chef Ford Fry presents the 9th Annual

Sunday, July 16 • 1-5 pm • Park Tavern $ 40 for Georgia Organics Members Tickets at killertomatofest.com GEORGIAORGANICS.ORG


Organic Benefits for Growers Continue to Grow During the sweltering heat of summer blistering down in middle Georgia, you’re likely to find Julia Asherman in the fields of Rag & Frass Farm near Milledgeville, GA. Asherman is tough. Like many farmers in Middle Georgia, she fights the good fight miles away from foodies in economic powerhouses like Atlanta, Savannah, Athens, or Columbus. Each week, Asherman makes the long trek to Atlanta to sell at the Grant Park Farmers Market on Sundays. Until demand grows in her nearby area, this journey will be a part of her work week for the foreseeable future. There aren’t any weekends off for farmers like Asherman. But that doesn’t mean Asherman is stuck. Far from it. Rag & Frass Farm is one of the most recent farms to get certified through Georgia Organics’ 200 Organic Farms Campaign, which aims to help Georgia double the number of Certified Organic farms by 2020. Since getting certified on March 13, 2017, economic opportunities have come to her, rather than the other way around.

Georgia Organics' Farmer Services team pays a visit to farmer Julia Asherman at Rag & Frass Farm (left to right): Tenisio Seanima, Perri Campis, Julia Asherman, and Michael Wall

"By having the seed we produce be certified, we are increasing the availability to other growers, meeting a growing demand from seed companies, getting a better price for the work we put into our seed production, and hopefully making change within the industry from the grassroots level." -Julia Asherman, Rag & Frass Farm

“Getting Certified Organic opens us up to sell seed to more farmers, especially Certified Organic farmers who are required to source organic seed if available,” said Asherman. “ This year we are contracted to grow six species for seed companies who are required to source organic seed, or seeking certain varieties that are certified for their catalogues.”



Though noting she was not a big fan of the process, ultimately, Asherman could not resist the opportunity to increase her value and change an industry badly in need of shaking up. “By having the seed we produce be certified, we are increasing the availability to other growers, meeting a growing demand from seed companies, getting a better price for the work we put into our seed production, and hopefully making change within the industry from the grassroots level,” Asherman said. This kind of economic benefit falls in line with the findings in a white paper from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), “U.S. Organic Hotspots and their Benefit to Local Economies” (2016).

The white paper reviews three other studies and identifies 225 United States counties as “organic hotspots.” These hotspots have high levels of organic agricultural activity as well as

neighboring counties with organic operations — and analyzes the economic impacts. Organic Hotspot counties were found to have $2,094 higher median annual incomes and 1.3% lower poverty rates compared to non-organic agricultural hotspot counties. Organic sales in the U.S. totaled around $47 billion in 2016, according to the OTA. That’s an 8.4% jump, blowing past the stagnant 0.6% growth rate in the overall food market. Fortunately for growers, the USDA recognized the need for more organic agriculture in a report released in December 2016, which announced new, unprecedented support for organic farmers. Organic producers can now visit over 2,100 USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices around the country. FSA offices can assist with applying for federal reimbursement to cover part of the cost of receiving organic

certification. Members of Georgia Organics are eligible to receive additional funding, which covers the entire cost. “Organic [farmers] are getting recognized as important businesses to the local economy and will finally be able to have the same assistance that large farms receive,” said Georgia Organics farm member Nicolas Donck of Crystal Organic Farms. “It feels great to be recognized.” Previously, a farmer’s Organic Certification cost reimbursement was handled by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which worked with Georgia Organics to provide cost share reimbursement through our 200 Organic Farms Campaign prior to the announced changes. Unfortunately, according to the USDA, only half of the nation’s organic operations participated in the cost share program. Now, farmers will have more access to such resources. Want to know more about new cost share opportunities available through the USDA? Check out the press release at:

tinyurl.com/usdacostshare "USDA is committed to helping the organic sector grow and thrive through a wide variety of programs, and part of that commitment is making it easy for stakeholders to access our services," said FSA Administrator Val Dolcini. "This will provide a more uniform, streamlined process nationwide; and it will give organic producers a chance to learn about other valuable USDA resources, like farm loans and conservation assistance that can help them succeed." Right on cue, Georgia Organics tripled down on our commitment to farmer prosperity by tripling the number of staff in our Farmer Services department (see page 6 for details). The team quickly scheduled meetings with loca FSA officers, as well as the NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service), to engage them in discussion about the landscape of organic growers in Georgia, inquire about possibilities to gain access to newly available resources, and offer support as farmers begin their transition from conventional to organic. With the new staff support, Georgia Organics put on it’s most farmer-friendly conference

in years, on February 17-18, 2017. We added Fencepost sessions —which granted farmers the opportunity to consult one-on-one with other farmers and experts and we offered farmers-only farm tours free for farm members. The team has also hit the road—a lot. After going through International Organic Inspectors Association Organic Crop and Livestock Inspection Training training in 2016, Farmer Services Director Michael Wall and Farmer Services Coordinator Tenisio Seanima have put on a slew of workshops

and trainings across the state, answering questions about Organic Certification, providing resources, and clearing up common myths. They’ve also provided on-farm consultations to help growers prepare for Organic Inspection, and they met with several conventional growers at conferences and workshops to discuss the benefits of getting certified. "We recognize the array of values our farmers have when considering entry into the organic foods market,” said Seanima. “Thus, the 200 Organic Farms Campaign is designed to complement those respective values, providing the individualized comfort each farmer needs when completing the certification process." With more Certified Organic farmers standing up to be counted, Georgia Organics and our partners can better make the case for the needed research, education, extension and resources necessary to increase acreage beyond one percent of Georgia farmland.

Georgia Organics Impact to date:

17 farms


1,804 acres transitioned

Photo Credit: Sharon Dowdy, University of Georgia

Tiny Farmhouse built by UGA Sustainable Design undergrad students

Farmers who become members of Georgia Organics and participate in our 200 Organic Farms Campaign may be eligible to receive cost share to reimburse the cost of becoming Certified Organic; marketing support; discounted passes to the Georgia Organics Annual Conference, and one-on-one technical assistance and mentoring. Farmers also become eligible to apply to receive a Tiny Farm House, built annually by University of Georgia undergraduate students as part of a Sustainable Design course.

$3,851 in organic cost shares

With so much progress, growers no longer have to take our word for the benefits of Organic Certification. The numbers are improving. The stories are genuine. The benefits are tangible. The movement is growing. Just ask Julia Asherman. Interested in Organic Certification? Call or email us today to chat about your operation and how we can help you take it to the next level at farmerservices@ georgiaorganics.org or 404-481-5000



New Staff

Member Spotlight: Molly Canfield

Perri Campis Perri Campis returns to the Georgia Organics team as a Farmer Services Fellow to support

Molly has volunteered her time to organize farm tours for the last several Georgia Organics Conferences, and we owe her a huge debt of gratitude. Find out more about Molly—aka the Farm Tour Goddess—and give her a big hug if you’ve enjoyed one of the farm tours over the years.

our commitment to Georgia farmers.

You’re back! Tell us about your new role and why you decided to return to Georgia Organics. After going back to graduate school,

I’ve returned to the Farmer Services Team as the Farmer Services Fellow. I knew when I graduated with a Masters in Public Policy I wanted to continue working on supporting sustainable farmers across the state in any way I could, and this Fellowship is giving me that opportunity. What initiatives are you working on for farmers? I’m thrilled to be working on a

healthcare initiative in my new role which includes outreach, education and identifying affordable health care resources to share with farmers, as well as getting involved in healthcare advocacy efforts to ensure our farmers’ voices are heard. We’re also rolling out a pilot program in partnership with the Kaiser Permanente Bridge Program that will offer two years of free health insurance to farmers who meet requirements in a five-county area. Do you have a spirit vegetable?

spirit legume: Peanut!

I have a

To get to Sweetwater (Note: Sweetwater Brewing is located across from Georgia Organics’ office) Why did the chicken cross the road?

Kimberly Della Donna Meet

Kimberly Della Donna , our new Director of Farm to School. Kimberly has

returned to Georgia after gaining a wealth of experience in the field during her time in New England. Here, Kimberly tells us a bit more about her experience and plans for Georgia’s farm to school movement. What was your previous job? Before moving

back to Atlanta, I worked in Rhode Island as the Farm to Cafeteria Director. I had the unique responsibility of nurturing purchasing relationships between local farmers, school



Perri Campis,

Farmer Services Fellow

Kimberly Della Donna,

Director of Farm to School

nutrition directors and their distributors, while creating educational programming to build demand for local and sustainably produced foods in schools. As the Rhode Island state lead for the National Farm to School Network, I worked closely with my counterparts in the other New England states and served on the leadership team of Farm to Institution New England (FINE), working to mobilize the buying power of New England institutions to transform the regional food system. Who/what inspired you to do the work you are doing for Georgia Organics? I have such

crazy love for good food that I’m helpless to do anything else but this work. I am blessed with an Italian mom who fed our family fresh, homemade, home-grown everything. Growing up, I learned the value and taste of real food while instinctively understanding that food is love. My training as a chef and nutritionist guide my work to help others develop a preference for healthy, seasonal and locally grown foods. What do you want to accomplish for Georgia's farmers? My role is to encourage

Georgia school districts to purchase, serve and educate students about local foods. Farm to school activities teach students not only the impact of their choice on their own personal health, but how that choice affects their community and environment. Plus, it teaches our future consumers the real value of food, and with that knowledge comes a deep respect for the work of farmers. If you became a DJ, what would your DJ name be? As a culinary nutritionist, I’ve got

to have a vegetable name, and since I’m getting funkier as I age, I’ll go with DJ Kimchi.

Kimberly Koogler,

Farm to School Assistant

Kimberly Koogler We are thrilled to add a farmer to our Farm to School team! Meet Kimberly Koogler, our new Farm to School Assistant. Kimberly will be assisting with workshops, October Farm to School Month, and the Golden Radish Awards. My previous job was full-time vegetable farmer at Cosmos Organic Farm. I am still at Cosmos but will just be going to markets and managing our CSA program, now that I am working at Georgia Organics, too! What was your previous job?

Who/what inspired you to do the work you are doing for Georgia Organics? So

many things…Having worked a lot of farmers markets selling vegetables, I have learned that one of the obstacles facing local farmers is widespread ignorance about the big, industrial food system, what it takes to grow vegetables organically, and what some of the vegetables are and what to do with them. Exposing kids to vegetables and teaching them about where food comes from now will hopefully make a huge difference in influencing their parents’ food purchases now and buying their own food in the future. What do you want to accomplish for Georgia’s farmers? I hope to educate people

about food so they will be more inclined to support their local producers. The more people know about how food, the more they will want to support their local, organic farmers. We need that! If you became a DJ, what would your DJ name be? DJ Yummy

You coordinated the Farm Tours for our annual conference. Why are Farm Tours important? Farm Tours are such an integral

experience for conference goers. Many of us who are invested in food issues don't actually get out to a farm very often. It's quite refreshing to take a day to meet a farmer on their farm and see the operation in person. There's no better way to connect with a food system. Farm Tours are also a great opportunity for growers to share their hard work­—for which they should be incredibly proud. Why does the work of Georgia Organics matter to you?

Small-scale sustainable agriculture and related initiatives take into account the health of the environment, the health of animals, the health of consumers, and the health of workers and growers. By supporting smallscale, local food productions, and creating a society that allows for urban and collective farming, we can support our local communities —human, animal, and natural. We become more connected with ourselves, the earth, our food, and our neighbors. Georgia Organics understands these values. I am proud to be a Sustaining Member. I've enjoyed seeing Georgia Organics grow in ways that have brought about effective change. Georgia Organics envisions a future Georgia that I see as a better Georgia, and I am happy to be able to contribute to that vision by being a Sustaining Member. As someone who cares emphatically about where their food comes from, how it's grown, and how its production affects the environment, I can't think of a better local non-profit to support than Georgia Organics. If you're thinking about becoming a Georgia Organics member at all, then you obviously care about making local organic food more accessible and prevalent—whether you are a grower or eater, an avid environmentalist or a health nut, a passionate advocate or simply appreciate the beauty and deliciousness of good

food—Georgia Organics is the place for you. My membership with Georgia Organics helps me stay connected with friends and farmers that I've met at the annual conference and other Georgia Organics events, even if I only see them once a year. I've made some of my best friends through Georgia Organics—it might sound silly but it's true. Being connected to the Georgia Organics community fuels my work in the sustainable food field. I appreciate knowing that Georgia Organics is there to support me and my community, and I strive to do my part to support them.

"My membership with Georgia Organics helps me stay connected with friends and farmers that I've met at the annual conference and other Georgia Organics events, even if I only see them once a year. I've made some of my best friends through Georgia Organics—it might sound silly but it's true.." -Molly Canfield, Georgia Organics Farm Tour Goddess and Sustaining Member



Around the State Savannah, Jan. 5 Southeast Fruit and Vegetable Conference

The Southeast Fruit and Vegetable Conference offered an exclusive track for organic growers and we spoke to farmers about transitioning from conventional to Certified Organic, as part of our 200 Organic Farms Campaign.

Athens, Feb. 22 Natural Resources Conservation Service Meeting

We met with NRCS State Conservationist Terrance Rudolph to strategize how organic farmers can get greater access to USDA conservation programs.

Henry County, Jan. 27 Educator Workshop: Exploring Edible Education

Events Columbus, April 6 Bimonthly Meeting and Farm Tour: Columbus Food Oasis

Columbus food and farm advocates toured the third-of-an-acre Elijah's Farm, managed by Georgia Organics’ Food Oasis Ambassador, Sharayah Davis. Attendees learned about Sharayah's experience negotiating a five-year lease, growing-out 5,000 seedlings, taking out a small business loan, and working the land in partnership with family, friends, and residents.

After repeated demand from attendees of our 101 workshop, we created a 201 workshop for K-12 educators that digs deeper into utilizing school gardens as an outdoor classroom and cooking in the classroom.

Newborn, January 30 Georgia Organics Board Meeting

Georgia Organics Board Members tour Crystal Organic and Burge Organic Farms.

Lowndes County, Feb. 9 Farmer Training: Go Organic

We presented our “Go Organic” training to farmers alongside the Fort Valley State University Cooperative Extension Program, clarifying what Organic Certification really means and how to get certified, and clearing up common myths about the process.

Atlanta, Feb. 23 Georgia Department of Agriculture's Farm to Table Showcase

We met with farmers and distributors at the Atlanta State Farmers Market and shared opportunities to get Certified Organic and how to distribute local produce to schools.

Burke County, April 13 Farm to School Summit Visit

We visited Burke County, Georgia’s 2016 Outstanding Farm to School School District to prepare for the 6th Farm to School Summit, which will take place in October 2017 in nearby Augusta.

seeded by Georgia Organics

June 15, Augusta Georgia Food Oasis Community Meeting

July 16, Atlanta Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival

Georgia Food Oasis is a starting point for communities to facilitate a bigger discussion on increasing access to truly healthy food. Join us as we collaborate with local organizations, businesses, growers, and residents within communities to self-develop innovative and affordable ways to discover, taste, and learn about food.

You are invited to Chef Ford Fry’s 9th annual Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival, a benefit for Georgia Organics. Come savor some tomatoinspired treats from a plethora of chefs and mixologists, all while listening to live music! Come ready to bid for amazing culinary experiences in the live auction! Park Tavern at Piedmont Park, 1-5 pm, killertomatofest.com

Oct 5-6, Augusta Farm to School Summit The Farm to School Summit connects schools, early care centers, and local farms and distributors to serve and champion healthy, local meals in cafeterias, improve student nutrition, and increase farm and gardening educational opportunities. This year’s Summit welcomes farmers, teachers, early care educators and administrators, school nutrition staff, students, parents, and others interested in learning more about Georgia’s farm to school movement.

Accepting Board Nominations Current 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 online, go to georgiaorganics. wufoo.com/forms/georgia-organics-board-of-directors-nomination.

Deadline is August 1, 2017.

Jekyll Island, April 20-22 Georgia School Nutrition Association Conference

We recruited school districts to participate in the Golden Radish Awards, which annually recognize excellence in farm to school programs.

Harris County, Feb. 11 Farm to School Presentation with Harris County Farm Bureau

We presented alongside Georgia Organics board member, Eric Simpson, to cafeteria managers from 17 West Georgia school districts about the benefits of farm to school.



Augusta, May 15 Potluck & Pitch

Five groups pitched their best ideas for improving and enhancing local, fresh food access in the Augusta region. $1,250 was awarded to the winning pitch, Growing Growers Farmer Training Program at Boggs Rural Life Center in Keysville.

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Gather Over Good Food Georgia Organics members believe the closer we get to food, the stronger our communities become. You’re fueling a culture where good food comes first. Join us! georgiaorganics.org/membership

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2017 Spring Dirt  

2017 Spring Dirt