Georgia Organics Blog

Global Warning?

Editor’s note: This first appeared in the fall 2013 edition of the Dirt, our quarterly member newsletter. Want to get a copy? Join Georgia Organics today!

A recent issue of National Geographic focused on climate change showed a graphic depicting the globe redrawn to show what rising seas would do to our banks, shores, and coastlines in the year 2100.  Tifton and Statesboro are beachfront communities. Another map revealed the desertification that would stretch across our continent. I got a jolt glancing through it; the graphics and photographs were both captivating and shocking. The new and improved port of Savannah would be deep indeed.

Some of the grimmer prognostications about Georgia agriculture in the next decade or two include droughts, floods, decreased crop yields due to higher temperatures, higher rates of soil evaporation, and increases in fungal and bacterial diseases and insect pests. Continue reading →

22 Apr 14 by AliceRolls

Post-Conference Post: “Life in the Soil: A Perspective to Healthy Farming”

The 17th annual Georgia Organics Conference was informative and eye-opening, and Dr. Elaine Ingham’s workshop on soil biology was one of the most-talked-about in the halls of the LEED-certified Jekyll Island Conference Center. The noted soil biologist emphasized that dirt—be it rock, pebbles, sand, silt, or clay—already contains all the nutrients any plant needs to grow.

Growers have long been laboring under the misconception that dirt is a medium to which we add nutrients to grow plants. The more we learn about plants, the more additives they need to grow, and we’ve spent the last half-century compiling a long list of nutrients and adding them to our dirt medium. According to Dr. Ingham, we may eventually discover that they require the entirety of the elements on the periodic table. But we don’t need to add these elements – they are already there. We just have to unlock them so that plants can use them to grow. Continue reading →

07 Mar 14 by Kait Gray

Post-Conference Post: “Hot, Wet, & Weird: What To Expect and What To Do About Climate Change in Georgia”

University of Georgia climatologist Pam Knox and Carrie Furman, also of UGA as well as the Southeast Climate Consortium, led a session called “Hot, Wet, & Weird: What To Expect and What To Do About Climate Change in Georgia” at the 17th Annual Georgia Organics Conference on Feb. 22. Here’s what they talked about!

Climate change is a hot topic of debate, and has been for decades. The weather is a farmer’s most faithful friend and foe, and it’s changing in Georgia. The changes are slight, but they are real. And as farmers know, a little change can make a big difference.

Pam Knox is an Agricultural Climatologist with the University of Georgia. She looks at long-term weather variables, like temperature and precipitation, in terms of trends. While there may be enormous variation from year to year, she is more concerned with the variation of a decade, or of several decades.  Carrie Furman is an Anthropologist with the University of Georgia. She studies the different coping strategies that farmers have for dealing with these changes in weather patterns.

Trends in Temperature

In Georgia, average annual temperatures have dropped – that’s right, dropped – about half a degree, if we look at records all the way back to 1895. However, if we only take into account records since 1960 average annual temperatures rose by about four degrees. Continue reading →

06 Mar 14 by Kait Gray

Post-Conference Post: “Composting, Nature’s Balancing Act”

Kerry Shay of Savannah Victory Gardens and Andy Schwartz led a session called “Composting: Nature’s Balancing Act” at the 17th Annual Georgia Organics Conference on Feb. 22. Here’s what they talked about!

Composting is beneficial for a number of reasons. It  builds soil and contributes to fertility. The immediate beneficial side effect of composting is rich organic matter, or humus, filled with microorganisms and nutrients that are great for your vegetables, or flowers, or lawn. This can save you a lot of money, by eliminating your need to buy commercial topsoils and fertilizers. It’s also a great educational experience for both kids and adults—composting teaches you how to feed the food that feeds you. Continue reading →

05 Mar 14 by Kait Gray


conference_slideOK, so technically this tweet from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition‘s Sarah Hackney was referencing the Anson Mills heritage Southern grains and beans on the menu at the farmers feast. (Which were incredible!) But Green Acres, the 17th annual Georgia Organics conference, totally equalled happiness! Over 900 growers, educators, chefs, volunteers, and more spent a fantastic weekend on Jekyll Island learning about the myriad ways our collective work is vital to our physical and environmental health.

We learned, we ate, we rubbed elbows with farmers and fellow good food advocates, and on Saturday night we honored two women who have done so much for organic agriculture in our state: Celia Barss of Woodland Gardens in Athens, and Savannah’s Teri Schell, who co-founded the Forsyth Farmers Market. Presenter Becky Striepe summed it up really beautifully in her conference wrap-up: “I went home on Sunday full of good food and gratitude.”

28 Feb 14 by BrookeHatfield

Making Good Food Ideas Visible!

We were tickled pink when we heard that Julie Stuart of Making Ideas Visible would be at our conference last weekend—her visual mapping technique is a fascinating way to document and relay information. She did what she does so well for our Saturday opening remarks, youth leader panel, and Ken Cook’s keynote on Saturday night. Click on the resulting work below to see a larger version!

Youth leaders

Opening remarks



27 Feb 14 by BrookeHatfield

Barss, Schell honored at Georgia Organics conference

Georgia’s organic agriculture community honored two of the state’s foremost leaders at the 17th annual Georgia Organics conference this weekend, which brought over 1,000 attendees to Jekyll Island to celebrate the coast and the myriad ways organic growers are essential to restoring natural resources in Georgia and beyond.

celiaThe Georgia Organics Land Steward Award was presented to farmer Celia Barss of Woodland Gardens in Athens, Ga., whose skill as a grower is matched by her business savvy and dedication to supporting the state’s organic agriculture community.

“This year’s honoree is a true leader and teacher today, not because she has sought those roles, but because she knows the direction to go and has so much knowledge to share,” said Daniel Parson of the farm at Oxford College-Emory University, who presented the award. “And as a mentor she is legendary because of her incredible track record of mentees who are still farming.”

The Land Steward Award honors an individual who has contributed greatly to the organic movement in Georgia both on the farm through environmentally friendly production, and off the farm through leadership, education, and outreach.

teriSavannah’s Teri Schell received the Barbara Petit Pollinator Award, which honors an individual or organization for outstanding community leadership in Georgia’s sustainable farming and food movement. As a founding member of the Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Schell has been on the ground floor of the Savannah’s good food community, and as co-chair of the recently formed Savannah Chatham Food Policy Council, her passion and knowledge continue to grow that movement.

“She quietly and doggedly keeps all these pieces moving because of her passion for equality and lucky for folks in this room she uses her love of food as the framework for change,” said award presenter Kristin Russell, owner of popular Savannah café The Sentient Bean.

The Barbara Petit Pollinator Award’s namesake is a committed leader, culinary professional, and organizer who was president of Georgia Organics from 2003-2009, and the award acknowledges exceptional success in advancing Georgia Organics’ mission by spreading—pollinating—the movement throughout community life, such as the food industry, faith communities, public agencies, schools, and institutions.

25 Feb 14 by BrookeHatfield

Green Acres Spotlight: Chef Abigail Hutchison

abigailhutchisonChef Abigail Hutchinson was born in Rhode Island, but she was raised in North Carolina, so the South can safely claim her as our own. Though her ambitions were originally in hospitality management, her time as a server persuaded her that her real passion was food. She followed that passion to Asheville, then Amelia Island, and is now Executive Chef at the Jekyll Island Hotel Club. This year at the Farmer’s Feast she will be the lady in charge of the pig.

You can learn more about Chef Hutchinson and the Jekyll Island Hotel Club at their website.

On Working at Jekyll Island Hotel Club

I love working at the JICH.  There are so many reasons, but most importantly it’s because I have such a strong team of chefs and culinarians.  They support my beliefs when it comes to food and they get as excited as I do when we get to get out of our comfort zone and do something new and different.

On Being a Woman in a Male – Dominated Field

I have always considered myself  “one of the guys” when it comes to working in the kitchen, and that’s how I’ve always been treated.  I work just as hard as they do, and there has never been anything that I couldn’t do that would have set me apart.  I have been fortunate enough to have worked with great chefs who didn’t discriminate against me for any reason.  I don’t think being a woman has affected my journey, it’s all about how hard one is willing to work to reach her goal.

On Cooking in Coastal Georgia

Georgia wild shrimp makes us unique and everyone one on the coast will tell you that.  We have the sweetest shrimp that you can get anywhere.

10 Feb 14 by BrookeHatfield

Green Acres Spotlight: Dave Snyder, Farmers Feast chef

dave_snyderOne of the most anticipated parts of the Georgia Organics Conference may indeed be the Farmers Feast – a gathering that reminds us that at the end of the day, the organic food we work so hard all year to cultivate, harvest, and promote tastes really, really good.

The feast is always prepared by a wonderful group of gourmands, and this year Chef Dave Snyder is among them. A cook for twenty-eight years and a Georgia resident for more than a decade, Chef Snyder is the Owner/Executive Chef at Halyards Restaurant and Tramici, both on St. Simons Island. He is also an avid fisherman. I was able to ask him a few questions about cooking in Coastal Georgia.

You can find out more about Chef Dave Snyder and Halyards Restaurant group at their website, or you can come out to the Farmers Feast and taste for yourself!

On Halyard Restaurant Group
Tramici is neighborhood Italian with very casual atmosphere. Halyards is a bit dressed up, with contemporary American food and an emphasis on seafood. We are about hospitality, not just food and service.  We pride ourselves on the experience our staff provides. Our service is about attention to detail and our food is about great ingredients with careful preparation without overdoing anything.

On Cooking in Coastal Georgia
There is a bigger mix of people, therefore food, than one might imagine.  Certainly traditional Southern food is prominent, but we like having fun with other foods to keep our locals guessing what will be next and the tourists entertained with foods they might recognize from their previous travels. We are lucky to have an abundance of cultures move through our little town.

On the Value of Fresh Ingredients
I remember the first time I brought in 200 lbs. of whole fish for my Chef, who was from Ohio. He would admit much later that he was very upset because he didn’t want to clean that much whole fish. But after he cut open the third or fourth fish he admitted that, even in big towns like Cincinnati, he had never in 15 years of cooking seen “real” fresh fish. One- or two-day fresh is a world of difference that 90 percent of Americans never see. This keeps me very humble about how lucky I am and reminds me to do very little to the fish when preparing so guests can truly appreciate the quality of the meat.  Fishing also gives me an appreciation for the commercial fishing industry – one that provides me a living and one that I never will want to work, it is much more demanding than cooking.

03 Feb 14 by Kait Gray

Green Acres Spotlight: Danielle Moore on marketing for farmers

danielle_mooreAs mealtime manager for Garnish & Gather, Danielle Moore sources ingredients from farmers for their gourmet meal kits, so she knows firsthand how effective marketing can drive business for growers. Luckily for us, she’s going to talk about how the best, easiest ways for farmers to market themselves at the 17th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Green Acres, Saving the Planet One Bite at a Time, which will be held on Feb. 21-22 at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.  in a session called “This Little Piggy Went to Market: Marketing for Farmers.”

What factors should farmers consider when figuring out a their marketing strategy? The most important factor is for farmers to realize that they need a marketing strategy. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but farmers do need to think about (1) what they are going to say (2) how they are going to say it (3) where they are going to say it, (4) who they are going to say it to and (5) why it’s important. Farmers need to go beyond growing the food in order to grow the business. We are lucky to be in an era where local farming is at the forefront of people’s minds. A lot of people know they want to eat local, but don’t know where to start. It is the farmers’ responsibility to let these people know what’s growing and where it can be purchased.

What kind of tools are at a farmers’ disposal in terms of marketing? The internet has made it easy (and cheap!) to reach a huge audience. Social media has allowed marketing to become a two-way conversation. All of the sudden, we can have personal relationships with the businesses we love. People want to see pictures of the farm, they want to hear about your growing philosophy and practices and they want to feel like they are a part of the process. The internet is a powerful tool to talk to your customers each day. Whether its a weekly email, a blog post or a social media update, you can continue to build a relationship with your customers every day.

What are some common considerations specifically for marketing at farmers markets? Through the My Market Club, a program that I manage for Georgia Organics that encourages new people to start shopping at farmers markets across the state, we have found that one of the biggest lures of the farmers market (aside from the delicious food) is the interaction with farmers and a sense of connection with the community. Shoppers want to talk to the people that grew their food and have a relationship with them. This sense of belonging is something that farmers can foster all week, not just at the market. If a customer starts the week getting an email update from the farm, watches them on social media all week to understand what they are doing to get the food to market and reads a blog about the harvest, by the time they get to market they feel a sense of connection to the food they are seeing. All of the sudden, a tomato becomes more than just a tomato! It’s more special because they really have a grasp on how it got to them. If farmers use all these outlets to reach their customers, then engage them at market, offering recipes and advice, then they are creating a love of their brand that is going to keep that person coming back – even in these cold winter months.

29 Jan 14 by BrookeHatfield