Georgia Organics Blog

Your 2015 Georgia Organics Award Winners

by Brooke Hatfield

julia_slideOur conference was last weekend! It was great! And at the end of it all we honored two incredible leaders in Georgia’s good food movement, Julia Gaskin of the University of Georgia and Eric Wagoner of the

Our state’s farmers are so lucky to have both these folks. Full press release below.

Athens Trailblazers Honored for Contributions to Local, Sustainable Agriculture

ATHENS  FEB. 21– Georgia Organics honored two of the state’s foremost leaders of the good food movement at its 18th Annual Conference and Expo— University of Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator Julia Gaskin and Eric Wagoner, who developed the Locally Grown online purchasing platform.

eric_slideGaskin was presented with the Georgia Organics Land Steward Award for her work as a soil scientist and champion of sustainable agriculture in the halls of academia and in fields across Georgia. Her work with UGA’s Cooperative Extension Service has been a particular boon for growers who want to use organic methods, and she’s developed workshops on everything from conservation tillage systems to small farm food safety. During her tenure at UGA, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences started its first Certificate Program in Organic Agriculture.

“Julia has been the college’s strongest supporter of sustainable agriculture,” said Dr. Scott Angle, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Because of her efforts, the college has made great strides in recognizing that agriculture comes in all shapes and sizes.  We are a much different college compared to 20 years ago thanks to the efforts of Julia Gaskin.”

Gaskin is also the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Model State Co-Coordinator for Georgia, and she leads the Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Consortium. She is also a former board member of Georgia Organics.

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

Wagoner was honored with the Barbara Petit Pollinator Award for creating, an online local produce marketplace and has become a national model for connecting growers to consumers and building community around local food. The system emulates aspects of traditional farmers markets— customers buy local produce directly from farmers at prices set by the grower—while helping farmers expand their operations online.

Wagoner, a long-time resident of Athens, started there in 2002, and in 2007 it expanded to 10 service areas across the country, including three more in Georgia. Currently, the Locally Grown network has expanded to 116 chapters in Georgia and 526 across the country.

“No other person has facilitated revenues for farmers and connected consumers with local produce quite like Eric Wagoner,” said Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls.  “He is truly Mr. Farm to Fork.”

Wagoner has connected an incredible amount of consumers with local produce, and the result has been significant revenue for farmers.  Last year, Georgia shoppers bought more than $1.2 million of local produce through, and nationwide that figure is just shy of $3 million in grower-to-consumer sales.

The Barbara Petit Pollinator Award honors an individual or organization for outstanding community leadership in Georgia’s sustainable farming and food movement. 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. The award is named after Barbara Petit, a committed leader, culinary professional, and organizer who served as President of Georgia Organics from 2003-2009.

Both awards were presented Feb. 21 at the conference’s climatic event, the Farmers Feast, a meal prepared by the state’s best chefs featuring organically raised meats and produce from Georgia and the Southeast.


25 Feb 15

Farm to School & Preschool Summit: Friedman on Farm to School Menus

by Paula Maia Fernandes

Establishing a connection between farm and school is fundamental to keep children healthy and to teach them where their food comes from. Misty Friedman is a long time supporter of showing children the importance of eating healthier, Misty Friedmanof food origins, and of how food habits impact the environment and the community.

Friedman is the School Nutrition Coordinator at the Georgia Department of Agriculture and coordinator of  Feed My School for a Week program. The program aims to raise student’s awareness about food and nutrition and approach local farmers to cafeterias. She is also involved with the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen that is a program from the Department of Agriculture that is dedicated to promoting local and healthy eating in Georgia schools by offering healthy recipes using local products to school nutrition directors. Both Feed My School for a Week and Georgia Grown Test Kitchen to give school children access to more nutritional foods, facilitate the adoption of healthier and local recipes in school cafeterias, and raise awareness about food and agriculture among school children.

Friedman will lead a session called “Farm to School Menus” at the Georgia Farm to School & Preschool Summit that will be held on Feb. 19-20 at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga. We talked to her about the Feed My School for a Week program, successful stories, and the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen. Click here to register for our summit!

What will you talk about at our Farm to School Summit? In the session that I am leading, we are going to be talking about a menu following the USDA meal pattern using Georgia commodities. We are also going to be talking about recipes from the Georgia Grown Test Kitchen. We will be sharing menus from the Feed My School for a Week Program.

feed my school logoWhat is the most successful story from Feed My School for a Week? We’ve had so many school systems that participate and the biggest success of this is the introduction of all aspects of Georgia agriculture to our students.

Can you please tell us more about Georgia Grown Test Kitchen? The Georgia Grown Test Kitchen is a way for us to develop recipes that follows the USDA meal pattern and that means calorie requirement, sodium requirement, and using in-season Georgia commodities. We have tested cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, chicken, pears, apples, turnip greens, collard greens, green beans, tomatoes, and corn. In our future recipes we will be doing strawberries, blueberries, squash, bell peppers, cucumbers, and broccoli. And these are all just Georgia commodities. Those are the main or some of the top commodities that we produce in Georgia. Continue reading →

04 Feb 15

Farm to School & Preschool Summit: Lola Blum of City Blossoms

by Paula Maia Fernandes

A garden is capable of growing much more than beautiful plants, it can also grow a community. Lola Blum has on her name what she is all about – to help blooming lolashot-166x300community’s core values such as healthy living skills, community development, environmental education, and artistic expression through growing a garden.

Blum is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of  a non-profit organization out of the Washington D.C. area called City Blossoms. City Blossoms works with schools, neighborhood groups, community centers and other organizations to grow community engagement, youth-driven gardens, and green spaces to play, explore, share, and learn.

Blum will lead a session called “Cooking with Young Children” and another one called “Time to Grow Down! Ways to Design and Implement a Fantastic Early Childhood Gardening Program” at the Georgia Farm to School & Preschool Summit that will be held on Feb. 19- 20, 2015, at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga. Click here to register for our summit!

30 Jan 15

FoodCorps Fridays: An Acrostic from Athens

by Brooke Hatfield

fcBy Constance Roberts, FoodCorps Service Member

As many of us can relate to, the second question I am most frequently asked, after my name, is “What do you do?” This question often leads to a flurry of confusion on both the questioners and respondent’s end. I often become flustered when trying to explain exactly what I do as a FoodCorps service member.

After a long string of “ahh”s “errm”s and “well”s, I generally decide to save my exasperated questioner from my failed attempt at a full explanation and default to a well-rehearsed spiel.  “I’m a FoodCorps member who serves in the city of Athens. I teach kids about healthy lifestyles through garden and nutrition education.”

This well-ironed answer satisfies many a questioner. However, there are those other curious types whose interests are piqued by my ambiguity. Continue reading →

30 Jan 15

Talking with USDA National Director of Farm to School Deborah Kane

by Emily Cumbie-Drake

Deborah KaneWe’re honored to have Deborah Kane, the USDA National Director of Farm to School (and UGA alumna!), as this year’s keynote for the Georgia Farm to School and Preschool Summit in Athens on Feb. 19-20.  She recently took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to chat with us about the upcoming opportunities and challenges she encounters in her role.

What are the biggest opportunities on the horizon for farm to school?
From my perspective, one of the biggest opportunities on the horizon for farm to school is the degree to which it’s a perfect fit with the changes that we’ve made to the meal pattern with the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. Farm to school is a toolkit for helping kids understand where their food comes from and to get them more excited to try new fruits and vegetables. There is so much energy and excitement right now around farm to school programs and one of the reasons for this is because it’s one of our best toolkits to get kids and parents excited about school lunch. Farm to school also gives schools a positive message to share with their communities. Continue reading →

28 Jan 15

Talking Crop Stories with Andre Gallant

by Paula Maia Fernandes

Crop Stories is a quarterly magazine published by Athens Farmers Market that reveals the journey of seasonal crops from farm to table. The zine includes the story of crops, Athens Farmers Market farmers, and bring recipes from Georgia organic growers and talentedwinter squash
local chefs. The first Crop Stories was released in June 2014 and the blueberry had the honor to be the first magazine cover star while the current issue features the well known Winter Squash. You can find Crop Stories in Atlanta at Youngblood Boutique, Crafted Westside, Preserving Place, and Maiden South in Bainbridge, Ga. In Athens you find it at Avid Bookshop and at the Athens Farmers Market.

Crop Stories editor Andre Gallant will be supporting the magazine at the Expo of our 18th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Recipe for Change: Better Farms, Better Flavors, which will be held on Feb. 20-21, 2015, at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga.

We talked to Gallant about Crop Stories, food and farm journalism, and his new book that is coming up soon.

How did the idea of Crop Stories emerge? And can you tell us a little about the supergroup behind the project?  The idea for Crop Stories emerged out of conversations between farmer Caitlyn Hardy (who would become CS’s food editor) and Athens Farmers Market manager Jan Kozak (who serves as publisher of the zine). Their Continue reading →

28 Jan 15

FoodCorps Fridays: “Where’d My Seeds Go?”

by Brooke Hatfield

photo 3By Sarah Dasher, FoodCorps Service Member

I’m often surprised by how fascinated kids are by things that I think might go over their heads. For instance, to me, the fact that a tiny rock-like thing sprouts and grows into a tomato plant or corn or a tree is like magic. Just add water, sun, and soil and you’ve got something amazing from almost nothing. But whenever I’m about to go to class and talk about seeds with the kids, I expect them to not be so fascinated by this. After all, they have TV and the internet and can find out anything about anything at any time.

But they are fascinated. Not the really little kids so much, who are still learning the plant parts and what a seed is, but around second and third grade, when they start to really get it, you can see in their eyes that they think it’s magic too.

I’ve been doing indoor seed packet scavenger hunts with my classes because the weather hasn’t been so great lately. It involves stashing piles of seed packets around the classroom and having the students race to see who can answer all 15 questions first (they have to go to each pile and find the information on the back of the packets to do so, so they get to move around, which is nice.) Continue reading →

23 Jan 15

Recipe for Change: Daniel Dover on Pastured Poultry

by Michael Wall

Daniel DoverDaniel Dover started Darby Farms seven years ago to cure his body and mind of constant fatigue and depression after a life time of eating dead food and 2 1/2 years of being a vegetarian/vegan. So utilizing three acres of pasture owned by his wife’s family in Monroe, Ga., Daniel resolved to feed himself, family, friends and neighbors with nutrient dense foods. Darby Farm now leases a house with 50+ acres of pasture and mixed hard wood and pine with hopes of negotiating more. For 2015 Darby Farms plans to raise 1,200 laying hens, 15,000 meat type chicken, duck and turkey, 100 pigs, 20 head of sheep and a few head of cattle.

Daniel will be presenting the Educational Session “Raising Poultry for Market,” at the 18th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Recipe for Change: Better Farms, Better Flavors,” Feb. 20-21 at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga.

How long have you been raising pastured-poultry chickens, and what changes have you seen in the marketplace since you began?
We started in the spring of 2007 with cornish cross. We have seen a 1,000-fold increase in demand for our freedom ranger meat birds that we now raise since that inception.

What’s the biggest barrier you see for the growth of industry in Georgia?
There are 4 barriers that really strangle what we can do here in GA
1. Proximity of a USDA small scale poultry processing facility that can handle 1000 or more head a day.
2. Rules and regulations set forth by GADOA and EPD for P.L. 90-492 for on – farm poultry processing
3. Consistent and reliable local non-gmo feed mills
4. Local hatchery Continue reading →

23 Jan 15

Recipe for Change: Marty Mesh on Getting Certified

by Michael Wall

Marty Mesh__headshotMarty Mesh has dedicated more than 40 years to a more environmentally responsible and socially just form of agriculture. In 1987, Mesh helped form Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG), a nonprofit organization, and, in 1995, became FOG’s Executive Director. The goal was to educate farmers and the public about organic production through their programs and initiatives. Under his leadership, FOG developed Quality Certification Services, a USDA, ISO Guide 65 and ANSI accredited organic certification program. Mesh has served on the Board of Directors for many organizations, including multiple terms on the Organic Trade Association and the Accredited Certifiers Association. He was on the Organic Steering Committee for the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.

At the 18th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Recipe for Change: Better Farms, Better Flavors, which will be held on Feb. 20-21, 2015, at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga. Mesh will present at the In-Dept Workshop, “Let’s Get Real: Organic Certification.” Mesh and his fellow presenters will lead attendees through a step-by-step process of USDA organic production and certification, highlighting the importance of record-keeping in any sound business and available reimbursement funds for the cost.

Georgia has one of the smallest amounts of organic acreage in the nation. Do you have any theories as to why that might be when demand is so high? I think many growers that may be interested are also rightfully cautious about substantially changing their production system. They may wonder if the system can really work, if the system can work in the Southern conditions which we operate in, if technical help is available, if there is research to support the possible change, what the market possibilities really are and other considerations and questions. Smaller scale growers may think that all of their customers already know them and thus see no need to consider change. Larger growers having more at risk are sometimes risk adverse. They may not understand that we have been working hard for many years to better address the issues that have held back the growth and promise of organic agriculture. We can discuss these topics during the session. Continue reading →

21 Jan 15

Recipe for Change: Anne-Marie Anderson on Raising Chickens

by Paula Maia Fernandes

Anne-MarieRaising chickens doesn’t require much time or space, and provides a variety of benefits to whoever decides to embrace the flocks. None of this is news to Anne-Marie Anderson, who’s taught several classes about chicken-keeping for the Wylde Center and organizes their annual urban coop tour.

Anderson is also founder and Head Gardener of The Celtic Gardener, a landscaping company in the Decatur area that creates sustainable gardens and specializes in native plantings, Southern heirlooms, urban vegetable gardens, chickens, and beekeeping.

Anderson will lead a session called “Eggs for Breakfast: Backyard Chickens 101″ at the 18th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Recipe for Change: Better Farms, Better Flavors, which will be held on Feb. 20-21, 2015, at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga.

We talked to Anderson about her love for raising chickens, what’s needed to raise them, misconceptions, and why so many people have been interested in having chickens on their own backyards.

What’s your favorite thing about raising chickens? Chickens love life, love food and love anything shiny. It’s infectious! Continue reading →

19 Jan 15