Georgia Organics Blog

A Recipe For Change: Daniel Parson on Whole Farm Planning


by Michael Wall

Daniel Parson, former Georgia Organics Land Steward of the Year and Oxford College at Emory University Farmer, will lead an In-Depth Workshop on Whole Farm Planning 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.

Here’s the description of his presentation: Are you preparing to start a farm? Are you reevaluating your produce business to maximize profitability? It’s never too early or too late to look at your operation holistically. Daniel Parson, the organic farm manager for Emory University’s Oxford College, will lead this in-depth workshop on building a farm business from A to Z.

 

We talked to Parson about learning curves for farmers and changes he’s seen in farming community.

Georgia Organics: If you could tell your younger self, the Daniel who was just starting to farm, something that you know now, what would it be?

Daniel: I would say ‘be more observant, and travel more’. When I was just starting out, I got into the never-ending work cycle of the farm. Over the years I have learned to balance work and family life because the farm work is literally never complete – that’s the nature of it. I could have spent more time identifying insects, observing the ecosystem of the farm, and visiting with other farmers in our area. At the time, there were not that many organic farms in Georgia, so I would tell my former self to travel to parts of the country where there were more and spend some time working there.

 

GO: Over the years, what changes have you seen in the young farming community?

Daniel: When I was in college, there weren’t many of us long-haired environmentalist types who wanted to live in a tent on an organic farm. Then I met some folks from Warren Wilson at a CFSA conference and I realized there were more than I thought. Aside from a couple dozen farms in the region offering ‘internships’, there were few opportunities for young people to learn. Now I meet plenty of young people who are in college programs, work on farms, or have related internships like FoodCorps. I don’t think anybody was thinking about a business plan then, but now many young people realize that farming is a business for which they must plan. Social media makes a lot of the new connections possible and has accelerated growth – young farmers now seem a lot better organized. It is a lot of fun to watch young people go from an internship to being farm managers themselves. That is one of our challenges – help young people get established so that 10 years from now there are a lot more organic farmers! Wait-am I still a young farmer???

 

GO: You’re an advocate for organic certification. Why do you think that’s important for growers?

Daniel: Hopefully, by the time of the conference we will be certified. Currently, we are awaiting inspection. Having gone through the process with three different operations and three different certifiers, I know how challenging it can be to get a small, diverse farm certified organic. That is reflected in the small number of certified farms nationwide and in Georgia compared to the number of community-based farms that are growing naturally. Whatever peoples’ problems with organic certification, we need some kind of well-established program to set basic standards for what it means to be an organic farmer. Consumers may not know what goes into organic certification, but it is very consistent with their values of the kind of food they want to purchase. Ultimately, it is a system that protects the consumer.

 

GO: What’s the experience been like of starting a farm, from scratch, at a university?

Daniel:  How much time do you have? I would like to write a book on that one day… It has been at times challenging, exhilarating, easier than I expected, and harder than I imagined. Oxford and Emory have been leaders in getting good food into the dining halls, improving sustainability on campus, and bringing these ideas into the liberal arts classroom. The College was eager to start the farm and has supported me in every step. Interacting with students and professors is the greatest and most unique part of it. I am learning as much as I am teaching and feel like this is a great time for young people to get involved with our movement.

GO: You have been to almost as many Georgia Organics conferences as anyone. What are you looking forward to the most?

Daniel:  Seeing my friends from all over the state. And no matter how many I have attended, there is always at least one moment when I learn something that will change the way I farm-for the better!


26 Nov 14

StoryCorps: Will Harris and Jennifer Owens

by Claire Maxwell

Will Harris of White Oaks Pastures farms land that has been in his family for nearly a century and a half. He talks with Jennifer Owens of Georgia Organics about how the farm has evolved from one generation to the next and explains his decision to move away from industrial farming practices.

Recorded at the 2013 Georgia Organics Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Produced by Stephannie Stokes with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national non-profit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org. All StoryCorps interviews, including this one, are archived at the Library of Congress’ American Folk Life Center.  

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24 Nov 14

FoodCorps Friday: FoodCorps Service, Three Ways

by Brooke Hatfield

sarah_dasherBy Sarah Dasher, FoodCorps Service Member

One thing I’ve found out so far in my service year with FoodCorps is that lesson planning is simply the worst. It’s terrible, and I hate it. I’ve asked teachers at my schools about it, and they’re with me. This is—truly–news to me. I thought, these people are pros, so they must always be prepared, right? Not the case. They still stress out about whether or not the lesson they have planned will be successful or not.

It’s not that they aren’t smart, creative people; they just know the horror that is a classroom full of thirty kids looking up at you with blank faces as you gush about something that you’re, just, like, so totally into—and that kids have no frame of reference for and therefor couldn’t care less about. It’s a pretty terrible realization that a few second graders have the ability to make you feel totally inept at your job. I think that’s where the stress of planning comes from, especially as a guest teacher: the fear that your lesson has to be the coolest thing they’ve done all day, or else they are going to look at you like you’re crazy.

Sometimes, the thing I’m excited about is pretty dumb to them. Other times though, the lesson I thought they were going to hate turns out to be a blast. Continue reading →


21 Nov 14

StoryCorps: Brennan Washington and Jonathan Tescher

by Claire Maxwell

Brennan Washington started Phoenix Gardens with his wife Gwendolyn in 2005. Before that, Brennan worked in Information Technology and his wife in customer service. In this interview with Jonathan Tescher of Georgia Organics, he explains how they managed that transition and some of the unexpected challenges that came with it.

Recorded at the 2013 Georgia Organics Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Produced by Stephannie Stokes with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national non-profit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org. All StoryCorps interviews, including this one, are archived at the Library of Congress’ American Folk Life Center.  

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21 Nov 14

Fieldtrip: Atlanta Harvest

by Claire Maxwell

atlantaharvest

One of the high tunnels at Atlanta Harvest’s site in South Atlanta.

Atlanta Harvest stemmed from the desire to provide fresh, organic, and locally grown produce that is accessible to low-income communities in Atlanta. Late last summer Corbin and Bethaney, along with 35 local volunteers, a team from the Shelby County Farm to School Program in Memphis, as well as a team from Baltimore, began building high tunnels at their site in South Atlanta. After three days, the tunnels were built and within the next month, they had begun harvesting all sorts of produce including kale, arugula, and other greens.

I took a trip over to Atlanta Harvest in South Atlanta to talk with its founders, Corbin Klett and Bethaney Herrington, about how they came up with the idea of building farms in the city to connect local farmers and producers to consumers.

Continue reading →


21 Nov 14

ALFI Orchard Project Grows Fruit, Community in Atlanta

by Claire Maxwell

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The apple tree planted in front of Fire Station #10 in Grant Park

By Akilah Roberts and Claire Maxwell

The Atlanta Local Food Initiative (ALFI) began its Orchard Project in 2010 with the inaugural planting at Burgess Peterson Academy in East Atlanta. The ALFI Orchard Project installs edible school and community orchards that aim to feed, teach, and inspire. The project has planted 21 orchards that provide direct access to local food while improving Atlanta’s landscape. These teaching orchards connect students, teachers, and Atlanta residents to the local food movement, and organizations collaborate to make sure the orchards receive proper care and maintenance.

We had the opportunity to take a tour of four of the Orchard Project sites with Robby Astrove, ALFI member and fruit tree expert who has lead the initiative to plant and maintain these orchards all over the city. While visiting Burgess Peterson Academy, Alonzo Crim Open Campus High School, Fire Station #10 in Grant Park, and Wesley International Academy, we were able to see how planting fruit trees ensures public food access and sustainability for decades.

Continue reading →


20 Nov 14

Conference Spotlight: Hugh Lovel on Biodynamics

by Claire Maxwell

hughlovelHugh Lovel is a farmer, educator, and scientist well-known for his experience in biodynamic farming and operating the first CSA in Georgia. He hosted the South-East Biodynamic Conferences at his home for 12 years and since 2005 he has spent his time between Australia and the U.S. teaching and writing. He founded the Quantum Agriculture Consultancy with his wife, Shabari Bird, and has just released a new book, Quantum Agriculture: Biodynamics and Beyond, which covers the practical applications of biodynamics and its ethical and ecological approaches to agriculture.

Lovel will lead a day-long biodynamics workshop 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 Lovel about his new book, and about how he became involved with agriculture and biodynamic farming.

How did you become interested in biodynamic farming?
Shabari introduced it to me back in 1977. Back then she was my next door neighbor, and she had gotten Peter Escher, a well-known biodynamic consultant, to stop in and visit. Peter really was a great introduction to biodynamics. He was working at that time with Barbara and Kerry Sullivan at the Mother Earth News farm in North Carolina which was founded in 1970 and has since sought to promote ecology and self-sufficiency.

Continue reading →


19 Nov 14

Conference Spotlight: Shabari Bird on Agro-homeopathy

by Claire Maxwell

shabari bird

Shabari Bird is a teacher and expert in fermentation with a strong belief in homeopathic methods. She and her husband, Hugh Lovel, founded Quantum Agriculture Consultancy in order to share their natural approaches to healthy living and agriculture. We talked to Shabari about her passion for biodynamic farming and how it’s been a platform for her interest in Agro-homeopathic methods. Bird will be speaking 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.

How did you become interested in Agro-homeopathy and how have you developed your knowledge of Agro-homeopathic methods?
I was first introduced to homeopathy when I was 20. I was living in Paris and my hostess took me to a homeopathic pharmacy. I met Dr. Pierre Dassonville who treated me for the flu with Gelsemium. A few years later, I read The Secret Life of Plants which was co-authored by my late husband, Christopher Bird, and Peter Tompkins. After reading about Dr. Edward Bach, a homeopath from London who developed what is now known as Bach Flower Remedies, I ordered a Bach Flower Remedy kit. I then began studying Homeopathic Medicine at the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH) and continued my education through seminars in Classical Homeopathy in New York. I apprenticed in Classical Homeopathy with Alan Sutherland and Christopher Easter in Maryland, and in 1979 I organized the first homeopathic class in Georgia with George Guess.

Continue reading →


17 Nov 14

StoryCorps: Basmat Ahmed and Susan Pavlin

by Claire Maxwell

Basmat Ahmed is a community builder with the Global Growers Network. Originally from what is now South Sudan, she came to the U.S. several years ago as a refugee. In this interview, she talks with Susan Pavlin, also of the Global Growers Network, about her efforts to unite Sudanese communities around Atlanta through farming.

Recorded at the 2013 Georgia Organics Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Produced by Stephannie Stokes with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national non-profit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org. All StoryCorps interviews, including this one, are archived at the Library of Congress’ American Folk Life Center.  

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17 Nov 14

FoodCorps: “Three habaneros is three too many!”

by Brooke Hatfield

By Constance Roberts, FoodCorps Service Member

Happy November, from FoodCorps Athens! In the theme of the newest FoodCorps hashtag – #trythings, we present to you the bravest teenagers in all the land, the West Broad Young Urban Farmers (YUF!), who work tirelessly, with ne’er a complaint, at their very own West Broad Garden. To learn more about the benefits of each kind of vegetable growing at the garden right now, we split the group into teams of two and assigned each team a specific vitamin, for which they had to design a juice, harvest the appropriate veggies, and then present their concoction for the whole group to try together.

For example, here’s the Vitamin A juice (great for eyesight, a healthy immune system, and beautiful skin), packed full of kale, pak choi, sweet potato, red mustard, and parsley, all grown in the West Broad Garden! We added some local carrots and apples to make the juice a bit more, ahem… palatable.

Juice

Pretty groovy, huh? Continue reading →


11 Nov 14