Farming in small spaces is just as significant as growing on large areas of farmland. Reusing as much space as possible and treating their farm (no matter how small) as a profitable business can allow producers to use their land to their benefit for years to come.
Brennan Washington and his wife are the owners of Phoenix Gardens in Lawrenceville. Washington and his wife, Gwendolyn, are highly involved in the good food community, but they’re also experts at utilizing small spaces to maximize income. Though their farm is small, they believe that diversifying farms is the best way to produce a range of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and eggs free of harsh pesticides. Washington will present the following Educational Session 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 spoke to Brennan about his farm business and momentum across the state.
When you think about where Phoenix Garden is today, and when you were just starting out, what, if anything, would you have done differently?
The most important thing I would have done differently would to have begun to treat my farm as a business once I realized it was morphing into a money making venture. Because both my wife and I were working full time, we treated our farming operation as a hobby far longer than we should have which caused us a few problems as Phoenix Gardens began to grow.
When would you think that you or any farmer could say, “I’ve done it. I’m a successful famer!”?
When you are getting more out of your farm financially and emotionally than you are putting into it.
You’re engaged in just about every realm of the sustainable farming community. What do you think is the next step to really gain some momentum across the state?
This is my favorite question. The next big task for the local food movement is Georgia will be to put into place the necessary infrastructure to allow sustainable farmers to access larger markets or to bring certain products to market legally. Examples of these include food hubs, meat processing plants, certified kitchens and canneries. This will be especially important given the looming impact of the coming Food Safety Modernization Act. Farmers are currently cut off from some significant revenue streams because this infrastructure is not in place.
If you could give a brand new farmer one piece of advice, what would it be?
Believe in yourself. Farming is a tough taskmaster and you will face hardships. But believe in yourself and you will become resilient and grow. If you have family involved, you need to make sure that you take into account their feelings about the venture and respect them.