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Member Spotlight: Asa Ysrael of Local Lands

Asa and GoatsMeet Asa Ysrael, owner and operator of Local Lands Organically Grown Garden in Dublin, Ga.

What made you decide to become a member of Georgia Organics?

The overabundance of useful information, as well as the staff and my history with them.  You have serious people on your team and that is a rare commodity in this tree-hugging business.

How did you get started in farming?

When I was an adolescent I worked on my uncle’s horse farm in California. Although we didn’t do much gardening, he taught me to work with animals, to fight (he was a martial arts trainer), and WORK my behind off.  It gave me an appreciation for the life of a farmer, an appreciation that stayed dormant for almost two decades until I bought a house with an acre in Pennsylvania, while still working in New York City.

Living there, surrounded by 300 acres of woodland, I reopened my desire for the country lifestyle.  I began to garden, built hydroponic systems and soil-less designs. I took on the scary idea that I could actually feed myself!

Four years later, with the help and influence of some friends and family, I began to look for land in Georgia.  The rest, as they say, is history.

What would you like to see develop in the Georgia food community in future?

Forward-minded farmers who work together.  Many of the problems the average “small farmer” in middle Georgia face can be solved with the assistance of other farmers. Shortages in staff, labor, machinery, selection and availability of crops, and many other issues, could be addressed simply by combining our resources.

I have two farmers in my area that loan me trailers, tools and come here sometimes to do tasks that I cannot, while I, in turn, loan out my transplanter, labor hours and even help them with other sales outlets.

I believe that the farmers in Georgia, at least middle Georgia, where I farm, look at each other more as competition than likeminded comrades, and in turn “bite off our noses to spite our face.”

Changing this could improve quantities and qualities.  We could concentrate on growing the crops that work for us, and work with other farmers who would concentrate on the crops that work for them.  This in turn would, without doubt, lead to more food for our communities and the metro areas.

Less dependence on corrupted supplements.  Many of us sell our foods as “natural,” “organically grown,” “free range,” etc.  For the small farmer, however, who is producing 500 pounds of broccoli, 300 dozen eggs, or even greater numbers of that or other goods, it becomes difficult, or even impossible to produce these quantities without using hybrid seed or genetically modified supplements.

We had this problem slap us in the face when we began to increase our animal production.  To make sure that we had a more natural feed we turned to our neighbors, of whom have been farming feed for decades, with minimal corruption. We found out that even their seed was GMO — disappointing to say the least.  We tried turning to organic feed and couldn’t find any at a cost that could support our business, with feed prices ranging from $28 per bag.  So we got together with some farmers in our area and pitched the idea of growing non-GMO feed.  They agreed and we began developing GeechieGrain.com, a locally sourced feed that is affordable for the small farmer.  We feed this to our cows, sheep, goats, chickens, quail and even our horses. It has produced great results!

More giving back.  I would LOVE to see more farmer based community outreach.  My wife and I are working on ways that our farm could personally feed more people. We’ve created a “Food for Work” initiative where people can barter five hours of work for a basket of organically grown produce.  Of course, more hours means more food.  I’m sure there are other farms with similar, if not identical, initiatives, but I would love for this to be a more mainstream concept.

What is your number one passion outside of work?

My family and my faith receive all of my time outside of work.  We are Hebrew people and believers in the fundamentals of the bible: to love one another, and to love that power that connects us all.  I know it sounds very cliché, but this is my passion: To be a better human being.

Truth is, building a farm demands so much, we hardly have time for anything else. We really stay focused on doing things according to our faith.  It has provided me with one sure path.  That work and passion must be closely related. I believe that one should not need a vacation from their job, but should find an occupation that creates a sort of vacation. I’ve worked in an occupation that required a vacation, now my occupation provides me peace of mind.

What is your favorite food to make?

Hummus, nut pate and tea. Simple foods I know, but because of these favorites we have created a line of teas from herbal to medicinal that we produce here at the farm.  The hummus and pate I just love to make.

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