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Food Oasis Magic

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Columbus residents gather for a photo following another successful Georgia Food Oasis meeting.

At a recent speaking engagement for Creative Mornings in Atlanta, Kevin Gillese, the founder of comedy club Dad’s Garage, burst the bubble on “magic.”

Magic isn’t real, he claimed, it’s simply the delayed reaction between really hard work and the final product. People don’t see the nitty gritty effort, the failed attempts, or partnerships formed to bring a work of art, a song, or even a vegetable, to life.

To most, the final product is magic. But at a recent Food Oasis meeting in Columbus led by Georgia Organics, it sure felt like the hard work was in fact the magic.

Let me explain.

In 2007, Brad and Jenn Barnes, “…decided to see how hard it would be to remove ourselves from the consumer rat-race by not buying any new non-consumables for an entire year,” as they wrote on their blog, The Dew Abides. “Turns out it was easy. Surprisingly easy,” they added.

Lo and behold, their mission to provide more of their own food and become as sustainable as possible lasted much longer than one year. This transition also changed their perspective: Instead of seeing a pile of junk on an abandoned lot in the neighborhood, they saw the site of a future food forest.

Fast-forward to September 2016: The Barnes family stood up in front of the crowd at a Food Oasis meeting in Columbus to pitch the food forest idea for a chance to win a microgrant from Georgia Organics. The Columbus Food Oasis community chose the project as the “Best Project Concept” and they won $1,500 towards the orchard.

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Certainly, that journey had some charm of it’s own, but the real magic occurred at the next Columbus Food Oasis meeting, where Brad stood up to provide some updates about the orchard. He secured an agreement with the property owner who would receive a property tax credit for allowing his land to become an orchard, identified and dealt with a few smaller issues, and basically had the everything on schedule for an early December planting.

But two major hurdles emerged: they needed someone to prune a few overbearing trees in the neighbor’s yard that hadn’t been taken care of in years–some of which have since become hazardous–in order to maximize sunlight for the orchard, and, of course, the fruit trees themselves. They’d just received a quote for the pruning and were looking into getting another grant for the trees.

This particular Food Oasis meeting took place at a business incubator called Two Thousand Opportunities, who also won a grant at the last meeting to install a community garden on their property. Ann Davis, the Executive Director of Two Thousand Opportunities and long-time fixture in the community, invited several first-time Food Oasis meeting attendees to join the meeting, including farmer Marvin Glaspy and his nephew Jody.

Those two love growing food. In fact, there’s nothing they’d rather do. They grow what they can eat, preserve some for later, and give the rest of the food away.

“The way it should be,” Glaspy noted.

The Food Oasis meeting was no different. After showing off his beautiful collard greens and sugar cane, Glaspy handed out bell peppers and hot peppers.

And when Jody heard that a couple of trees might need to come down, he raised his hand. “I can cut that tree down,” he said. “I’ve cut down trees all over this city. And I guarantee nobody around here can beat my price.”

Seconds later, Dorothy McDaniel, Executive Director of Trees Columbus, smiled and raised her hand. “I think I know someone who can help you with those fruit trees,” she said.

Just like that, the Barnes family went from having a delayed, over-budget orchard, to a truly community supported project that will provide food for decades.

That’s what I call magic.

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