The Daily Dirt

Georgia Food Oasis Galvanizes Community Farm

Sharayah Davis is a self-described “doer.”

In 2016, Davis spent time at Signal Mountain farm in Chattanooga, TN, learning the ropes of organic farming.

When she returned to Columbus, Ga., Davis became active in Georgia Organics’ program, Georgia Food Oasis. She attended meetings, volunteered, and ultimately took a part-time job with Georgia Organics as our Columbus Food Oasis Ambassador.

In the fall, Davis was ready. It was time to start her own farm operation.

“I wanted to go out and do it instead of talking about it, because I’ve been talking about it for so long,” said Davis.

Since breaking ground in January 2017, Davis’ operation — named Elijah’s farm, after her son — has made astounding progress, becoming a beacon of hope in Columbus while inspiring the community to take action.

On just 10,000 square feet — about 1/3rd of an acre — Elijah’s Farm is located on the property of Cascade Hills Church and aims to become the intersection of community, health, economic activity, and philanthropy.

When her produce comes up this summer, Elijah’s Farm plans to give away 10% of their produce to those in need, train volunteers to start their own farm, and loan out equipment to assist other operations.

“Not only do we want to produce good food, we want to give back, we want to involve people and improve the connectivity in the city,” said Davis. “The second part of our vision is to give food to people who need it.”

The vision to produce and give food away was largely made possible due to the business training Davis received at the 20th Anniversary Georgia Organics Conference, February 17-18, 2017 in Atlanta. Davis attended a session led by Lee McBride about SPIN Farming (Small Plot INtensive). Their model is perfect for Davis’ 10,000 square feet, and the session helped her plan a production schedule to ensure she will be able to donate produce and turn a profit.

Support for Davis’ vision has been incredible. After securing a USDA Beginning Farmer Loan, Davis also formed a partnership with a local business that gives her unlimited access to their greenhouse to  grow out seedlings. A local plumber assisted with an irrigation system and sold Davis all of the equipment at cost.

Davis also received a micro-grant from Georgia Organics to purchase her first round of seeds, jump-starting the operation.

“Food Oasis, it’s just been amazing,” said Davis. “It’s helped with the discussion of increasing access to truly healthy food, but really helping individuals like myself and others take action to make these things happen.”

Since Elijah’s Farm broke ground, the buzz around town about her project and Georgia Food Oasis in general has blown Davis away.

“I’m getting calls from people I don’t even know saying that they’ve heard about the Georgia Food Oasis and they want to get involved and asking how they go about doing it,” said Davis.

It’s also helped to recruit volunteers. Members of the military, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Georgia Food Oasis community turn out at least once a week to assist Davis on the farm.

“The support means so much to me,” said Davis. “I think about the people and the individuals who have jumped in with both feet and have either lent their time, or a hand, or equipment, or finances.  Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.  It’s humbling.  It’s emotional.  It’s just a really good feeling to know that there’s such great support here for this.”

Now that’s how you get things done.

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