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Behind the Conference: Laurie Ritchie

Laurie Ritchie is the co-owner of J and L Farm and Stables and will be speaking during the Healing Farms: Access for Unseen Growers Saturday session

What role do you play in the local, organic food movement?

We are Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) farmers and have been members of Augusta Locally Grown’s online market and farmers’ markets for about six years. The most meaningful market is the Veggie Park Farmers’ Market in the Harrisburg section of Augusta. It is the market where low income families can access fresh vegetables and fruits with SNAP benefits and/or through the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription (FVRX) Program.

Why are you excited to present about your topic and what are some key takeaways attendees will get from your session?

A Healing Farm is a farm within our farm. Two years ago, my husband and I made the decision to hire a young man who is mentally challenged and has a form of autism. We had no experience in this area (even though I am a former middle/high school English teacher), but this young man had had so many unrewarding jobs, and he seemed so willing to try farming, we had to give him an opportunity.

I would love to “plant the seed” in someone’s heart to hire someone like our Charlie. It is so amazing to see a person grow personally while learning to grow fruits and vegetables!

What about the Georgia Organics conference do you look forward to the most?

This is my third G.O. conference and more than the vendors and displays and seeing new friends from other conferences, are the educational sessions.  Each of the previous years, there has been at least one session that excites me so much about organic farming that I can’t wait to start planting season again!

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