By Matthew Raiford of Gilliard Farms
Farmer and Georgia Organics Member
Two years ago my sister and I were gift deeded about 25 acres of land from our family. We had a long discussion about what we were going to do with it and my sister suggested we see who was an organic farmer in our area. We couldn’t find anyone, and since there are so many farms in our area we were surprised.
I typed in the words “Georgia Organic” in Google and voila!—there was the Georgia Organics organization; we immediately signed up for the 2011 conference in Savannah. We signed up for sessions about bees, soil fertility, and tried to split up and conquer every session that we could. We had no idea how many people would be open to giving us information as new farmers. After the conference I quit my job and headed to UCSC to the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and spent the next six months learning, working, and living on the organic farm and getting a certificate in Ecological Horticulture.
The Georgia Organics Farm Services Coordinator that I met at the conference called at least once a month to get updates on my plans for the farm. He also got me information for the NRCS office in Glynn County and information about organic certification, which was extremely encouraging! I lucked out and had Amy Schuster, who is the Garden Manager at Little St. Simons Island, as my organic mentor, who I was paired with as part of Georgia Organics’ services for growing more growers.
She shared her wealth of knowledge and made sure that I met other organic growers who worked with similar soils. As fate would have it, I am now the executive chef at Little St. Simons Island and we have a strong Seed to Table program. So where does that leave time for me to run an organic farm? One thing I have learned over the past two years is I can’t rush this thing called farming. For the past year we have worked on soil fertility, building compost with fish scraps, horse manure, coffee grounds, and shredded paper, and planting small plots to see what grows well in our climate. Our chickens are producing eggs and our sow just had a litter of eight.
Without the connections I made by going to that first Georgia Organics conference, and without the guidance and direction from Georgia Organics and my mentor Amy, Gilliard Farms would not have been able to grow or create a balance on our farm. This is why I am committed to supporting Georgia Organics!
I would like to ask for your personal investment to support Georgia Organics’ critical work in 2013!
There are many farmers that need support like I did and Georgia Organics provides it. They need your financial help to continue to support, educate, and mentor farmers. They need support to continue community outreach for a stronger farm to school program.