The state’s organic agriculture community gathered this weekend at the 16th Annual Georgia Organics Conference to recognize the pioneering career of Henry County resident and longtime farmer, Helen Dubose for the trails she has blazed for over nine decades.
Dubose, the first female African American in the nation to graduate with an agriculture degree (and two subsequent Master’s degrees in agriculture and agriculture economics), has lived for 32 years on her 12 acre blueberry farm in McDonough, known as Healing Acres, which has more than 250 blueberry bushes. Healing Acres, and Dubose herself, has served as the epicenter of African American agriculture.
“With 80 years of agricultural experience, both farming and teaching, Helen DuBose is a living legend, but so humble, that she is unknown to most of us,” says Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls. “So this year, Georgia Organics recognizes Helen Dubose for her incredible life of contributions to agricultural and as an inspiration to so many, particularly young, African-American farmers interested in farming.”
The Barbara Petit Pollinator Award honors an individual or organization for outstanding community leadership in Georgia’s sustainable farming and food movement.
The award acknowledges exceptional success in advancing Georgia Organics’ mission by spreading—pollinating—the movement throughout community life, such as the food industry, faith communities, public agencies, schools, and institutions. The award is named after Barbara Petit, a committed leader, culinary professional, and organizer who served as President of Georgia Organics from 2003-2009. During her term as president, the organization evolved from a non-staffed, member, and program-driven nonprofit to a professional group with expanded outreach, programs, and communications.
Known as the first lady of black agriculture, Dubose has an inspiration to generations of farmers from all ethic and financial backgrounds because she broke agricultural, gender and racial barriers with a steely resolve.
A granddaughter of a farmer, Helen was not only the first to graduate from college in her family, she was the first in her family since slavery to finish the 6th grade. Determined to get an agricultural degree, she received a bachelor’s degree in 1941 from Florida A&M. This made her the first black woman in the country to receive an Agricultural degree.
After college, Mrs. Dubose returned home to farm 40 acres she bought from her grandfather and later became a teacher.
Besides farming, her resume over the decades included:
- Teaching high school English and biology near Thomasville, Georgia;
- Working with agricultural migrant workers in the Everglades for the USDA;
- And, during World War II, teaching a wartime program called “Increasing Farm Production to Meet Special War Needs.”
Cashawn Myers, founder and executive director of HABESHA, presented the award to Dubose’s grandson on Feb. 23 at the 16th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, which had a record-breaking 1,300 attendees.
Lynn Pugh, Cane Creek Farm, 2013 Land Steward Award Winner
Long known as “The Grower Who Grows Growers,” organic farmer and educator Lynn Pugh was awarded the 2013 Georgia Organics Land Steward of the Year Award at the organization’s 16th annual conference on Feb. 23, 2013.
As Broad River Pastures’ Cathy Payne said in her introduction, “for over 30 years, Lynn has been a living example of the heart and soul of organic agriculture.” Pugh studied science, and ecology in college, and went on to teach at the high school and college levels, gardening all the while. In 2001, she founded her own growing operation in Forsyth County. Cane Creek Farm is a four-acre Certified Naturally Grown farm that features a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Pugh never quite shook her desire to educate — for over 13 seasons, her hands-on, intensive farming and gardening class has trained 155 people in the fundamentals of organic growing, and many graduates have gone on to start their own operations. Pugh’s generosity of spirit is spurred by a genuine love of the land and desire to act as a good steward. “The way we live with the environment and the world is important,” she said during a tour of her farm in December 2012. “It’s important to value it, to work with the world we’re given.”
The Land Steward of the Year Award was created by Georgia Organics to honor an individual or individuals who have contributed greatly towards the organic agriculture movement in Georgia. The award has traditionally been given to a farmer, agricultural professional, or researcher who has demonstrated a commitment to the tenets of organic agriculture— soil fertility, biodiversity, on-farm recycling, and water quality— and also the larger community through leadership, education, and outreach.
With more than 1,300 attendees, the 16th Annual Georgia Organics Conference and Expo united the two communities most responsible for the health of Georgians—growers who farm organically and healthcare practitioners.
It was the largest conference in Georgia Organics history.
The conference’s theme, “Farm Rx: A Prescription for Better Health,” was a banner under which these two groups united over two days at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta.
The good food movement in the South has unprecedented momentum, and from Feb. 22-23 conference attendees visited local farms, sat in on panel discussions, and made connections with farmers, medical professionals, school nutrition staff, gardeners, teachers, and community groups. They attended workshops on topics ranging from mushroom cultivation to young farmer advocacy.
The conference culminated with a keynote from CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who recognized the important unity of good food and good farms: “We’ve eaten our way into a problem, we can eat our way out of it.”
More Georgians then ever are choosing to eat local produce. The number of farmer’s markets across the state increased 588 percent between 2003 and 2008. There’s also been an explosion of interest in Community Supported Agriculture, which are grass-roots groups that directly link consumers to local farmers. There are 35 such groups in Georgia now, a 600 percent increase since 2003.