COLUMBUS—More than 900 guests joined Georgia Organics to honor two of the state’s foremost leaders in the good food movement at the 19th Annual Georgia Organics Conference: Will Harris of White Oak Pastures, and Erin Croom, who began the Farm to School program at Georgia Organics.
The Georgia Organics Land Steward Award honors an individual who has contributed greatly to the organic movement in Georgia; on the farm through environmentally friendly production, and off the farm, through leadership, education, and outreach.
Harris and White Oak Pastures go beyond these core tenants. Not only did Harris blaze the trail for grass-fed beef in Georgia by prioritizing animal wellbeing and environmental stewardship, he is a significant catalyst in the economic renewal of Bluffton, Ga., and hopes to lead an educational revitalization of sustainable ranching through a partnership with nearby Andrew College.
“Will Harris has the perfect mix of vision, morality, and tenacity,” said farmer and Georgia Organics Board Member Joe Reynolds, who delivered the award to Harris.
“By way of careful stewardship and bold initiatives, Will is reinventing Southern agriculture,” said John T. Edge, the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance.
Harris became the 18th recipient of the Georgia Organics Land Steward Award, proudly accepting the award on behalf of all the cowboys and chefs at White Oak Pastures.
Croom received the Barbara Petit Pollinator Award for beginning the Farm to School movement in Georgia.
“The day Erin Croom walked into the Georgia Organics office was the day farm to school started in Georgia,” said Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls, who presented Croom with the award.
Croom began volunteering for Georgia Organics in 2008 and quickly displayed a need to hire her in a full time capacity. In the last two years, Georgia schools have collectively held 8,200 taste tests of fresh, local food, taught nearly 2,400 harden, food, and nutrition lessons, tended 328 school gardens, hosted 1,000 hands-on cooking activities, incorporated Farm to School into 300 staff professional development opportunities, and sustained district-wide policies or procedures into 19 schools districts.
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. The 19th Annual Georgia Conference was dedicated to Petit, who passed away in 2015.
Both awards were presented Feb. 27 at the conference’s climatic event, the Farmers Feast, a meal prepared by the state’s best chefs featuring organically raised meats and produce from Georgia and the Southeast.