ATHENS, FEB. 21– Georgia Organics honored two of the state’s foremost leaders of the good food movement at its 18th Annual Conference and Expo— University of Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator Julia Gaskin and Eric Wagoner, who developed the Locally Grown online purchasing platform.
Gaskin was presented with the Georgia Organics Land Steward Award for her work as a soil scientist and champion of sustainable agriculture in the halls of academia and in fields across Georgia. Her work with UGA’s Cooperative Extension Service has been a particular boon for growers who want to use organic methods, and she’s developed workshops on everything from conservation tillage systems to small farm food safety. During her tenure at UGA, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences started its first Certificate Program in Organic Agriculture.
“Julia has been the college’s strongest supporter of sustainable agriculture,” said Dr. Scott Angle, Dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “Because of her efforts, the college has made great strides in recognizing that agriculture comes in all shapes and sizes. We are a much different college compared to 20 years ago thanks to the efforts of Julia Gaskin.”
Gaskin is also the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Model State Co-Coordinator for Georgia, and she leads the Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Consortium. She is also a former board member of 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.
Wagoner was honored with the Barbara Petit Pollinator Award for creating LocallyGrown.net, an online local produce marketplace and has become a national model for connecting growers to consumers and building community around local food. The LocallyGrown.net system emulates aspects of traditional farmers markets— customers buy local produce directly from farmers at prices set by the grower—while helping farmers expand their operations online.
Wagoner, a long-time resident of Athens, started LocallyGrown.net there in 2002, and in 2007 it expanded to 10 service areas across the country, including three more in Georgia. Currently, the Locally Grown network has expanded to 116 chapters in Georgia and 526 across the country.
“No other person has facilitated revenues for farmers and connected consumers with local produce quite like Eric Wagoner,” said Georgia Organics Executive Director Alice Rolls. “He is truly Mr. Farm to Fork.”
Wagoner has connected an incredible amount of consumers with local produce, and the result has been significant revenue for farmers. Last year, Georgia shoppers bought more than $1.2 million of local produce through locallygrown.net, and nationwide that figure is just shy of $3 million in grower-to-consumer sales.
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.
Both awards were presented Feb. 21 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.