We all live on an organic farm: Patricia Kyritsi Howell shares the bounty of eating organic and local Georgia produce.
All the people I asked admitted that buying organic foods isn't a priority for them.
How could movers and shakers in so many areas of social change, health care, and spiritual growth be unaware of the connection between conventional agriculture, environmental degradation, and food choices? "Organic costs too much," they explained.
I kept probing. I found out that these people are so busy they eat out five or more times a week. I decided there must be some other reason besides cost for their not choosing organic. What would inspire these otherwise environmentally conscientious people to change their buying habits?
I began thinking of people I know who make organic food a priority. I did another poll. "Why do you overlook the cost and extra effort required to seek out organics?"
"I feel a sense of responsibility to be there with my food dollars to support the farmers," most of them told me. Many of these organic buyers have shopped for years at small local markets such as the Morningside Farmers' Market in Atlanta (the first totally organic market in the US.) Over time, these shoppers have developed relationships with the growers. Together, they share excitement over the first tomatoes or a particularly succulent crop of blueberries.
Minnesota's Land Stewardship Project found that for organic farming to work on the local level, people need to "put a face on their food "by cultivating a relationship with the person who grows it. The Minnesota project discovered that when consumers and growers realize their mutual interdependence, it isn't so easy to buy only what appears to be cheapest in an anonymous grocery store. Farmer and author Wendell Berry suggests that the most important thing non-farming people can do is to get it that eating is as much of an agricultural act as is planting a field of vegetables.
Organic farming is an all day, every day labor intensive job, but it is without purpose if Georgia consumers don't value the effort enough to pay a realistic price for this commitment. Preserving family-owned farms, maintaining soil fertility and growing open pollinated organic seeds are costly ventures. The government provides no subsidies for environmentally sound agricultural practices. A small-scale local grower of organic foods is completely dependent on committed consumers willing to pay for the harvest when it comes out of the field.
Several years ago, I asked organic farmer Ryan Cohen how he kept at it day in and day out in the sweltering Georgia sun during the height of summer. For many years, Ryan farmed at Eastlake Commons in Decatur and sold his produce through a community supported agriculture program (CSA). Ryan said that when he felt overwhelmed by the hard work and the heat, he remembered the members of his CSA and how excited they were each week to pick up their vegetables. He thought about the children who knew exactly where their food came from because they had seen growing for months in the fields of his farm. "I'm part of a complete circle of giving and receiving that starts when I plant the seeds and ends when I feel the gratitude of the families who ate the foods I grew," he explained.
As Georgiais growing season gets underway, each one of us has the chance to change the way we choose food. More and more farmersi markets have sprung up around the state. Not all these markets are all strictly organic, but they all feature fresh vegetables and fruits direct from nearby farms. As you get to know the growers, keep in mind that since the National Organics Standards program went into effect last fall many farms that still practice organic farming have chosen not to participate in the Federal program and become "certified," though they continue to farm organically.
When we see growing and eating food as a way to create and maintain a community of interdependent people who are guaranteed a source of clean land and water, the nourishment spreads beyond considering only the nutritional value of a certain relatively expensive carrot. Spending a little more to buy food from local, organic growers you know becomes one of the ingredients for real Homeland Security.
Patricia Kyritsi Howell is a medical herbalist, teacher and author of Medicinal Plants of the Southern Appalachians: A Guide for Field and Clink (Sept. 2003) and President of Georgia Organics, Inc. (georgiaorganics.org). She lives in Mountain City, Georgia.
Farmers Markets in Georgia
Athens Downtown Farmer's Market
When: mid-May thru mid-August
Time: Saturday, 7-12 noon
Where: Athens 300 College Avenue
Contact: Frank Henning at 706-613-3640
Athens Green Market
Time: Saturday, 9 am-1 pm
Where: Athens Big City Bread Patio
Contact: Carol John at 706-546-4396
Cleveland Farmers' Market
When: Late May thru October
Where: Cleveland Natural Health Center on Hwy 129
Contact: Johnna Tuttle at 706-348-6709
Cotton Mill Farmers' Market
When: April 26th thru November
Time: Saturday, 8 am-12 noon
Where: Carrolton Bradley St. across from City Hall
Contact: Wendy Crager at 770-537-3720
Covington "Square Market"
When: Friday April 25th thru early October
Where: Covington 1169 Washington St. (just off the Square)
Dogwood Farmers' Market
When: Spring thru late September
Time: Saturday, 8 am-1 pm
Where: Tallapoosa Robertson Ave. between Vets
Memorial and Tallapoosa
Contact: Ken Mugg at 770-574-9688
Glover Family Organic Farm
When: April 22
Time: Call for times
Where: Douglasville 3260 Hwy. 166
Contact: Skip Glover 770-920-5358
Morningside Farmers' Market
When: April 12th thru Christmas
Time: Saturday, 8-11:30 am
Where: Atlanta 1397 N. Highland Ave NE
Contact: Nicholas Donck at 770-784-6571
Simply Home Grown Farmers' Market
When: June 7 thru fall
Time: Friday 4 pm til dusk and Saturday 9 am-12 noon
Where: Rabun Gap (Rabun County) Hambidge Center Gallery, Hwy 441 at
Kelly's Creek Rd.
Spruill Gallery Farmers' Market
When: April 16th thru August
Where: Atlanta 4681 Ashford Dunwoody Rd.
Contact: Spruill Gallery at 770-394-4019
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|Author:||Howell, Patricia Kyritsi|
|Publication:||New Life Journal|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2003|
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