In this show, Cathy recaps her weekend at the Georgia Organics conference in Savannah, paid for by Georgia Organics as part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring program. Jon and Cathy discuss heritage breed rabbits, biodynamic farming, their new rabbit barn, clicker training their English Shepherd dog, and building housing for a future intern and apprentice.
Last week I attended my fifth Georgia Organics Conference. I did not think I’d be able to budget for a trip to Savannah or have time to leave the farm. So imagine my surprise when I received an email from Georgia Organics saying that my registration was paid for and that I could stay in a host home for free!
As a recipient of this year’s Georgia Organics Farmer-to-Farmer mentoring program, I get these perks and mentoring from three fantastic farmers. Russ Green of Greendale Farm is helping me with the business of running a farm profitably. His farm is a showcase of sustainability and diversity, with his artisan cheese dairy, and “beyond organic” beef, lamb, pork, and egg production. Michael MacMullan of McMullan Family Farm is helping me with the use of organic fertilizers, cover crops, and growing produce. He is a fifth generation farmer. Finally, Mac Wade, fifth generation farmer working with his mother Tink of Tink’s Grassfed Beef, is helping with pasture development and mineralization. I think this team is awesome! Each of the mentors has visited the farm and given me homework to do. And I thought that was behind me when I finished my doctoral program seven years ago!
A highlight of the conference for me was a workshop titled, “Biodynamics is the New Organic” with Daron Joffe aka Farmer D of Farmer D Organics. Daron took a somewhat esoteric subject and made it so much more accessible to me. In order to have a sustainable farm there is a cycle of soil – plants – animals – compost. The first priority is to nurture the soil. I already have a small library of books on biodynamics and doubled it by the end of the conference. Time to crack the books!
Friday afternoon I visited Hope Grows Farm in Sylvania, Georgia. This two year old, 5 acre farm produces chicken, eggs, pork, produce, and pecans. They have a unique CSA program. People pre-pay the amount they want to support the farm, then shop for the items they want in a mix-and-match program. The farm was started with a budget of only $300 and a lot of hard work. The farmers, Arianne and Elliott, are only 25 years old.
Saturday I attended several workshops, the members meeting with a speech by Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, and the Farmer’s Feast. In the past, we’ve enjoyed keynote speakers at the Farmer’s Feast including Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan. This year Vandana Shiva was on the docket. Unfortunately, a family emergency required her to be in India and there was no time to replace her on 24 hours notice. However, sharing dinner with my friends Tim and Lucy Heil, Jessica Lara, bottles of wine and delicious farm-to-table food was still quite a treat.
Broad River Rabbitry is growing its heritage breed rabbits. We’re building a rabbit barn to house our Silver Fox, Beveren, and now American rabbits. By the end of the summer we will add a fourth breed, Lilac. As we grow, my friend Krystal Beers and her husband Tom of Two Hunnyz Rabbitry have been a great resource. As owners of two English Shepherds, they’ve been a support with Cody as well.