How I spent the day with Georgia growers (A recap of the Georgia Multicultural Sustainable Agriculture Conference)

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By now my revolutionary talk is no surprise to those around me.  Neither is my focus on ancestral health.

So when a friend sent me a text about the Georgia Multicultural Sustainable Agriculture Conference I smiled. And I registered.  It feels good to be surrounded by people who get you. It has taken me 40 years to fine tune that! 🙂

While I continue to explore topics that have global relevance, I was excited to learn what my home state of Georgia is offering in terms of support and guidance to existing farms and those interested to growing food.  Sponsored in part by Georgia Organics, their website explains the experience:

This conference will highlight urban organic farming, seasonal high tunnels/micro irrigation, farmer markets, farm to school, community supported agriculture (CSA), how to start a farm, equine management/rotational grazing, food safety and how to grow international/ethnic foods. Conference participants will attend sessions on how to become eligible and apply for USDA Farm Bill programs, developing a farm business plan, soil and plant resources, developing a successful conservation plan, risk management, best management practices and engineering design for your farm.

I registered myself and my husband (who has the green thumb of the family) and told my AHS buddies. Karla, one of the presenters at AHS (and a new friend) jumped at the opportunity. Did I mention the conference was only $20? Lunch and back to back sessions with the top agricultural brains in the state… yeah she and I were on the same page with this!  She came along with her sons (whom she homeschools) and her mother; I love her holistic, multigenerational approach.

All of the sessions were informative. From ‘Spores to Shrooms’ to ‘Unlock The Secrets in Your Soil’, there was something for everyone.  They also had an interpreter available for non-English speakers.  I found the general session speakers to be the most captivating. Pilar Qunitero, of Rancho Alegre farm spoke on building a diverse urban farm enterprise.  I was excited to see her! I had met her years ago at my local farmer’s market and have been randomly stalking her ever since. I knew her farm was growing and it was great to hear her speak about her experience. She moved from Columbia to America at age 2.  During a trip to Columbia Pilar saw first hand how an individual can serve their family and community by working the land.  She returned to Georgia and purchased a farm.  Today, Rancho Alegre educates visitors on the benefits agricultural living through field trips, cooking demonstrations, and education classes held on site. Pilar has given me an open invitation to visit the farm.. sweet lady has no idea what she’s done! Hee Hee!

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K Rashi Nuri was a breath of fresh air during lunch. A Harvard graduate with a M.S.  in Plant and Soil Science, he was as down home and cozy as my Uncle Bubba (one of my favorites!).  He is the Chairman of Georgia Organics and has lived  and worked in Southeast Asia, Nigeria, and  Ghana.  He has managed public, private, and community based agricultural businesses in over 35 countries around the world.  He has created  5 urban gardens in Atlanta through his organization Truly Living Well.  They are managing to use minimal green pesticides by being strategic in their growing practices. Composting is a major component in their success. While they supply produce to 7 out of Atlanta’s 12 top restaurants, his greatest pride seems to come from the changes he’s sees in the community.  The citizens support the garden; some even volunteer. They offer summer camps for children and internships for college students. Seniors are given a discounts and those on government food assistance get $2 worth of produce for every $1 they spend. They also offer an urban growers training program.  Umm… I think I see a another certificate in my future.

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Rashid said many profound things. One of my favorites:

What you return to the Earth, the Earth returns to you.

The second half of the conference, I found myself doing what I do best, connecting directly with people. I left my husband in the sessions to take notes and I enjoyed chats with Pilar, Rashid, and a few others.  I met the coordinator of the Atlanta Food Bank’s community garden.  Really nice guy. He told me that WIC used to have a program which allowed for purchases in community gardens. I’d love to see that available again. I also met a beautiful lady from Habesha Inc. Check out her cool t-shirt:

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She told me about the cool things they are doing over there.  Here’s what their website says:

HABESHA, Inc. is a Pan-African organization that cultivates leadership in youth through practical experiences in cultural education, sustainable agriculture, entrepreneurship, holistic health, and technology.

I plan on visiting all of these local farms. They each have their own unique flavor but share a common thread of combining heritage, agriculture, and education.

What was my takeaway from the conference?  While night quite recognizable, the tide is shifting. People in Georgia (and I suspect around the country) are realizing that it begins with food.  Health, family, and community are fully realized when we focus on what we eat and share with others.

My study on the benefits of ancestral health continues.  I am convinced more than ever that our future resides here.

Well don’t just stand there… grab a shovel!

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