This last week was a great one for local food in Athens. Everything that we have build together over the last 20 years was on full display for people around the country in town for the annual Georgia Organics conference. Friday saw tour busses fan out from the Classic Center to visit farms, community gardens, markets, food businesses, research plots, and more. Intensive workshops were held at sites about town teaching others how our treasures were created and how they could go back home and build on our experience. Hugh Acheson, originally just the founding chef of Athens’ 5 & 10 but now a nationally known celebrity chef, gave an impassioned keynote address Friday night about his vision for re-inventing Home Ec in our schools and his new non-profit to get that vision in practice (led up by former ALG volunteer Almeta Tulloss). Saturday saw dozens of instructional sessions taught by nationally known experts (many of the Athenians). And the topper was the renowned Farmers Feast, always one of the best meals I have all year.
All through the weekend I heard from people who were new to Athens marveling at all our community has done to build a local food system, and also from those who have been here many times marveling at how much more we’ve done since the last time they visited. It’s easy to get lost in the routine of daily life, such as ordering carrots from a favorite local farmer and picking them up a few days later, and forgetting that what we have available here, while far from perfect, is still the envy of so many other communities. We should be proud of what we have available here, even while working to make it better (by pushing for a backyard chicken ordinance, and trying to grow local grains, and starting and supporting local food businesses, and introducing your neighbors to the joy of really fresh lettuce).
Two awards were given out during the farmers feast. University of Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Coordinator Julia Gaskin was awarded the 2015 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. “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.” It’s a common trope across the country that the state ag department, and especially the outreach teams from the ag colleges, are working against organic foods and for the corporations behind much of industrial agriculture. You hear that sometimes in Georgia, too, but thanks to Julia the extension agents across our state are well versed in organic growing practices and fully supporting of new growers staring farms and conventional farmers wanting to convert to organic. She is truly a local hero for sustainable agriculture, and her award is so well deserved.
The Barbara Petit Pollinator Award, given to someone, not necessarily a farmer, who has made a difference in promoting sustainable agriculture and local foods, was given to me for Athens Locally Grown and all of the locallygrown.net markets across the country. It is a huge honor, one that inspires me to work harder on making the system accessible to all. Athens Locally Grown wouldn’t exist without all of the growers big and small who work through all kinds of taxing conditions to make food available to us, all the volunteers that help get food from the farmer to you during our market days, and to all of you who buy the food our growers are offering. Even ordering one dozen eggs makes a difference, and is one dozen less that has to be laid by chickens in cages somewhere and shipped here. Thank you all for helping make my crazy idea come to life in such a spectacularly successful fashion! Over five hundred other communities have begun markets based on ours here, and its a testament to all of you.
Thank you so much for your support of Athens Locally Grown, all of our growers, local food, and our rights to eat it. You all are part of what makes Athens such a great area in which to live. We’ll see you on Thursday at Ben’s Bikes at the corner of Pope and Broad Streets from 4:30 to 8pm!
Other Area Farmers Markets
The Athens Farmers Market has closed for the winter. You can watch for news during the offseason on their website. The other area markets are also all closed for the season, I believe. If you know of any winter markets operating, please let me know. And they might all be closed, but we’ll be here all year round!
All of these other markets are separate from ALG (including the Athens Farmers Market) but many growers sell at multiple markets. Please support your local farmers and food producers, where ever you’re able to do so!