Tag Archives: Georgia Sustainable Agriculture

T. A. Bryant, Sr., Homestead, 1917, Flat Rock

Bryant Farmhouse

A thriving community of African-Americans existed around Arabia Mountain in the years following the Civil War, but by the early 20th century, a mass exodus saw many families joining the Great Migration in search of better conditions in the North.

Mule & Storage Barn

There were a few communities, such as Flat Rock, that continued to thrive. T. A. Bryant, Sr., born in 1894, was a leader of this community, his church, and a Master Mason, and he worked hard to keep it intact.

T. A. Bryant, Sr. Photograph Courtesy Flat Rock Archives

He bought his first 43 acres from J. W. South, a descendant of slave owners, in 1925, and saved the Flat Rock community in the process. For over 60 years, Mr. Bryant bought and sold land to people in the community in an effort to keep it intact. Flat Rock actually grew during the Great Migrations, while many historic African-American communities completely vanished.

Smokehouse or Corn Crib

His small working homestead was self-sufficient and typical of similar farms in early 20th century Georgia.

Privy

The property is now home to the Flat Rock Archives, a museum of local African-American history, and open by appointment.

Watering Trough

Maps will locate this at Stonecrest, a recently incorporated city in DeKalb County, but as with other such locations in Vanishing Georgia, I prefer to help keep the historical name alive, hence my location of the Bryant property at Flat Rock.

Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area

Sweet Georgia Fuyu, Glennville

In October I visited Sweet Georgia Fuyu in Glennville. This may be Georgia’s largest commercial persimmon operation and if not, it certainly looked like it. All that bright orange is an amazing sight.

The weekend before I had been at the Forsyth Farmer’s Market in Savannah and bought some persimmon-ginger jam from owner Laura Potts-Wirht, who invited me to come and photograph the orchards.

I had met Laura a few years earlier at a locavore potluck at Janisse Ray and Raven Waters’s Red Earth Farm and she was very enthusiastic about the persimmons.

Presently, there are 20 acres of persimmons with ten more acres being developed. Fuyu Persimmons are a bit firmer and definitely sweeter than the old varities we’re used to in Georgia.

While I’m not personally a fan of the raw fruit, I always loved my grandmother’s persimmon cakes and breads made from the fruit of an old tree at the farm.

I enjoyed talking to the two men who were on-site, grading and preparing the persimmons for shipment. They noted that the harvest was nearly over but that they had been busy throughout the season.

If you’re ever near Glennville, check out the orchards in the early fall. I believe they ship, too.

Cotton Warehouse, 1890s, Sparta

Built as a cotton warehouse in the 1890s, this structure was best known throughout most of its history as the Sparta Furniture Manufacturing Company. Suzy and Robert Currey bought it in 2012 and have transformed it into Sparta Mushrooms, with numerous specialty varieties being grown and distributed regularly to restaurants in Atlanta and Athens.

Sparta Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Elm Street Gardens, Sparta

I was impressed by the wonderfully ordered and vibrant displays of Elm Street Gardens. This certified organic no-till farm covers at least four acres and sells locally and beyond. Sparta transplants Suzy and Robert Currey have done an admirable job of creating a model for a successful organic farm in a small town.

Plantings of persimmon trees along the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood are especially wonderful this time of year, heavy with fruit.

White Oak Pastures, Early County

Since 1866, five generations of the Harris family have cultivated the land they call White Oak Pastures. Today, it’s the most diversified farm in the South and the gold standard of sustainable agriculture in Georgia. Their grassfed beef and lamb and pastured poultry are sold throughout the Eastern United States. Driving around the Bluffton area, it’s obvious that White Oak Pastures is having a major economic impact on the area.

A little background from the White Oak Pastures’ website:

Will Harris is a fourth generation cattleman, who tends the same land that his great-grandfather settled in 1866. Born and raised at White Oak Pastures, Will left home to attend the University of Georgia’s School of Agriculture, where he was trained in the industrial farming methods that had taken hold after World War II. Will graduated in 1976 and returned to Bluffton where he and his father continued to raise cattle using pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. They also fed their herd a high-carbohydrate diet of corn and soy.

These tools did a fantastic job of taking the cost out of the system, but in the mid-1990’s Will became disenchanted with the excesses of these industrialized methods. They had created a monoculture for their cattle, and, as Will says, “nature abhors a monoculture.” In 1995, Will made the audacious decision to return to the farming methods his great-grandfather had used 130 years before.

Since Will has successfully implemented these changes, he has been recognized all over the world as a leader in humane animal husbandry and environmental sustainability…His favorite place in the world to be is out in pastures, where he likes to have a big coffee at sunrise and a 750ml glass of wine at sunset.

I knew it was a good sign when I saw Purple Martins (Progne subis) scouting nesting locations at one of the “apartments” near the entrance.

The organic quesadilla I had in the restaurant was literally one of the best I’ve ever eaten. We got there a bit after the normal lunch hour, so we missed the pork chops and sweet potatoes that were on the menu for the day, but this was a great substitute.

I’m glad this is one place and way of life that is not vanishing. Drive a little out of your way and have a meal, stop by the general store in Bluffton, or, if you need to escape the daily grind, spend a night in one of their on-farm accommodations.

White Oak Pastures General Store, 1840s, Bluffton

This historic store was built in the 1840s and after a renovation, is now home to the White Oak Pastures General Store. Its last owner, Herman Bass, ceased operations in the 1960s. It’s at the forefront of the Harris family’s efforts to bring Bluffton back to life. They eventually plan to move their wonderful farm-to-table restaurant from the farm, just over the line in Early County, to downtown Bluffton.

Platt Street, Lexington

Lexington GA Oglethorpe County Courthouse Square Granite Storefronts Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing North Georgia USA 2015

Platt Street is located on the west side of the courthouse square and is a good example of small town revitalization. Oglethorpe Fresh (on the right) is a sustainable, local farmers market that encourages artists, musicians, historians and other creative types to come together and share ideas.

Lexington Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Ripe Thing Market, Greensboro

Ripe Thing Market Greensboro GA Local Produce Organic Foods Sustainable Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing North Georgia USA 2014

I stayed at a cheap motel in downtown Greensboro because the chains near I-20 were way too expensive for what they were offering. I won’t sing the praises of the cheap motel, but the biggest bonus was finding Ripe Thing Market just a couple of blocks away. The gentleman who started the business was working when I went inside. He was very welcoming and knowledgeable about the myriad selection on display in the market. He explained that his son and daughter-in-law were now charged with its day-t0-day operation but it was as if he never left the place. I’m amazed that a town the size of Greensboro supports a business like this; Ripe Thing has as good a selection of organic/locavore products as similar markets in much larger towns.  The business is located inside an old service station which has been restored in an environmentally friendly, utilitarian style.

Ripe Thing Market Greensboro GA Local Foods Locavore Hillside Orchard Farms Pumpkin Bread Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing North Georgia USA 2015

The stock rotates with the seasons, of course. There was a table full of moist loaves of Pumpkin Bread from Hillside Orchard Farms in Tiger when I visited. They have lots of candies and other baked goods, as well.

Ripe Thing Market Greensboro GA Grass Fed Beef Farm Raised Pork Locavores Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing North Georgia USA 2015

A growing selection of nationally known organic brands is available, as well as grass-fed beef and farm-raised pork. I didn’t have a cooler with me, so I didn’t get any of the meat, but I bought a bag of Butternut Squash Tortilla Chips that were among the best I’ve ever eaten.

Ripe Thing Market Greensboro GA Local Organic Foods Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing North Georgia USA 2015

If you’re a fan of organic, sustainable and locally sourced foods, you can’t miss Ripe Thing when you’re in Greensboro. It’s worth a drive of thirty minutes to an hour if you’re nearby. They also have daily menu items like homemade chili, soups, and deli sandwiches. Their fresh-baked deserts looked tempting, too.

Ripe Thing Market Local Produce Greensboro GA Organic Foods Pumpkins Photograph Copyright Brian Brown Vanishing North Georgia USA 2015

Emily LaBorde Hines, a longtime favorite blogger of mine, has a nice write-up about Ripe Thing at Em’s On the Road: http://emsontheroad.com/tag/ripe-thing-market/

Follow their Facebook page for more information. They’re open 7 days a week!

https://www.facebook.com/RipeThingMarket

Sapelo Orange Grove, Hog Hammock

Hog Hammock Historic District, National Register of Historic Places

Red Earth Farm, Tattnall County

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At the heart of Red Earth Farm is the beautifully restored circa-1850 Pearson Farmhouse. According to Kent Pearson: Laurence Pearson (1831-1911), a carpenter and joiner, did indeed build the house which was owned and occupied by four generations of the Pearson family. Laurence was the son of John Pearson (1777-1857) of Pennsylvania, who established the family in Tattnall County in the early 1800’s. John built the first sawmill in the area on Slaughter Creek when he purchased a 1000 acre parcel of virgin timber land in 1832 for the princely sum of $1,200, where the family homestead and farm were located. Laurence’s brother, John (Jr), was also a carpenter. Between them, they built a number of houses in the area. And according to John P. Rabun, Jr., John Pearson and George Merriman built a Greek Revival courthouse in Reidsville in 1857.

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Today the farm is home to Janisse Ray & Raven Waters. Janisse is a well-known environmental activist and author. My family came to know her when her first book was published and we’ve always supported her views on protecting and sustaining the fragile environment of our native South Georgia. (Ecology of a Cracker ChildhoodWild Card QuiltPinhook; Moody Swamp; Drifting into Darien; and The Seed Underground are among her works.) Raven oversees the operations of the farm and leads a variety of workshops on topics as diverse as home brewing and cheese-making. I recently attended one of his beer-making classes and it was great fun, Raven also sells produce and handmade sodas at the Mainstreet Statesboro Farmers Market. Oh, and he’s an accomplished potter and artist, as well.

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When I made these photographs, winter greens were growing. Red Earth Farm is an organic farm, so everything that doesn’t get eaten goes back into the earth. It’s an inspiring model of sustainable agriculture.

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Jersey Calves Winona and Wendell were very interested in my camera. Most of the larger animals at Red Earth Farm are named for authors and activists.

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Barbados Blackbelly “Sojourner” and Katahdin “Mahatma”. Barbados Blackbellies and Katahdins are hair sheep varieties tolerant of heat; after many years of decline in numbers, both seem to be recovering.

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Guineas are an old-time favorite on South Georgia farms and are often considered the “watchdogs of the barnyard” for their habit of calling loudly at any disturbance. And they’re very attentive.

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There are many more things to share but for now I’ll end with my favorite resident of Red Earth Farm, this Royal Palm Turkey, known as Cochise. He’s more a friendly pet than a turkey.