By: Ramsey Nix
Photos by: Angelina Bellebuono
Most farmers discovering or rediscovering sustainable, organic agriculture are surprised by the amount of labor required, the difference in taste of the final product, and the profound connection to the earth they develop through the process. Gillen Donck Rains has never known any other way.
Born and bred on his family’s farm, Crystal Organic Farm, located between Newborn and Rutledge, Gillen is as much a product of his environment as he is its steward. “This farm has been here for 15 years. I’ve been here 11 years,” said the 11-year-old farmer.
Gillen may be a young farmer, but he is an old soul. He raises and harvests heritage breed turkeys like farmers did back in the 1800s. As far as he knows, he’s the only farmer in Georgia doing it this way, and therein lies his opportunity. “I want this to become a business,” he said with a gleam in his eye.
The 175-acre farm, first established when his Austrian grandmother and Belgian father moved here 26 years ago, has long produced organically grown produce, flowers, eggs, and chickens. His father Nicolas Donck and mother Madeline Rains helped found the Morningside Farmers Market in Atlanta, where they still sell to customers they’ve known for 15 years. They now sell to Whole Foods markets all over the city and to several top Atlanta chefs.
Story and photos by Angelina Bellebuono
It’s 5 p.m. on a Wednesday in the middle of July. A brief but powerful summer thunderstorm rolled through earlier in the day, and the dirt beneath Morgan County High School junior Brandon Towe’s muck boots is damp and rich and dark.
A slight steam pulses up and around the 15 calf hutches dotting the calf pasture, or Lot 1, as Towe refers to it, but the calves don’t seem to mind: their giant, inquisitive eyes follow Towe intently as he moves through the grassy area between their pens.
When Towe reaches the edge of the field, where a rainbow of plastic buckets awaits filling, the chorus begins. It’s suppertime at Brandon’s Quality Calves, and the bevy of calves in Towe’s care have rumbling tummies. Already creatures of habit at less than six weeks old, these young bovine beauties depend on Towe, for he is everything to these growing girls – their surrogate mother, premium calf-caretaker and, last, but not least, agritculural entreprenuer.
Even at the relatively young age of 16, Towe is no stranger to cows. He’s been raising show cows for more than six years, and his father, Gary, has raised beef cattle. But when Brandon entered high school and enrolled in Tim Savelle’s Agriculture Education classes, he needed to choose a Supervised Agricutlural Experience (SAE) project as part of completing the coursework.
In considering SAE projects, Brandon was most interested in heifer replacement work, which can be a critical part of a commercial dairy farm because it removes the newborn calves from the cow and passes along the responsibility of raising the calf to someone else. Farmers rely on methods like this because cows produce more milk than the heifers can use, and a dairy farmer depends on getting cows back into the milk stream as soon as possible after calving, Savelle says.
By: Bobby Smith
It’s midsummer in Georgia right now. But it could be spring all over again for vegetables. We generally plant summer vegetable crops in March and April in the Lake Oconee area and wind them up about this time of year. But we can grow two summer crops in Georgia. The growing season can start in spring around mid-March. It doesn’t have to end until the first frost of fall. This usually happens around mid-October in the mountains and mid- to late-November in the southern part of the state.
According to Terry Kelley, extension horticulturist with UGA, that means we can plant crops like tomatoes, pepper, squash, sweet corn, southern peas, snap beans, cantaloupe and eggplant all over again. Cooler season fall crops can be planted a little later. Some folks may plant at intervals from spring through midsummer, which is fine. Others may carry out harvests on tomatoes, squash and the like throughout the summer. However, rather than trying to keep the same plants producing indefinitely, you often get a better harvest by making a fresh start.
Tomatoes, pepper and eggplant should be transplanted just as you did in the spring. For crops like squash, cantaloupes and cucumbers, however, seeding them directly into the ground will work just as well if not better. Snap beans, sweet corn and southern peas are generally directly seeded. Don’t plant the same crop back in the same place. Rotate your space so you can reduce potential disease problems. If you planted squash there this spring, plant pepper there for the second crop. Rotate families of crops. Plant peppers, tomatoes or eggplant where you had squash, cucumbers or cantaloupe. But don’t plant cucumbers on the same ground where you had squash.
A Blackberry and the Basics: Good Groceries combines old-school style and attitude with new-school technologySubmitted by editor on Thu, 07/09/2009 - 14:42.
Tate Tewksbury is a juxtaposition.
Blue sky above, green grass and brown earth below, the scene is pastoral, to say the least. Tewksbury pushes his tiller through an unplanted patch of garden, preparing the ground to be cultivated, before a jolting interruption from his pocket.
It's his Blackberry. And it's ringing.
He stops himself and, tiller still running, takes the call; a picture-perfect image of the modern farmer, working the land while simultaneously staying connected to today's Facebook status-updating, social media-obsessed, technologically driven society of 24-hour news and information overload.
Even with Blackberry in hand, Tewksbury admits that he believes in keeping it simple. And that's why Good Groceries was born.
Tewksbury is no stranger to agriculture.
By day, he works in landscaping.
Six years ago his family, while maintaining full-time jobs, got together and worked the same piece of land that his garden currently sets on. They worked it for one season.
"We all had normal jobs," Tewksbury said. "We started doing it [tending the garden] after hours."
Tewksbury started working the same piece of land by himself just this year. He works in the garden for about six hours a day.
"Letting the ground alone helps," Tewksbury said, about the lapse in time.
The list of produce for this year (which reads like the scene from "Forrest Gump" where Bubba rattles off a seemingly never-ending list all of the different ways to prepare shrimp) includes cucumbers, onions, carrots, squash, zucchini, corn, tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, radishes, spinach, lettuce (about 400 pounds of it), broccoli, kohlrabi and Swiss Chard. He grows for customers that include average folks to restaurants and caterers.