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It's All About Connecting

Augusta Locally Grown Connects Local Farmers With Consumers

Photo By Miles Anderson

As a teen-ager, Kim Hines wanted to be as far away from gardens as possible.

“My mother was a master gardener,” she says. “I hated it growing up. She would get a huge pile of fish emulsion. The stink was so embarrassing. I avoided the house when it arrived.”

Her loathing of gardening expanded beyond the fish emulsion to include weeding and other tasks involving greenery, but over the years, all of that has disappeared. She and her husband even lived on a 600-acre farm at one time, and now she works to link farmers with customers through Augusta Locally Grown.

Bringing the Farmers Market to the Internet

The idea is simple. At a traditional farmers’ market, farmers will gather as much of their produce as possible, bring it to a central site and hope to sell as much as they can. Not knowing who will be there to buy what they have for sale could send them home with a lot of what they brought hoping to sell.

Each Friday, Hines sends out a list of available items via email, and Augusta Locally Grown users send back their orders. Products are available for pick-up at one of three local sites—Tire City Potters, the Augusta Jewish Community Center and the Riverwood Plantation Barn—on Tuesday.

The Locally Grown concept began in Athens, Ga. Hines has been managing the project in Augusta for about two years.

There are about 50 growers who provide products. Some growers only have products available in the spring and early summer months such as a nearby blueberry farm, and one grower has pecans available in the late fall. The market is open 51 weeks out of the year.

In addition to fresh produce, there are other items such as eggs, meat, dairy products and baked goods as well as organic soaps and artisan items for sale through the site as well.

From Farm to the Table

Angela Magney of Ginger Snap Hollow Farm in Harlem, Ga., started off as a customer. “The more I got into it, the more I became interested in providing the same things for my family. My husband was in Afghanistan and I started looking into farming. I put in some gardens. I decided I wanted to be a farmer,” says Magney, who raises chickens for their eggs as well as for their meat. In addition, she helps manage the downtown pick-up area for Augusta Locally Grown.

Magney says it’s difficult for her to use a traditional farmers’ market, sitting at a stall all day in hopes of selling products. “That’s time away from the farm,” she says.

Her children also take part in the farm with each one having a specialty item. Her son, Jonah, raises ducks for their eggs; daughter, Hannah, has an herb garden and son, Eric, is raising pumpkins.

Hines says it’s not uncommon for growers to start out as customers. She says there are three different types of market suppliers. “Some of them are full-time; they make their principal living through their farm. Others are hobbyists trying to live more sustainably, but they are also trying to make a part-time income. Then there are backyard growers.” 

Most of the growers are bringing organic products to the market unless they are otherwise specified. There is a high value placed on products that are grown without the use of chemical pesticides and using sustainable practices.

Magney’s chickens aren’t kept in pens all the time. “They are well-taken care of,” she says. They are allowed outside during the day, but at night, they are brought inside a coop.

Magney is also raising pigs and plans to begin raising lambs.

Internships Help Keep Program Running

Customers and farmers aren’t the only ones benefitting from the service. A generation of urban teens is learning a lot of life lessons, according to Hines. “One of the reasons I work with the program is to expose young people to the work ethic farmers bring to the table. It’s invaluable,” she says.

In the heat of the summer, the dairy farmers milk the cows twice a day and, in the dead of winter, daily tasks must be accomplished. During this past winter’s ice storm, while others were staying away from work, the farmers still had items available for sale. Work on the farm didn’t stop because of the weather. The chickens were still laying eggs, she says.

“These are the kinds of adults I want my children to know and emulate,” she says.

She also hopes to impart in the teens a sense of stewardship of the land and the produce. “I want them to know how to tend the soil and keep it healthy using natural components,” she says.

In the past two years, Augusta Locally Grown has grown and Hines hopes it continues. Magney says she’s seen a lot of growth in the downtown market and she thinks the service is the type of thing people who live in the downtown area would support if they knew about it. “We started with 10 customers and within six months we were up to 50,” she says.

One of Hines’ long-term goals is to actually have a traditional farmers’ market in Columbia County. “I’d like to create an environment where people could come and meet the farmers, socialize with them,” she says. “I’d like to have it in the middle of Columbia County, where everyone celebrates together. Downtown has a farmers’ market, but Columbia County does not.”

Go to http://augusta.locallygrown.net/ to see what’s available through Augusta Locally Grown. A $25 membership fee is applied to your third order.
 

Oct 10, 2012 03:20 pm
 Posted by  Debbie

I am very interested in joining this and helping our local farmers

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