Georgia Organics Makes Good Happen
Saturday mornings are a special time for the Tirrill family of Buckhead. John, Greer and their daughter Mary Holmes attend the local Peachtree Road Farmers Market every weekend in search of local, organically-sourced food.
“We had quit buying tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, melons, lettuce, and a host of other foods at the grocery chains because none of it tasted the way we remembered fruits and vegetables tasting when we were growing up,” says Greer.
Mary Holmes is mentally and physically disabled, and the visits to the market are a chance for her to be adventurous and spend time getting to know the farmers, whom her parents jokingly call Mary’s “boyfriends.”
The farmers market also became the place that the Tirrills found Georgia Organics. Since 2010, they have been Seed & Soil Society Members, one of the highest membership donor levels where community members donate $1,000 annually to assist in funding Georgia Organics. The Tirrills have lived in Buckhead for 14 years, and since their love of organic food has grown, they moved to a two-and-a-half acre lot that gives them more space to grow a garden of herbs and compost their food waste.
“It’s satisfying to know our charitable giving is going to an organization that is grassroots in the truest and best sense,” says Greer. “Money from donations through the Seed & Soil Society goes directly to support farmers, from educational workshops to hands-on assistance in the lengthy, expensive process of becoming certified organic.”
The farmers market is an example of how Georgia Organics is living their mission: to connect organic food from Georgia farms to Georgia families in the community. By bringing local farmers to the markets, they are encouraging Atlantans to buy and eat local foods. When other sustainable farmers see the community’s increased demands for Georgia-grown foods, they, too, become involved. Georgia Organics was founded in the 1970s, and since then has developed many programs to enhance Georgia’s sustainable local food systems through education and advocacy.
Another key to building the local food movement is through the Farm to School program. Georgia Organics launched the program in 2007, and since then has helped schools across the state to create policies surrounding local food, grow edible gardens, serve local food in the cafeterias, and provide education on cooking and nutrition. In this coming year, Ashley Rouse, the director of Farm to School for Atlanta Public Schools, plans to pilot a “garden-to-salad bar program,” where food grown in school gardens is served in the cafeteria, and to secure land for a farm to grow food for the district.
Georgia Organics’ incentivizes schools to participate in the Farm to School Program through The Golden Radish Award. In 2015, 39 schools received a Golden Radish Award, up nine schools from the previous year. More than 18 million meals were served with local food and the Farm to School program reached 700,000+ students. For the second year in a row, Atlanta Public Schools received the Gold level, the highest level possible for the Golden Radish Award. Among the schools in Buckhead, Garden Hills Elementary School, Sarah Rawson Smith Elementary School, and Sutton Middle School were recipients and continue to grow edible gardens.
The support of the community and the school system encourage the elemental statement of Georgia Organics: “Good food for all.” Getting involved in Georgia Organics is easy. General Memberships start at $50, or become a Sustaining Member by a monthly donation of your choice at GeorgiaOrganics.org.