A Native Son

We pull up to the side of the farmhouse on Jimmy Daniel Rd. on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. A structure with 4 posts sits lonely by the roadside awaiting a time when Spring is in full force and the bounty of the farm can be sold on the side of the road right here on the front of the property. Greeted at the car door by a sweet old dog and a line of ducks waddling by ahead, we approach the hoop house as Brent Lopp strides towards us from the fields to show us around Native Sun Farm in Bogart.

Brent’s parents have owned this land since he was in high school, and apparently it started off as a great deal more land than it is today. Slowly selling it off piece by piece to land developers, they live on a refreshing few acres of farmable land surrounded by subdivisions. Brent was a horticulture major in college who didn’t want to work in a nursery. He wanted to grow for himself and sell the bounty to his community, so his parents allowed him to cultivate the land that they had left, and what a great job he has done.

Native Sun is in the 2nd year of farming and already is leaps ahead of a lot of the beginning farmers that we have encountered in our search for suppliers and their stories. I first met Brent last winter at our second PLACE book club meeting. He was eager to learn about the culture of farming and the food culture of Athens, and he was just beginning this process. Now he has a huge hoop house, several fields with rows and rows of spring and summer crops, and a back pasture where he has started lots of fruit plants, something that is very exciting to find in these parts. He has the starts of raspberry and blackberry vines, blueberry bushes, grape vines and even a varietal of kiwi that has been shown to prosper in our part of the country.

In the middle of everything, a lone horse grazes in it’s pasture, and before we go, Brent lets the chickens that he has put up so we wouldn’t run them over when we arrive run free, and we can see all his young clucking brood scatter. My mom struggles to try to get them back in the pen, but to no avail. They have been set free and they have no intention of returning to their coop.

Brent and his wife, Amy, have recently had a baby, and they have dreams of being able to find some land that they can farm and live on at the same time. They are thinking of moving a little closer to Atlanta where they feel that the market is stronger for their produce, but I hope that they will stick around Athens for a while. I can’t wait to source from them and have them be a part of our family at Heirloom.

Camaraderie

Saturday morning was the perfect day for the beginning of the farmer’s market. The sun shown brightly and gradually melted away one of our last cold nights of the year. Refreshed from the winter rest, farmer and baker and artisan alike filed onto the basketball court at Bishop Park. 7:30 in the morning had never felt so good. As the farmers rubbed their hands together to keep warm and sipped on 1000 Faces coffee, the crowd began to trickle and ultimately pour in. We had such a great turn out and such a warm reception to the market. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I met lots of wonderful and supportive people at the PLACE booth and got to munch on the yummiest vegan banana walnut muffin from Dondero’s Kitchen, who happened to be stationed right next door to our booth. Even better, PLACE’s fearless leader, Craig, defended his thesis on Friday morning and passed! Hooray! We all got to celebrate his accomplishment, and many friendly faces stopped by the booth to congratulate him and wish him well.

After the market, I hurried home to make my dishes for the Falling Creek Farms potluck. My parents and I brought a giant bowl of Mom’s coleslaw (made with vinegar instead of mayo–yum), a savory bread pudding made with Alfredo’s french loaf, swiss chard from Ivabell Acres, green garlic and brassica flowers from Native Sun, and caramel pecan shortbread bars made with McMullan’s pecans.

We pulled onto the gravel road next to the sign for Falling Creek Farms and were just blown away. Emmet Cabaniss has what must be hundreds of gorgeous rolling grassy acres. His cows are happy cows through and through and they are chemical free cows, as well. No hormones nor antibiotics ever touch the cattle or even his land. On rare occasion, Emmet purchases a bull to breed, but for the most part, there haven’t been any cattle introduced to this land in many, many years. He does all his own breeding and lets the cows wander the pastures, rotating them every week or so. He is about to be USDA approved to sell to individuals and businesses alike and he is even approved to sell the individual cuts instead of a whole or half cow, almost a luxury in the grass fed beef business. Ask him any questions about this and he knows what he is talking about. I don’t think I have ever met a man who knew more about beef.

So Emmet and Sandice and Jason from About an Acre threw a good old fashioned barbecue and invited everyone they knew who might be interested in farming, sustainabilty, bartering and anything else that fits under that umbrella. We all converged on a blustery afternoon and admired the fishing pond and the new events facility that Emmet is building on his land. Sandice played quite the hostess, complete with orange checkered dress, jean jacket and cowboy hat. She fostered lots of discussions about how we can all live more sustainably, and had many kind words of encouragement for me. She and Jason were high school friends that have recently been feeling like the conventional ways of eating aren’t the way we should be doing things. Spurred on by movies such as Food Inc. and Fresh, they were inspired to start living a simpler, kinder life. They have set out to prove that you don’t have to have a lot of experience or knowledge or even a lot of land to grow your own food. After about a year of researching the way that other small farmers are doing things, they branched out on their own this year to show that you can produce everything you need to live on About an Acre, and are blogging about it every step of the way.

Once the pork shoulders had been pulled we feasted on all the old fashioned barbecue fixins’, and when the wind got to be too much and everyone was full of food, we all started to say our goodbyes. With the lingering sounds of Dolly Parton in the distance, we pulled back onto hwy 77 in the Stephens Community, sad to leave but happy to have made such good new friends. Thank you so much Emmet, Jason and Sandice. I hope to do it again soon.