Dekalb County Success Stories
Reynolds (PDF) (322 KB) html
Arabia (PDF) (85.6 KB) html
Logan (PDF) (112 KB) html
By Karen Buckley Washington, Lawrenceville
On any given day, you can find DeKalb County farmer Joe Reynolds busy, caring for his crops.
Reynolds and his partner, food activist Judith Winfrey, are the operators of Love Is Love Farms. Gaia Gardens, a 1.5 acre certified organic farm owned by East Lake Commons housing community, is nestled in the heart of a residential area in urban, Decatur and has been Reynolds’ host farm since 2011.
Reynolds diverse selection of soil-based crops include broccoli, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, collard greens, eggplant and even Shitake mushrooms and honey, which they provide to a 110 member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program as well as to local restaurants and the East Atlanta Farmers Market.
“I was an employee for a farmer at the very beginning,” said Reynolds. “I worked for Crystal Organic Farm in Newborn, a certified organic farmer for 4 years. Then I started my own farming operation and this is the fifth year that I’ve been in business as Love is Love Farm.”
Reynolds is a skilled farmer and conservationist, possessing advanced knowledge of plant families, crop rotations and cover crops. So, when Reynolds sought assistance from Jerome Brown, district conservationist with the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Lawrenceville, the relationship was a great match.
Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) cost share funding, Reynolds planted cover crops to control soil erosion and established a nutrient management plan that allowed him to schedule nutrient applications for optimum crop yields. Reynolds was approved for a high tunnel house to extend his growing season.
“We grow approximately 60 types of vegetables,” said Reynolds. “For us, the rotation and form is how we make it all work (what we grow). My rotation is designed based on botanical plants or what crops go together – what plant families’ work well together. The cost share assistance we received through NRCS has been so helpful in protecting the soil, reducing our expenses and allowing our business to be more profitable” said Reynolds.
“Joe is an outstanding EQIP participant,” said Brown. “His dedication to sustainability is an example to a growing field of young small-scale farmers.”
As a young farmer, Reynolds and Winfrey embrace the benefits of locally grow sustainable agriculture and wish to share the message with their community by hosting field days and food events. Their ‘rock-star’ following and creative growing practices have made them formidable voices on local sustainable farm and food initiatives.
“Everybody agrees that the food grown closest to them tastes better and has a higher nutrient value and it looks better when it gets to you. It’s grown in a manner that’s most consistent with our natural resources and agrees with mother earth,” said Reynolds.
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The Arabia Mountain Heritage Alliance is a collection of private citizens, civic groups, localities and State and Federal agencies that have joined together to protect and enhance the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve and the surrounding area which is under strong development pressure due to a new mall. NRCS first became involved in 1998 when the Alliance successfully applied for a grant from the Urban Resources Partnership in Atlanta to put up educational signage at the Preserve.
Urban Resources Partnership (URP) was a coalition of local conservation agencies funded primarily by the NRCS and the Forest Service that provided cost-share grants for locally led conservation projects in many metropolitan areas across the country. In 1998, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney wrote a letter to then Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, asking for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) assistance with preserving farmland in the area.
Butch Goff, Retired Assistant State Conservationist, and Steve Leslie, District Conservationist, attended the next meeting of the Alliance and talked to the group about the conservation programs that are available and what technical services they might provide.
Since then Steve Leslie has continued to participate with the group and provided an assessment of a pond dam on the property, as well as soil survey information. Later the Alliance successfully applied for another URP grant to produce a video that introduced school children to the Nature Preserve before they visited. Both URP projects have since been completed.
The Nature Preserve has grown along with the Alliance through land acquisitions funded by over $30 million of private, County and State, as well as, in-kind services. Most recently an additional $10 million in Federal funding through the Park Service was approved by President Bush to officially designate it as a National Heritage Area.
A smart growth plan has been drawn up for the area, which includes plans for an environmental magnet school and a trail system that would link the Preserve with Panola Mountain State Park and with other public properties along the South River. For more information please go to http://www.arabiaalliance.org/
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Retha Logan, a small urban farmer in DeKalb County, is a perfect example of how conservation works just as well on small acreage as on large farms. Logan raises Alpacas. Alpacas are non-traditional animals that are rare in Georgia. Originally from the Andean Mountains, Alpacas are captivating, mystical creatures that seem to sooth one’s soul with their beauty.
Alpacas are the rarest of all domestic livestock, and their fiber is used to create valuable, durable, alpaca products that can be worn on the body or displayed in the home. Their soft, crimpy fleece is taken once a year with no harm to the animal. The fiber is processed into valuable retail products, ranging from socks to coats and teddy bears to rugs.
It is documented that the hypoallergenic fiber never wears out or stains, is lightweight and incredibly warm. The fiber is warmer, lighter and stronger than wool. Alpaca farming provides a more relaxing farm experience, which is perfect for Logan as a self employed computer contractor.
Also, Alpacas can be raised on small acreage, such as the 5.5 acres Logan has developed. Logan contacted the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in Lawrenceville in 2003 about the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). She had water quality concerns and wanted advice. A conservation plan for Logan’s farm included pipeline and fencing, all of which was completed in 2004.
NRCS, with the assistance of Dr. Mark Latimore, from the Fort Valley Extension Service, is also working with Logan on forages that are palatable for Alpacas. Logan’s farm is a prime example of conservation at work on the small farm. It just goes to show that it is not the acreage, but the farmer’s commitment that puts conservation on the ground and protects our environment!
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