January 26, 2014

Farmers take part in Growing Local Conference

January 26, 2014 Kristin Finney The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Hundreds of farmers packed the halls of Pine Grove Middle School on Saturday to participate in the final portion of the South Georgia Growing Local Conference.

The conference began on Friday, with participants touring several farms in the region, and continued through Saturday with a full day of seminars.

During the Farm Panel, attendees were able to learn from three long-time local farmers: Albert Barner, Theresa Clark and Innis Davis, Sr. Combined, these three farmers have more than 150 years of farming experience.

The panel, hosted by Diane Howard, began with each farmer sharing their background in farming and how their love of farming began.

Clark, who grew up in Clyattville, shared her experiences with gardens. She shared stories of teaching her grandchildren and great grandchildren to love farming as much as she does.

“I remember when they were little, they would say they don’t eat vegetables. Then I taught them about farming and they got to work in the soil and watch the plants grow. Now they will ask me ‘Is it grown yet?’ and ‘Can we eat it yet?’”

Barner shared stories about growing up with his parents teaching him about farming. His mother taught him about canning, and to this day he continues to can his produce.

He also informed the audience about saving and gathering their own seeds.

Barner explained, “"You can find seeds at WalMart and places like that, but you are going to pay for them. It’s not free. I collect my own seeds from my plants. Then I dry them and plant them. When my plants grow, I look at them and think ‘I grew this. I’m proud of this.’”

Davis didn’t grow up on a country farm like Barner and Clark. Instead, he grew up in the city and fell in love with farming there. Davis continues to maintain his local garden and praised the Farmer’s Almanac as one of the most important tools in his farming.

Davis also discussed how his corn growing techniques are extremely different than traditional farmers recommend, as he plants his corn in February.

While many farmers believe that a late season frost will destroy the crop, Davis knows that his corn actually tastes better after a frost in the early stages of growth.

One of the most important similarities between the three farmers is that they all share their bounty. Barner, Davis and Clark all spoke about regularly giving plants, seeds and crops to those that need it.

Howard, who is good friends with each of the panel members, commented on the similarity, “It’s about sharing. This is what local growing is all about. I’ve seen this first hand because each of these farmers has shared with me. I encourage you all to do the same and share as much as you can.”

Classes and panels continued throughout the day, giving local farmers a chance to learn about many different topics from local experts, including cultivating orchards, healthy gardens, animals, farmer experiences, and healthy living.

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