Valdosta Daily Times

January 25, 2014

Growing Local Farm Tour gets under way

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

LAKE PARK — While past South Georgia Growing Local conferences have had self-guided farm tours, this year’s conference offered a guided tour through four local farms, starting off Friday morning at Raisin’ Cane.

“We teach people about agriculture,” said Jessica Bolesta, who runs Raisin’ Cane along with her family.

It’s one of the latest agri-tourism spots to pop up across the state in the past couple of years.

Along with a fresh produce market that’s as packed as possible with local fare—they do have to go out of the area for things that are harder to find here—Raisin’ Cane hosts tours and field trips, teaching children who may be unfamiliar with farms about how they work.

Accordingly, Raisin’ Cane does a little bit of everything, growing bell peppers, squash, corn, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, among other things.

They also raise a handful of goats, chickens, horses, ducks, goats and pigs, enough to give tourists a sense of what different animals are like.

“We want to show everyone what we’re doing out here.”

The field trips have ranged in size from 15 to 200, and in March, they’re hosting a barn dance and rodeo in conjunction with the Lake Park Chamber of Commerce.

They also have other plans, including adding a cane grinder in the future, and growing satsumas, a seedless, easy peeling citrus.

“One of the great things about the tour and farming in general down here is a lot of us are doing experiments,” said Gretchen Quarterman, organizer of this year’s Growing Local Conference. “We’re just trying stuff out and if it works, we do it. If it doesn’t, we try something else.”

There was a mix of seasoned farmers, back yard gardeners and people interested in getting into growing. People like Martha Griffis. After decades of working as a full-time nurse, she’s planning to retire, and while she hasn’t decided what she wants to do yet, she’s thinking she might get into farming, maybe olives, maybe citrus, maybe something else.

The tour continued on to Loch Laurel Nursery, Georgia Olive Farms and Hound River Farms.

The South Georgia Growing Local 2014 conference continues today at Pine Grove Middle School, with sessions starting at 9 a.m. and continuing throughout the day.