Like food? Georgia Organics weekend is for you

Georgia Organics has extended the “early bird” registration deadline for its annual conference, meaning you can still get in on two full days of tours, workshops, small-group sessions, and a big fancy meal for about 200 bucks.

Held at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center on March 11-12, this year’s gathering features a movie premier, a feast by a much-admired Savannah chef, and a keynote address by a world-known environmental activist.

Not sure you’ll fit in? You don’t have to be a farmer or a policymaker to find topics that will interest you. In fact, organizers have targeted several sessions specifically at home consumers.

“If you love food, you’ll love this conference,” says coordinator Barbara Petit. “First, you eat amazingly well, and secondly, you really get to get in touch with the people who grow and prepare this food.” The annual event, she says, is the perfect place to “reconnect with food and where it comes from, and the absolute pleasure of good food and healthy eating.”

Now in its 14th year, the GO conference has established its own rhythm. The first day starts with a workshop on topics such as insect management, street food and Georgia’s farm-to-school movement. After lunch, conferencegoers board buses to tour a nearby farm or garden or some other sustainable-food-related place. This year, participants can choose from 12 tours ranging from a grassfed cattle ranch to an organic peanut farm to an oyster reef (followed by an oyster roast).  

Friday night, you can catch the premier of “GROW!”, a documentary about Georgia’s new generation of farmers, by Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson.

Saturday is devoted to educational sessions, and this is where Georgia Organics has truly extended itself to its grass-roots, ordinary folk like you and me who simply care where our food comes from. This year, half the sessions are directed at home consumers. Learn about Savannah food traditions from cookbook author Damon Lee Fowler, gardening tips from Farmer D Organics founder Daron Joffe, organically feeding a family on a budget from “Free Range Family” blogger (and my friend) Minde Herbert, or raising backyard chickens and goats from Kyla Zaro-Moore of the Southeast Horticultural Society.

“One of the areas I think is going to appeal to people with families is the whole farm-to-school track,” Petit says. Those topics include maintaining a school garden, cooking with kids and incorporating farm-to-school concepts into curricula.

Like all good conferences, this one ends with a big dinner and a speech. The “Farmers Feast” will be prepared by Savannah chef Matthew Roher of Cha Bella, using donated sustainably raised ingredients. And the keynote address will be delivered by Vandana Shiva, a physicist, philosopher, activist, author, and winner of the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.

The one down side: Inexplicably, the conference has been scheduled for the same weekend as the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament. I’ll be in Savannah, but I will have to occasionally pop into a bar to check on the hoops action and, uh, sample the local brews. In the name of sustainability research, of course.

To see the entire schedule, plan your trip, and register, go to the Georgia Organics conference page. The new deadline for early-bird registration is Feb. 25.

Help a farming friend: Greg Brown of Greenleaf Farms in Barnesville has had some medical problems lately that have put him and his wife, Maeda, behind on their bills. In appreciation of Greg’s contributions to the local food movement, his support of other farmers, and his cheerful presence at several farmers markets, Crop Mob Atlanta’s Mike Lorey has created an online donation drive for the farm. Check it out.