One farmer’s switcheroo sparks opportunities for others

Next spring at the farmers markets, you might notice some signage changes behind a few of your favorite farmers. One highly respected young farmer, Rachel Tali Kaplan, is leaving town, prompting a wave of moves.

Why would someone like Kaplan, who has worked to build the soil at one farm, move to another? Because that is part of the life of a landless farmer. The sustainable food movement has inspired a growing number of young people to try their hand at agriculture; many of them come from cities and colleges, not famlly farms. They bring a willingness to work and learn, but most don’t have a quarter-acre to call their own. So like young people in all kinds of careers, they tend to move around some.

The good news is that, with each move, these farmers spread a little more knowledge and enthusiasm. It’s how a truly grass-roots movement grows.

In January, Kaplan (right), the manager of Gaia Gardens in East Atlanta, will move with her husband to the Boston area to be closer to her family and, she hopes, to connect with a community of young Jewish farmers who are interested in exploring “the intersection of farming and food and Jewish tradition,” she says. “I love the farming community here, it’s so supportive and really just great – I hope that is what Boston holds as well.”

Joe Reynolds of Love is Love Farm will take her place at Gaia. After interning at Crystal Organic Farm in Newborn and leasing space at the Glover Family Farm in Douglasville, he’s excited to be working just a few miles from his Grant Park home. In addition to operating Gaia’s CSA [community supported agriculture, in which consumers sign up for a weekly share of a farm’s output] for East Lake Commons, Reynolds plans to continue his educational outreach programs. “I think at Gaia Gardens we share a lot of values,” he says. (He’s also excited about the fruit – a half-acre of blueberry bushes, plus muscadines and figs.) 

Another set of young farmers at the Glover property, Darby McCrea Weaver and Elliot Smith, aka Sun Dog Farm, have signed a new lease in Buckhead – no, not that Buckhead; the one out I-20 past Madison. They discovered the property through Weaver’s work with Crop Mob and their resulting friendship with farmer Tate Tewksbury. “We had been searching endlessly,” Weaver says, for a place to call their own. “[Tewksbury] asked us if we would look at this property that was right down the road from him.” It was love at first sight. They plan to offer a CSA and continue their booth at Peachtree Road Farmers Market.

All those musical farms left a hole at Skip and Cookie Glovers’ farm, which was promptly filled by Katherine Kennedy. Kennedy, an Atlanta girl who discovered sustainable farming while living in Brooklyn, N.Y., interned this season at Jenny Jack Sun Farm in Pine Mountain. Owners Chris and Jenny Jackson have their own ties to the Glovers – they apprenticed there.

Kennedy, who is calling her new farm Ivabell Acres at the Glover Family Farm, named after a great-great aunt who farmed in Mississippi, plans to have her own booth at East Atlanta Village Farmers Market. Although she and Reynolds are still working out the details, the two plan to continue his current CSA.  
“I had only started to think what’s going to happen next when this opportunity fell into my lap in the most perfect timing ever,” Kennedy says. “Skip seems very willing to give advice, so I am definitely going to take advantage of that as much as possible. It’s exciting to have this land that is mine to work, but to have the most incredible resource just sitting there, and he cares so much about the land.”

The moves will all occur in Januray. In this crop of energetic young farmers looking for a place to put down some roots, Kennedy was most enthusiastic of all.
“I feel like I’m the luckiest girl in the world.”
> Conservation Easement Workshop: One of the ways landowners are preserving land for future generations of farmers is through conservation easements, which restricts the use of the land by future owners. On Oct. 26, Georgia Organics hosts a workshop on the how-tos of these land preservation agreements for investors, landowners and beginning farmers.