Friday, May 13, 2011

a fortnight or so ago....

Here are some photos of the construction project from about 2 weeks ago. We are getting much closer now. Look for more recent photos in the next few days.

Zach Brendel and his crew from Oneta Woodworks did a fantastic job building the benches and the bar. The wood on the back of the benches is reclaimed pine from a cotton mill in Eatonton, and the panels on the front of the bar are rusty shingles from a farmhouse in Newtown that was being remodeled. They have a coat of epoxy on them so your knees won't get dirty.

You Can Go Home Again

Jay Payne has taken quite a journey since he retired from the bio-medical field in Maryland and decided to come full circle and bring his family back to Georgia 6 years ago. A native Athenian, Jay wanted to return to his roots and be close to his family here in the South.

He had done a little research with his son, Dylan, about sustainable farming and decided to give it a shot. The family bought a gorgeous plot of land in the Stephens community near Crawford and settled in for the ride. Merely a homesite when they purchased it, Jay, his wife, Maureen, and Dylan have transformed fallow fields of gently rolling hills into an inspiring farm oasis. Jay is also president of the board of the farmer’s market and has great plans for the local food scene of Athens.

Approximately 6 hoop houses are lined up on the back part of the property, abundant with the winter and early spring crops of beets, greens, kohlrabi and carrots. At the time of my visit, row upon row of dirt had been plowed up and pushed together and were awaiting the planting of summer crops. Several varietals of heirloom tomatoes, basil and squashes were getting their start in a small greenhouse. Dylan is apparently known around the market as the squash guy due to his love for cultivating as many different varietals of squash as possible each year.

A lot of the projects that the Paynes take on at Cedar Grove Farm are experimental in nature, but often the results are greater than might be expected.

After our visit, they let me come back to help harvest for the first farmer’s market. Bucket after bucket filled with rainbow chard, beets and beet greens, kohlrabi, spring onions, baby leeks, kale and lettuces. It was such an honor to be a part of the process, and spending the day in the fields was such a refreshing way to start the weekend.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Native Son

We pull up to the side of the farmhouse on Jimmy Daniel Rd. on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. A structure with 4 posts sits lonely by the roadside awaiting a time when Spring is in full force and the bounty of the farm can be sold on the side of the road right here on the front of the property. Greeted at the car door by a sweet old dog and a line of ducks waddling by ahead, we approach the hoop house as Brent Lopp strides towards us from the fields to show us around Native Sun Farm in Bogart.
Brent’s parents have owned this land since he was in high school, and apparently it started off as a great deal more land than it is today. Slowly selling it off piece by piece to land developers, they live on a refreshing few acres of farmable land surrounded by subdivisions. Brent was a horticulture major in college who didn’t want to work in a nursery. He wanted to grow for himself and sell the bounty to his community, so his parents allowed him to cultivate the land that they had left, and what a great job he has done.

Native Sun is in the 2nd year of farming and already is leaps ahead of a lot of the beginning farmers that we have encountered in our search for suppliers and their stories. I first met Brent last winter at our second PLACE book club meeting. He was eager to learn about the culture of farming and the food culture of Athens, and he was just beginning this process. Now he has a huge hoop house, several fields with rows and rows of spring and summer crops, and a back pasture where he has started lots of fruit plants, something that is very exciting to find in these parts. He has the starts of raspberry and blackberry vines, blueberry bushes, grape vines and even a varietal of kiwi that has been shown to prosper in our part of the country.

In the middle of everything, a lone horse grazes in it’s pasture, and before we go, Brent lets the chickens that he has put up so we wouldn’t run them over when we arrive run free, and we can see all his young clucking brood scatter. My mom struggles to try to get them back in the pen, but to no avail. They have been set free and they have no intention of returning to their coop.

Brent and his wife, Amy, have recently had a baby, and they have dreams of being able to find some land that they can farm and live on at the same time. They are thinking of moving a little closer to Atlanta where they feel that the market is stronger for their produce, but I hope that they will stick around Athens for a while. I can’t wait to source from them and have them be a part of our family at Heirloom.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Saturday morning was the perfect day for the beginning of the farmer's market. The sun shown brightly and gradually melted away one of our last cold nights of the year. Refreshed from the winter rest, farmer and baker and artisan alike filed onto the basketball court at Bishop Park. 7:30 in the morning had never felt so good. As the farmers rubbed their hands together to keep warm and sipped on 1000 Faces coffee, the crowd began to trickle and ultimately pour in. We had such a great turn out and such a warm reception to the market. I couldn't have asked for anything more. I met lots of wonderful and supportive people at the PLACE booth and got to munch on the yummiest vegan banana walnut muffin from Dondero's Kitchen, who happened to be stationed right next door to our booth. Even better, PLACE's fearless leader, Craig, defended his thesis on Friday morning and passed! Hooray! We all got to celebrate his accomplishment, and many friendly faces stopped by the booth to congratulate him and wish him well.

After the market, I hurried home to make my dishes for the Falling Creek Farms potluck. My parents and I brought a giant bowl of Mom's coleslaw (made with vinegar instead of mayo--yum), a savory bread pudding made with Alfredo's french loaf, swiss chard from Ivabell Acres, green garlic and brassica flowers from Native Sun, and caramel pecan shortbread bars made with McMullan's pecans.

We pulled onto the gravel road next to the sign for Falling Creek Farms and were just blown away. Emmet Cabaniss has what must be hundreds of gorgeous rolling grassy acres. His cows are happy cows through and through and they are chemical free cows, as well. No hormones nor antibiotics ever touch the cattle or even his land. On rare occasion, Emmet purchases a bull to breed, but for the most part, there haven't been any cattle introduced to this land in many, many years. He does all his own breeding and lets the cows wander the pastures, rotating them every week or so. He is about to be USDA approved to sell to individuals and businesses alike and he is even approved to sell the individual cuts instead of a whole or half cow, almost a luxury in the grass fed beef business. Ask him any questions about this and he knows what he is talking about. I don't think I have ever met a man who knew more about beef.

So Emmet and Sandice and Jason from About an Acre threw a good old fashioned barbecue and invited everyone they knew who might be interested in farming, sustainabilty, bartering and anything else that fits under that umbrella. We all converged on a blustery afternoon and admired the fishing pond and the new events facility that Emmet is building on his land. Sandice played quite the hostess, complete with orange checkered dress, jean jacket and cowboy hat. She fostered lots of discussions about how we can all live more sustainably, and had many kind words of encouragement for me. She and Jason were high school friends that have recently been feeling like the conventional ways of eating aren't the way we should be doing things. Spurred on by movies such as Food Inc. and Fresh, they were inspired to start living a simpler, kinder life. They have set out to prove that you don't have to have a lot of experience or knowledge or even a lot of land to grow your own food. After about a year of researching the way that other small farmers are doing things, they branched out on their own this year to show that you can produce everything you need to live on About an Acre, and are blogging about it every step of the way.

Once the pork shoulders had been pulled we feasted on all the old fashioned barbecue fixins', and when the wind got to be too much and everyone was full of food, we all started to say our goodbyes. With the lingering sounds of Dolly Parton in the distance, we pulled back onto hwy 77 in the Stephens Community, sad to leave but happy to have made such good new friends. Thank you so much Emmet, Jason and Sandice. I hope to do it again soon.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

three farms, three very different perspectives

Friday was the first day in a week that it wasn't overcast and rainy. Hoping to get back to the spring soon, my parents and I set out on an adventure. Our goal, see three farms in one day, learn the farmers' stories and put one foot in front of the other on a path toward strong relationships with our local producers. These three farms couldn't be more different from one another, and the close of the car door after each visit brought reflection on three uniquely refreshing ways of life.

First stop--Mills Farm. We pull off Harve Mathis Rd., and park beside the little yellow house with green shutters, marked by a sign that says Mills. Alice Mills is a city girl that married a boy with farming in his blood, and the rest is history. Alice and her husband Tim have been married and farming together for over 40 years, and they have been on this piece of property since the mid-80s. They have two fields for vegetables, a chicken house, a mill house, two workshops, their home, and a pasture for their mule, Luke, all on about three acres.

They taught us that it doesn't take a lot of land to have a farm, just a lot of ingenuity, and boy do they have ingenuity. My family used to own a company that sold and serviced construction equipment, and my dad told me that Grandpa always said that the best mechanics they ever hired came from farming backgrounds. Tim Mills is just that kind of mechanic. The Mills have a vision for their farm where they would be able to do all of their daily tasks and still be able to live off of their land year-round without the need for electricity, and they have almost achieved it. With the exception of the freezer, which holds some of the produce they put up for the winter and the walk-in refrigerator, where they store items ready to go to market out of the hot sun, all of the machines the Mills use for farming can be powered my their beautiful red mule. Tim didn't even know that what he was building when he welded together the machine that became the power for their mill. Then one day while he was building it, a friend gave them the actual mill parts and he and Alice knew why he had been making the machine.

All in all, the Mills have something special. Any young farmer would be lucky to have them as mentors. They farm in very traditional ways, with no need to change them. They won't build hoop houses because they think they should be able to get by on just the land, and they do. They can, freeze and dry any excess from the summer. They know that cornbread, collard greens and black eyed peas provide just about the best possible meal that anyone could ever need and they can find all of that just outside their back door.


Our next stop was totally on the other end of the spectrum. A short drive up North Avenue just past the loop brought us to a piece of land happily dubbed Clay Gardens. Clay Gardens is both old and new. The land had been owned by a agriculture professor with a true love for the land in his blood, and had been used as a farm for the agricultural extension office. He had cultivated an expansive pecan grove, row after row of trellises stretched with old grape vines and a sunny vegetable patch up by the main road. The professor passed away a few years ago and the land fell into the hands of Mr. Cantrell, a retired mathematics professor, who now owns it and has a saw mill on the property where he collects reclaimed wood from all over the region. Mr. Cantrell also allows artists to rent out the rooms of the old farmhouse as studios. The farm is home to the studios of musicians, ceramicists, woodworkers and several other artists.

Coy Campbell King, our gracious guide, has recently moved onto the property and is the only resident. He has been incredibly inspired by his gorgeous surroundings and has set his mind on restoring the gardens to a usable community growing space. Coy wears many professional hats, but he came to Clay Gardens with plans to build a wood shop where he is making beautiful custom and artisan furniture under a company that shares our name, Heirloom. His work will truly become an heirloom for anyone lucky enough to acquire one of his pieces. He partners with Mr. Cantrell, finding a use for a good bit of the reclaimed wood that Mr. Cantrell collects.

Coy also has headed up the gardening project, tilling a plot that happens to lie right where the original owner's vegetable patch had been. He plans to grow the three sisters (corn, beans and squash all grown together), as well as a whole bunch of sunflowers and whatever else he is inspired to plant, including some heirloom seeds. This is a very organic project for Coy. He hopes to create an artistic space in this garden that is beautiful and functional, and that can help feed him and his friends in the coming year. He welcomes any volunteer labor and any input, and truly wants it to become a community space.


After Clay Gardens, we hightail it over to Winterville to visit Three Pigs Farm, where my friends Tom and Jenna await us to show us their land and inspire us once more. Their friend Hank is also an owner of the farm, but he wasn't able to join our tour.

The focus of this farm, as the name suggests, is the pigs, and they focus on heritage breeds. These breeds were almost bred out by the big pork producers, but a recent movement of environmentalists and gourmets has brought them back from the brink and they are being raised by the most discerning pig farmers. Right now, they have some Tamworth mixes, the best little bacon pigs around.

Tom and Jenna gave us the tour of the land, which made us all very jealous of their life. They have two very large fields, which they intend to cultivate around the rotation of their pigs. Once they reach full capacity, they plan to have one fallow field, one field in cover crops, two rotating pigs through, eating the tasty undergrowth, and a peach orchard where the pigs will spend their last days feasting on the fallen peaches. This is several years down the road, but their current set up is very impressive in and of itself. Everything on the farm is very tidy, from the rows in the garden right down to the pig pins.

The family garden close to the house is very neatly laid out in rows and a few raised beds, made from an old wooden fence that previously surrounded the smaller house on the property. There were several rows of garlic in the ground that had overwintered, as well as some brassicas and some beautiful buttercrunch lettuce. In the greenhouse, transplants for summer crops waited patiently to go in the ground. I can't wait to eat one of their Cherokee Purple tomatoes....their purple red flesh is my favorite....mmmmm.

Our Friday farming adventure ends here with one young farm, one teenage farm and one older farm full of wisdom, but we can't wait to see more and more farms and hear more and more stories.

On a side note, all these wonderful photos were taken by my awesome mom, Susie Burch. Doesn't she rock?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

a true heirloom farm

Katherine and Rebecca may not be the people who you expect to meet when you drive out Fulton Industrial Boulevard, past where the factories end and the country road begins, down the road that my mom would zoom along in her college days, zipping between East Point and Carrollton, but they are the embodiment of the young farmers who are inheriting the soil of Georgia. The faces of these women are lit up with passion and a yearning to learn about farming and teach others about why it is so important.

Skip and Cookie Glover have been farming this land for many many years, and still do farm part of it, but they have been gracious in their semi-retirement to host and mentor several young farmers who are just starting out on their land. The Glovers have created a haven on their 100 year old farm, they have been pioneers of the organic farming movement in Georgia, and have formed wonderful relationships with markets and chefs throughout the metro-Atlanta area. I first learned of the Glovers when I was working at Muss and Turner's in Smyrna. Todd Mussman had a relationship with Skip and Cookie that was almost like family, and even took the staff of the restaurant out to the farm several times so that they would all understand where the ingredients that they were working with came from.

Katherine and Rebecca have taken on a portion of their land, under the name Ivabel Acres at Glover Family Farm, and continue to foster these relationships. Ivabel is the name of Katherine's great aunt, who taught Katherine the glories and hardships of living off the land. She is the girls' inspiration, and they hope to honor her spirit in the work that they do on this farm.

The day that my mom and I visited the farm, Rebecca was here in Athens, but Katherine was kind enough to give us the grand tour. Clover, oats and rye grass covered several of the fields, but some baby lettuces peeped through some of the newly tilled and tended rows, as did crops of onions and garlic, and several brassicas. The start room promised beets, fennel, tomatoes, and lots of other tasty treats. The greenhouse housed an abundance of rainbow swiss chard, as well as some other cool season crops, slowing in production slightly. Soon, Katherine will be turning her attention to the warmer weather crops, with some rows of early tomatoes and summer squash about to move into the greenhouse. We also got to see the hens laze around their house, not seeming to want to venture out into the strangely cool and drizzly March air. A plethora of leftover romesco awaited them for snacking, but they preferred to stay inside. The bees were just beginning to buzz about in Skip's bee houses, but they didn't venture out much either on such a dreary day.

As we left, Katherine gave us several copious bunches of the rainbow chard, and bid us farewell. I can't wait to go back and visit on a brighter day and spend some time getting my hands dirty. My mom told me as we drove away that this was just the kind of farm she would want to have if she had her own, and I would have to agree. What a wonderful place to live and work.

Luckily, Rebecca is back and forth between the farm and Athens several times a week, so despite the fact that they are much further than our average farm will be from Heirloom, we will still be able to showcase some of their beautiful veggies on our menu. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera when I was out at Ivabel Acres, but you can see lots of great photographs on their blog.

progress on a gloomy day in Athens

Due to a mishap with some photos taken on my phone before it bit the dust, there is a major gap between the demolition photos and these that show how the phoenix has risen from the flames to take shape into Heirloom. This photo shows the front of the restaurant as seen from Chase St.

My husband Jordan hones his bocce skills on our imaginary court. The real one is eagerly awaited.

This is our market addition. The curved wall will have an ivory brick finish and the walls to either side boast prime window seating.

The side view of our incoming patio. Inside this knee wall will be planters full of herbs and a pergola draped with climbing plants and fairy lights.

Hard to capture in photographs, you see the inside of the addition here. Imagine that the plywood is storefront windows and is lined with a banquet and several tables and chairs, full of smiling diners, young and old.

They have put in all the metal framing, and we now have a real feel for the space as it will be. It still feels spacious due to the ability to see through the walls, but soon it will be the cozy little cafe that will become our home. This is the view into the dining room from the market space.

Through the walls you can see me pretend to contemplate myself in the imaginary mirror of one of our bathrooms.

The plumber is hard at work in our kitchen, finishing off the pipes that will lead to our prep sinks. The two small windows will allow a little natural light into the kitchen, a true luxury.

So this is the progress, and I plan to post photos of it more often in the future. I hope you have enjoyed the virtual tour of Heirloom.

all the things I learned in Savannah

First of all, I want to say to my loyal blog followers that I am sorry that I have been away for so long. Getting all this started has made me busy, busy, busy, and sometimes I forget to come here and tell you all about what has been going on.

In early March, the lovely city of Savannah hosted the Georgia Organics conference, and I was lucky enough to attend. I learned so much and was greatly inspired by all the faithful farmers, restaurateurs, academics and general food lovers that were brought together.

Friday morning started with and in depth look at food policy on a federal, state and local level. It was inspiring to learn how individuals can make a difference and very informative about what issues are most at stake right now.

On Friday afternoon, we all filed onto buses for our journeys out to the local farms around Savannah. I went on the Cha Bella and Earth to Table tour, where I got to see first hand the success story of a restaurant that sources everything locally, much of it from their own farm. They spread us out on the patio of the restaurant, some people sitting on wooden swings hanging from the rafters, curtains blowing in the breeze and passed out glasses of wine. We were then greeted by executive chef, Matthew Roher, who gave us the overview of their program and explained the Earth to Table farm box, which is a box of abundant farm fresh produce delivered right to people's doors. Then we went out to the farm, which has been revamped from an old dairy that burned to the ground. Spanish moss hanging from live oaks blew in the wind as we walked down the sandy road from the residential street next to the ruins of the dairy. We turned the bend and a glorious, sun-filled garden awaited us. Being early March, many of the rows were still grown over with cover crops from the winter, but a few arugula and rosemary plants had stuck it out, and a sandy spot showed its face where the last of the years sweet potatoes had just been harvested. They walked us through the rows and showed us what they planned for each space, then took us down a path to a beautiful old live oak where they host picnics and weddings in the late spring and summer. The land also houses an apiary that was just beginning to be abuzz with bees.

Saturday was full of information. I learned about the cuts and costs of meat from a farmer's perspective, about the ins and outs of being a responsible shopper in the world of sustainable meat, and had a crash course in beekeeping. I met lots of wonderful people and reconnected with some old friends that I hadn't seen in a while. I got to explore the silent auction and the expo, which was full of very informative vendors and organizations. I also got to see the new film, GROW, which is an expose of young farmers in Georgia. It was so inspiring and I recommend that anyone interested in sustainable food watch it. It will make you want to take to the fields and get dirty. The evening ended with a fantastic family style feast, made with loving care by the best chefs in the farm to table movement of Georgia. I felt so lucky to be a part of the conference as a whole and to share such a great meal with great people.

Georgia Organics is such a wonderful organization, supporting farmers new and old and making the local, sustainable and organic food movements possible in this state.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


So the walls are down and the pole supports are up. The bobcats have been digging away and the floors are partially mud. The concrete in the parking lot is beginning to be cut, and you can see outlines of our patio, bocce court and two big holes where our parking lot trees will find their homes.

In the meantime we are shopping for used equipment, making a website, searching for vendors, and getting very very excited.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

golden light on a wraparound porch

I feel so lucky to have such wonderful people working with me on this project, and Tuesday was a day that showed me just how lucky I am. I spent about 14 hours testing recipes in my kitchen, torturing my husband with the smell of food that he was not allowed to eat. I kept being interrupted by phone calls and emails and pop up meetings, but I was on a deadline and I was determined to meet it. I left for Sparta about an hour late, and about half an hour into the drive, I felt transported into another way of being.

Megan Boling of Three Centuries Farm and Brown Parcel Press graciously invited me to the farm for a photo shoot for the Heirloom website. She wanted to capture some images of the proposed menu items and some other farm images that tie together the visual presentation I want for the business.

Just being on the farm relaxed me completely. The donkey and the goats bleeted in the background as we posed food with vintage linens in the golden afternoon light of the wraparound porch. We took a walk around the farm as Megan's fiance, Brad, was feeding the animals, and at one point he walked up to me and just started pulling eggs out of his pockets for me to take home with me. I recognize how much strenuous work goes into living on a farm, but being with them on their farm makes me wish that that was the life I led. I will just have to visit often, and be grateful for their presence in my life.