Taking it slow

On a sweltering summer’s day last year, UGA doctoral student Jeffrey Stoike and a partnership of professors and friends were set to open Farm 255. Their Athens venture melded progressive farming with the group’s dreams of a unique restaurant.

“The vision has existed among our group since those college days of idealism,” Stoike explains. The group included fellow student Jason Mann (PhD, ’09) and four community members: Jerid Grandinetti, Kate Smith, Tamar Adler and Olivia Sargeant. Together, they were set to expand the Athens culinary scene with their progressive foray into slow food. The name, Farm 255, refers to the venture’s farm, the Full Moon Cooperative.

A Community-Supported Agricultural program (or CSAA), Full Moon is an eight-acre plot leased from Carl Jordan, a professor at UGA’s Institute of Ecology. Jordan’s 100-acre farm, steeped in the principles of progressive and organic agriculture, initially attracted several of Farm 255’s owners to Athens. Jordan mentored the students as their ideas took form.

The students’ leased field hosted organic seed-saving workshops for small-scale farmers, seminars on permaculture and an accredited UGA course called “Organic Farming and the Ethics of Sustainability.” There, the co-op members practiced a no-till approach to farming. They minimized their imprint on the earth, coaxing crops to maturity without chemicals. Inside the restaurant, organic became a mantra. Diners heard recitations of how menu features reflected nature’s cycles and seasons.

“What Jason and I are doing dovetails with our research,” Stoike explains. “His in restorative agroecology and outreach, mine in political ecology, ethics and policy.” Mann, Stoike adds, is the most dedicated to farming as a lifestyle and the business visionary.

“We are looking to make the place more of a gathering place for the community, not just a hot venue for a nice dinner or bar scene, but a place to really pass time, connect with different and like-minds, scuttlebutt, whatever. Ways that this will begin to take place include regular themed dinners with speakers on progressive matters related to food, agriculture, culture, sustainability.”

The partners source foods from area farms, inviting organic meats and vegetables. Stoike is proudest that “If they were not grown by us at Full Moon, they were grown by hands that we have shaken…. Clearly, we saw the right ingredients, so to speak, here in Athens. Farming can happen anywhere, and at some point will probably need to happen almost everywhere. It would just look very different depending on the ecological and social conditions. We would take those same principles to set up shop anywhere else.”

Portions of this story were taken from an article published in the Athens Banner-Herald.