Pioneers in sustainable agriculture, backyard gardeners and urban homesteaders gathered in Athens Feb. 20-21 to share knowledge gathered over years of working the land and to learn new skills from researchers at UGA.
From soil health research to breeding programs for organically produced crops, UGA faculty and staff have worked to improve the sustainability and efficiency of organic farms in Georgia.
“Many people don’t realize how much work we have going on in sustainable agriculture,” said Julia Gaskin, sustainable agriculture coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and recipient of Georgia Organics’ 2015 Land Steward Award.
“Having the Georgia Organics conference here allows us to highlight all the research and UGA Extension work we have in this area,” she said.
During the two-day conference, UGA faculty hosted farm tours at UGArden, the organic farm at Durham Horticulture Farm and at the J. Phil Campbell Sr. Research and Education Center, UGA’s hub for sustainable agriculture research and public outreach.
They also hosted hands-on workshops.
• Lawton Stewart, an assistant professor of animal and dairy science, and Dennis Hancock, an associate professor of crop and soil sciences, taught an introductory workshop on sustainable grazing.
• David Berle, an associate professor of horticulture, and JoHannah Biang, UGArden farm manager, taught a class of beginning farmers and gardeners how to build raised beds and how to repair and use small farm machinery.
• Peter Hartel, a retired professor of crop and soil sciences, and Elizabeth Little, an assistant professor in plant pathology, helped farmers inspect soil from their farms using microscopes and interpret findings in terms of soil health.
• Suzanne Stone, a graduate student in horticulture, and Little helped lead a discussion on the need for better crop varieties for organic producers.
• Gaskin and George Boyhan, a professor of horticulture, gave a workshop on selecting cover crops and how to maximize their benefit.
• Judy Harrison, a professor of foods and nutrition in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, updated conference attendees on the Food Safety and Modernization Act and how it affects produce coming from small farms.
• Bob Waldorf, an Extension coordinator in Banks County, gave an update on UGA’s Master Goat Farmer program.
In addition to the tours and workshops, 12 UGA graduate students presented posters on their research at the conference.