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Portal farmers promote organic farming
Field day held for students and guests
Farm Day original
People listen to a presentation on organic farming by Dr. Caroll Johnson, a U.S. Department of Agriculture agronomist based in Tifton. It was part of an Organic Farm Day program held Friday at C&S Organics, an organic farm outside Portal owned and operated by Al and Debbie Clark. - photo by JASON WERMERS/staff

Clark & Sons Organics, a farm near Portal, hosted a field day Friday with guests from the Coastal Organics Growers Association and local students.
Al and Debbie Clark, along with sons Rene and John, welcomed four busloads of students and a host of other guests Friday morning for a tour of the farm and a snack of grilled eggplant and sausage.
Clark and several others, including Donn Cooper, the farm services coordinator with Georgia Organics, spoke about issues in the organic farming world.
“There is a really strong focus on conservation of resources in organic farming,” Cooper said. “Water, gasoline, using natural products.”
Clark & Sons is a certified organic farm, one of a handful in the area. Farms like this “use less land” than traditional farming and target specific markets, he said. Atlanta is the largest market for organically grown products, he said.
Organic food is healthier, and farming organically is nothing new.
“It takes lessons we’ve forgotten — we used to farm like this in the 1940s,” Cooper said.
Organic farmers use fewer chemicals and less gasoline, and make fewer trips around the fields.
Organic farmers are “clever, creative; these guys are smart,” Cooper said, describing methods they use to maintain organic status and still combat weeds and pests. “Organic farming is really setting the standard for everyone else.”
While organic farms might not be as common in south Georgia, they are on the increase north of Macon, he said. Urban sprawl has caused farmland to disappear, but it’s making a comeback.
“We’re reclaiming some of that farm land,” he said.
Cooper said people are starting to crave the farm-to-table connection, and local organic farms are the answer.
“Let’s feed Georgia with Georgia food,” he said.
Connie Hayes stayed back at the food preparation site while her husband, Jimmy Hayes, toured Clark’s farms with the others. She and her husband own Healthy Hollow Farms in Stilson, another Bulloch County organic operation.
They began farming organically 15 years ago after Ms. Hayes became ill from chemical exposure, an illness that left her bedridden. Today she is much healthier and enjoys organic farming.
When they stopped traditional farming years ago and rented their land, they saw the soil becoming more leached and sandy from chemical use. Taking it back, the Hayeses turned crop residue back into the soil, building it up again to become rich in nutrients, she said.
Organic farmers use no chemicals, instead using compost, compost teas and other natural fertilizers. Other tilling methods preserve soil quality and the purity of crops she said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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