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Stilson farms field day shines light on organic farming
Healthy Hollow holds organic peanut field day
Jimmy Hayes of Healthy Hollow Farm near Brooklet demonstrates the mechanical means of weed control as Coastal Organic Growers and Georgia Organics host Organic Peanut Field Day. Hayes is the only certified organic peanut grower in Georgia. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

STILSON — Healthy Hollow Farms held its first organic peanut field day on Tuesday with one primary goal: to educate local farmers on the benefits of organic farming.
    Owners James “Jimmy”  and Connie Hayes, members of Coastal Organic Growers, invited other farmers to come to Healthy Hollow Farms to learn more about organic farming and issues farmers in the area are facing.
    “We just wanted to show people that it could be done and try to tell them the hazards along the way and the problems with doing it but it can be done,” Jimmy Hayes said. “It’s a viable opportunity for some of them on a smaller scale. You can’t compete with the big boys today, I don’t think. It would be hard to keep up with them. But on a smaller scale, we can do what we are doing.”
    Those who attended the field day are members of the Coastal Organic Growers organization.
     “We are all members of Coastal Organic and most of us are organic or working towards to being organic,” Connie Hayes said. “We decided to pull together and do something to benefit Coastal Organic Growers. Both groups (Georgia Organics and Coastal Organic Growers) are about education and teaching people how to farm organically and how to eat organically.”
    Local farmers were able to come out to the farm to ask questions about the different plants, future outcomes and obstacles they are facing on their own farms. The two speakers were able to cover the topics that the farmers wanted to learn more.
    “We have a world of experts here today,” Hayes said. “Dr. (Carroll) Johnson is our weed expert and Dr. Albert Culbreath, both of them with the University of Georgia from over in Tifton. Dr. Johnson knows all there is about weeds and peanuts and Dr. Culbreath is a plant pathologist, but he’s also worked with developing a particular variety that we planted some of this year.”
    Johnson spoke to the local farmers about how different types of weeds can affect their crops.
    Johnson has worked with Hayes on the techniques and challenges that come with organic farming.
    “Organic crop production is a fairly new concept in the Southeast. For one reason is, it’s very difficult to do because of the environment we live in,” Johnson said. “But we’re trying to press upon the general public and other sections of agriculture that organic crop production is a legitimate agricultural enterprise, and we are trying to inform everyone that this can be done and trying to generate some additional interest.”
    Johnson said these types of community events benefits not just the participants, but the hosts are able to learn more as well. Everyone involved learn more about their environment and problems they deal with on a daily basis.
    Healthy Hollow has been in the Hayes family since 1949. It was not until 2007 that the farm became a certified organic farm after his wife had a “chemical overload,” Jimmy Hayes said.
    The Hayeses hope this event will not only help their peers with current issues but also help others consider organic farming more.
    “It’s healthier for you,” Hayes said. “Basically, it’s what it boils down to, is this. When you’re away from the chemicals, you have a healthier crop and you’re healthier.”

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