accessAtlanta

City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Meet Farmer Josh

Farmer Josh Davis, The Oak Grove Farm

Farmer Josh Davis, Oak Grove Farm

“I sort of fell into gardening,” says Farmer Josh in his quiet casual way. Meet Farmer Josh of Oak Grove Farm.

I recently joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture) with the farm after my husband met farmer Josh Davis through the folk-music community. I wanted to see where and how our food was grown, so I invited myself out to the farm for a firsthand look.

After a solid hour-and-a-half drive, we arrived in Franklin — ten minutes from the Alabama line. Along with a pack of farm dogs and a very vocal rooster, we were greeted by a lovely white 1890‘s farmhouse situated in front of a scattering of small wooden structures — remnants of the original sharecropper community that occupied the space long ago. The buildings once used as a general store and cotton house now hold a library and a luthier’s workshop — clues that there is more to Josh than farmer.

Although he grew up on the 2500 acre farm that his grandfather split between his three children, Josh left the farm for a period. During that time, he not only earned a master’s degree in philosophy, he also attended a school in Vermont for guitar-making.

During his time away from the farm, Josh says he always maintained a garden wherever he was. In fact, at one point, he helped his buddy start Rise N’ Shine Farm in Rome, now one of the largest organic farms in Georgia. Upon returning home, he planted his own garden — the garden that would later produce enough for 44 full CSA shares.Oak Grove Farm 1

With 2.5 acres of vegetables, which are Certified Naturally Grown, the farm grows everything from garlic, spinach and lettuce to chestnuts, huckleberries and prickly pear cactus. Josh proudly told me that they also grow a field corn variety developed by his grandfather that is unique to the farm. The produce is irrigated by rain collected in vinegar barrels, part of an elaborate system involving hand-dug trenches engineered by Josh.

But with only the help of a college friend, who now lives on the farm, and his fiancé Christina Corley, who lives in Midtown but drives out to the farm on weekends, Josh doesn’t foresee expanding the vegetable side of the farm’s business at this point. Because he is committed to farming organically, which requires extensive labor, he will maintain the vegetable production at a manageable size.

The current plan is to grow the animal business. Oak Grove Farm now has 120 cows and 25 chickens. Josh has plans to double the chickens but told me “You sell eggs to keep people happy.” With the cost of chicken feed, he can only charge enough to break even on the eggs.

Oak Grove Farm 2Beef is more lucrative and Josh is most animated when describing his work with the cows. He was introduced to livestock as a boy when his father and uncle kept a herd as a hobby. Thriving on the challenge of raising grass-fed beef, which he confessed is “an art as much as a science,” Josh has spent a great deal of time researching and learning the industry’s best practices. In fact, his fiancé laughed that so much time is spent on the herd that many of their early dates consisted of sitting in the pasture “logging” cows (taking notes on each). The happy and healthy cattle we found grazing in the lush green pasture are the fruits of this labor.

After trekking through the thistle to the cow pasture, we hiked back toward the farmhouse and concluded our tour in the building known as the library. The library, shelves heavy with volumes, houses instruments of every kind: dulcimer, cello, ukulele, accordion, fiddle, autoharp, washboard and many more. In his spare time, Farmer Josh plays Old Time Americana music with Christina in a band called Sourwood Honey. He is also a skilled part-time luthier, buying and rebuilding older stringed instruments.Oak Grove Farm 3

As we left the peaceful farm and returned to the city, we were gratified to have had the opportunity to get so close to the food we’re eating. We are grateful to know the story of the farmer. And we are grateful that he fell into gardening.

Oak Grove Farm delivers CSA shares to High Meadows School in Roswell and Atlanta Regional Commission, Clean Air Campaign and Southface Energy Institute in Midtown/Downtown Atlanta. The farm currently has a waiting list for CSA shares but continues to sell grass-fed beef by special order and produce at East Lake Farmers’ Market.

Jenny Turknett, Southern and Neighborhood Fare

Jenny Turknett, Southern and Neighborhood Fare

–by Jenny Turknett, Food & More blog

– Jenny Turknett writes about Southern and Neighborhood Fare for the AJC Dining Team. She also publishes her own blog, Going Low Carb.

4 comments Add your comment

PJ

May 17th, 2011
8:12 am

I love all the CSA options we have around here – I’ve belonged to a different version of a CSA for almost 2 years now and love the boxes of produce I get every other week. I also love shopping our local farmers markets on Saturday mornings – so many from which to choose. Just last night, I attended at Simple Abundance cooking class with Linton Hopkins – the theme was Farm to Table and concentrated on what to do with the items from a CSA box or best of farmers market. I learned a ton about using the whole vegetables, greens to roots, and of course, learned some amazing ways to use certain vegetables I would have only thought to toss into a salad. And, I learned I like turnips, at least the way he prepared them.

I love that you took a tour of the farm. Having taken my kids to several places – a dairy farm, a couple of different pick-your-own farms – and having a small garden, I believe they have a greater appreciation of the food that in on their plates. I know I do.

Reds

May 17th, 2011
10:08 am

This is a great entry, Jenny. Super cool to be able to go to the farm.

PJ

May 17th, 2011
10:34 am

*is* on their plates – typing too quickly this morning

AB

May 17th, 2011
3:06 pm

Proud to say that I went to college with Josh and Joe (and wonderful farmer Mitch of Rise n’ Shine Farm). They are really doing great things and deserve a lot of recognition for the heart and soul they put into their work. It’s a labor of love (and it’s delicious!).