Farmer Spotlight June 2014: Shook’s Farm

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Shook’s Family Farm is a small-scale farm located in the beautiful North Georgia mountains of White County.  The farm grows around 100 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, fresh herbs, honey, gourmet mushrooms and is the Farmer of the Month for June.

Shook’s Family Farm is family owned and operated by Michael and Thelma Shook and their daughter and husband, Steve Rushing and Angel Rushing.  All of the planting, weeding, and harvesting is done by hand. “We try not to use pesticides at all, but when it is required we use the mildest and least amount possible.  After all, we are feeding our own families.  All of our produce is guaranteed fresh which means it is picked the day before market day. Our personal guarantee is “from our fields to your family in 24 hours or less” says Angel.

Michael Shook has been gardening most of his life and started selling at farmers markets in 2002.  In 2005, Angel decided to try setting-up an online farmers market so that customers could pre-order their produce and pick it up at the farm at their convenience. “If you’ve ever been to a farmers market you know that the early bird gets the worm and unless you’re there first thing in the morning chances are that the item you want will be picked over or sold out by the time you get there,” says Angel.  By ordering online you can get the “cream of the crop”, the items you want, and still sleep-in for a few hours.  Along with delicious vegetables, Michael Shook cares for 28 beehives producing wildflower and sourwood honey to sell.  Recently Farmer Michael visited all the 7th grade students at Wilbanks Middle and share with them the importance of bees and the products they make. Visit Shook’s online farmers market at www.shooksfamilyfarm.com and follow the farm on Facebook to find local Shook Farm products.

There are 2 main reasons why Shook’s has an interest in the Farm To School program in Habersham County and will be growing eggplant, squash and peppers for Wilbanks Middle School this year. “First, as soon as school starts back our farmers market profits really drop.  Customer turnout is lower due to after school activities and sporting events, so we end up with surplus amounts of produce for this time of year.  Selling to the school gives us another market for our produce.  Secondly, from our past experience with working multiple farmers markets, we find time after time that kids have no idea where produce comes from, and even more importantly they take a genuine interest in learning about it,” explains Angel.  “They love to come each week to see something they’ve never seen before and try something new.  They are usually first in line when we bring in a dish to sample, and they have great questions.”  

Georgia is ranked second in the nation in childhood obesity while at the same time ranks fourth in national fruit and vegetable production.  Farm to school programs improve children’s health and support local economies.  The Shook farm is one of 10 farms within a 45 mile radius of Habersham County that grew produce for the students this year as part of a Georgia Farm to School pilot program.  Thanks to the funding from Northeast Georgia Food Bank and Georgia Organics, Habersham County’s Farm to School project will be a model for the rest of the state on how to incorporate food and nutrition education into the classroom, integrate gardens in the school environment, and bring local food into the cafeteria while working in partnership with our community and local farmers.

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