Habersham County Farmers, James Franklin and Ronnie Mathis have been growing fruits and vegetables for many years. James is the lead farmer of a two family three-generation farm and Ronnie, a retired county agent, has been involved with agriculture all his life. Both Wide Bottom & Mountain Earth farms use traditional and sustainable farming techniques such as small tractors, walk behind tillers, hand held hoes and sweat to plant, weed and pick the produce.
James Franklin and Ronnie Mathis are the first Habersham County growers to receive forward contracts through the Farm to School program. They will provide high quality fresh cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and cabbage for the Habersham middle school students this year. Chattooga Belle farm, less than 50 miles away, is contracted to provide apples from August to February.
Farm to School programs create a new market opportunity for farmers within their own communities. By establishing a “forward contract” with a school district, farmers can plan out their crop plantings and volume knowing that they have a committed buyer for their fresh harvest. Farm to School programs can create more security for local farmers, allowing them to continue farming on their land preserving the agricultural heritage of our communities.
For the 2014-2015 school year three farmers will grow and provide five different fresh farm products on the cafeteria trays for approximately 1600 middle school students in Habersham County. “It’s a start in finding out what fresh farm products can be handled in our school’s kitchens,” says nutrition director Andrea Thomas. “We hope to expand the quantity and the diversity of products in the future so that all our Habersham students are getting the freshest, most nutritious meals possible.”