The occasion also shone the spotlight on recent graduates of the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program and two deeply inspiring keynote speakers from Georgia, Matthew Raiford and Barbara Brown Taylor. Over 1,000 attendees joined Georgia Organics to celebrate 20 years of incredible growth in the good food movement and honor three of the foremost leaders at the 20th Anniversary Georgia Organics Conference, Rashid Nuri, and Tony and Linda Scharko.

The occasion also shone the spotlight on recent graduates of the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program and two deeply inspiring keynote speakers from Georgia, Matthew Raiford and Barbara Brown Taylor.

In 1997, Rashid Nuri of Truly Living Well and Scharko Family Farm were forging a path many would follow. There weren’t any farm to school programs, Certified Organic farms, and barely any farmers markets in the state. In fact, Nuri’s work wasn’t legally recognized when he first broke ground within city limits.

But at Truly Living Well and Scharko Family Farm, there was hope.

At these farms, that hope blossomed along with the flowers and crops. Both farms became mini epicenters of the movement itself: countless farmers were trained, countless lessons were taught, countless hours were lent to help someone in need. Their collective work is a major reason we have such a robust movement in Atlanta and throughout the state.

As Nuri often says, “We grow food, we grow people, and we grow community.” Between the two farms, they’ve also helped to grow a movement.

Nuri was honored with the Land Steward Award, given to those who have contributed greatly to the organic movement in Georgia; on the farm through environmentally friendly production, and off the farm, through leadership, education, and outreach.

Truly Living Well is Atlanta's urban agriculture wellspring and continues to foster the growing network of urban and market gardens that are transforming the City of Atlanta’s food environment.

“It would be difficult - and time-consuming at the very least - to rattle off the very long list of Rashid’s successes,” said Robert Currey, board member of Georgia Organics. “But all of us who know him can easily recall the moment we first met him.”

Tony and Linda Scharko were honored with the Barbara Petit Pollinator Award for outstanding community leadership in Georgia’s sustainable farming and food movement.

Simply put, it would not have been possible for dozens of farmers to survive all of the hurdles involved in starting a small farming enterprise without some level of assistance from the Scharkos. Whether they were lending equipment, sharing land, mentoring farmers, or volunteering, the Scharko’s influence and contribution to the good food movement cannot be understated.

“Tending to, caring for, and cultivating Atlanta’s next crop of growers, that’s what the Scharkos do,” said Isia Cooper, farmer at Crack in the Sidewalk Farmlet.

On top of honoring these farming legends, Georgia Organics celebrated the graduation of four new farmers from the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program. Led by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension with support from partners across the state, Georgia Organics and UGA Extension helped to provide comprehensive training for beginning farmers designed to reduce the barriers young and beginning farmers face when trying to grow new agricultural businesses from the ground up.

The program aims to reduce the average age of farmers in the United States, which is currently at 58 years-old and rising.

The graduates are Julie Best, Azalea Moss, Lonnie Edenfield, and Martine Olsen. These farmers received business training, production training, and either an internship or mentorship depending on their circumstances.

“Beginning farmers and ranchers are the key to preserving small-farming in the United States, and the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program is our way of helping to sustain the small farmer’s role in Georgia’s agricultural sector,” said Georgia Organics Farmer Services Coordinator Tenisio Seanima. 

The graduates and attendees were then treated to keynote speakers from two of Georgia’s finest: Matthew Raiford and Barbara Brown Taylor.

Raiford, a chef and farmer in Brunswick, Ga. discussed strong roots and heritage as he reminisced about the connections he made at his first Georgia Organics Conference.

Taylor, a renowned author, speaker, and theologian, closed down the Conference with an inspirational address about the sacred meal in a fast food world.

In all, the Conference capped off an incredible 20 years--the biggest of which came in 2016. Last year, Georgia Organics provided support and recognition through the Golden Radish Awards to 53 school districts who collectively served 39 million locally grown school meals, we passed our goal of 100 Certified Organic farms in the state,  awarded $32,000 in community micro-grants to start orchards, farms, and increase capacity to generate compost.

We look forward to another 20 years growth, together.