Farm & Garden Report

It is approaching the Fourth of July weekend as I write this article. I am happy to report that the Feed Fannin garden was planted this spring brought some needed normalcy to my world. 

Wet soil and cooler temperatures were a problem all during the Spring. We were unable to plant red potatoes because of all the rain. We were forced to adhere to the “no planting until after Mother’s Day and blackberry winter.” Cabbages planted late winter in the six raised beds and covered with screen to protect the plants yielded 373 lbs. of produce for the Food Pantry, and the beds have been planted again for summer. Thank you volunteers for your help getting the garden planted between the raindrops, and even with umbrellas, and your support of social distancing guidelines. You are amazing!

The focus on this Summer Farm and Garden report is on gratitude and thankfulness for the spirit and generosity from the community and volunteers who help the farm and garden become a reality. 

First of all, the Fannin County Board of Education generously allows Feed Fannin the use of the property for the farm. Early this Spring during a wind storm, a portion of the barn roof on the property was raised. We appreciate the relationship with the Fannin County Board of Education and the swift attention of their Maintenance Department to help with the roof repair.

Barn roof damage from a wind storm in early spring, repaired with the help of the Board of Education’s maintenance Department.

Next, appreciation is expressed to a Blairsville farmer who is fondly referred to as “The Tater Man” by many locals, and who has been a friend to Feed Fannin for many years by sourcing the sweet potato slips for the garden. He is additionally a mentor to me. He has been farming and growing both potatoes and sweet potatoes for over 50 years. He is a great teller of stories and is a fount of wisdom and knowledge. This year The Tater Man had decided not to plant sweet potatoes himself, but still offered to secure the plants needed for the Feed Fannin garden. The amazing part of the story is that when he discovered the grower that we normally use would not be able to provide the plants we needed due to problems related to the pandemic, he didn’t stop there. He continued to search all of Georgia and North Carolina with the same results before finally finding what we needed, and Feed Fannin was able to purchase the plants from a grower in Tennessee. Thank you to “The Tater Man” for your persistence and kindness. The sweet potato plants are looking fantastic! 

Gabe and Ginger Montgomery of Quinn’s Greenhouse in McCaysville are great supporters of Feed Fannin. As part of our educational program, Ginger teaches a Spring educational garden-related class each year for the community. In addition, Quinn’s provides many of the plants we use in the Ada Street and Mittleider gardens. Thank you to Quinn’s Greenhouse for your educational support and for starting and donating cabbage and tomato plants for Feed Fannin. 

I received a message during the winter this year before the pandemic that the West Fannin Elementary School garden club, led by 4th grade science teacher, Mary Jane Pace, and mentored by several North Georgia Master Gardeners, wanted to grow some plant starts for the FF garden to express their gratitude and as a “pass it on” gesture for the financial support that Feed Fannin provides to them as well as other local elementary schools each year. When the pandemic closed the school after seeds had been started, Mary Jane and several NGMG volunteers tended and potted the plants and donated tomato and herb plants to Feed Fannin. Thank you to West Fannin Elementary students and leaders.  Basil and oregano have been planted near tomatoes as companion plants, and bronze fennel, dill, sage, bee balm, chives, mint and thyme have also been planted to attract beneficial insects and deter aphids and whiteflies.

A huge thank you to a new friend and Feed Fannin supporter, Giolda from 6 Ponds Farm in Morganton, who came to the rescue and donated additional tomato plants when we needed them. Also, thank you tovolunteers Jim and Meredith Yacavone who started and donated some additional heirloom tomato plants.

As is usual in the springtime, volunteers help spruce up the farm property. We want to grow produce but also want the property to look beautiful. We have had several deep string-trimming and mowing sessions and clean-up days while social distancing. In addition, volunteers keep the property trimmed and mowed throughout the summer. It is an ongoing weekly chore. Thank you to Ham Kimzey for mowing weekly throughout the summer and to all who trim.

The garden in July: sweet potatoes on the left, corn and newly started tomatoes on the right.

On one Spring day, three ladies and I tackled the clean-up of the pollinator garden near the corner of the barn. The railroad ties had pushed out over time. We were able to dig out behind them, and with the help of rebar, concrete mix and rocks, we secured ties, weeded the area, laid landscape fabric, added more soil, seeded and added pollinator plants. Several other volunteers added some large pots in several corners of the garden and planted flowers to also help with pollination and attract good insects. The bees and beneficial insects are now buzzing, and hummingbirds have been dropping by to visit. Nature will work together to provide the environment needed for the garden to flourish. The red-winged blackbirds come daily, and there are frequent visits by unwanted mascots, several very large groundhogs. With the addition of herbs (and a few more bags of concrete), we hope to be able to deter groundhogs from feasting on the vines of the sweet potatoes like they did last year. 

We have installed new signage next to the street entrance to the farm on Ada Street and at the barn near the railroad tracks due to wear and tear of the elements on the previous signage. The sign at the street entrance is two-sided and has the street address number to provide more visibility and make the farm easier to locate for visitors. If you are interested in touring the farm, please leave a message for Feed Fannin at the contact numbers shown on this newsletter, and someone will be in contact with you to schedule a visit.

So, our summer growing season is underway with the world in a little different situation and some unknowns. There have been a few challenges and delays, but we are grateful for the community support and the opportunity of another garden season. There’s something hopeful that comes to mind when you think of gardening. Hope is something we all can use this year. Thank you to volunteer LuAnn Quaiel for making and donating a “HOPE” sign to hang on our garden fence as a reminder to all who pass.

We are hopeful for another bountiful crop, but it will be difficult to exceed the 4.7 tons of produce that we donated to the Family Connection Food Pantry in 2019.

 Please continue to support Feed Fannin through the donation of any extra produce you have in your garden throughout the summer. Please consider planting an extra row or planting vegetables in a pot for donation to someone in need. The number of food pantry clients continues to increase, and growing vegetables to donate might be another way you could help in addition to financial donations and volunteering your time. 

Thanks again to all volunteers and the friendship and support of the community. I hope to see you soon at the farm some Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 9:00AM to drop off extra produce or to help with a few farm and garden chores. (P.S. If you love to string trim, do I have an opportunity for you!)

Kathy Beck, Farm and Garden Manager