2018 Farm Bill Vote Approaching

 Photo from Politico article, “Farm bill deal blocks major GOP food-stamp overhaul”

Photo from Politico article, “Farm bill deal blocks major GOP food-stamp overhaul”

2018 Farm Bill Vote Approaching

by Kirsten Breau

As many of you know, Forsyth Farmers’ Market has been closely following the 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill is a nearly trillion-dollar legislative policy that encompasses a huge range of federal food and agricultural programs, from crop subsidies and crop insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The bill is only updated once every five years. We have lobbied our local officials, advocated for changes that are inclusive of our community and worked to educate the public on the importance of the bill.

Over the summer, both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed different versions of the Farm Bill,  each reflecting their stance on SNAP and other agricultural programs. Over the past few months, representatives from both houses have met in a conference committee to iron out the differences of the two bills. The House of Representatives passed a bill that included huge cuts to the SNAP program and enforced inflexible restrictions through strict and unjust penalties. These restrictions and work requirements became the largest barrier to negotiation between the House and the Senate as the Senate did not support the inclusion of the new work requirements (NYT, 2018). Now, a compromised bill negotiated by the conference committee will be brought before both the House and Senate for voting. This revised bill is much more aligned with the Senate’s previous version than that of the House’s, according to Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (Politico, 2018).

Full details on what the compromised bill includes have not been released, but will be made public once the Congressional Budget Office scores it (says how much it will cost). Dan Gunderson and Elizabeth Dunbar wrote a summary of what is expected to be found on the most recent version of the bill for MPR News. That summary can be found below. Collin Peterson, mentioned in the summary, is the lead Democrat for the House Agriculture Committee. You can find an update from us on the 2018 Farm Bill following this month’s vote.

Here is the summary from MPR News’, “Peterson: New farm bill preserves status quo, but will it help farmers enough?”:

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will not be subject to work requirements, as Republicans in the House had wanted, Peterson said. SNAP accounts for the largest part of the farm bill, making up 80 percent of the hundreds of billions of dollars authorized in the bill. Peterson says the final bill includes some language from the Senate proposal focused on preventing fraud in the program.”

“Small dairy farmers come out ahead in the bill, Peterson said. "If you have less than 5 million pounds of milk, and that's about 240 cows, under what we've put in the bill, you will not be able to lose money," he said. "Hopefully we'll give the safety net dairy farmers need to stay in business."

The Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to set aside land for conservation, will grow by 3 million acres, he said. But Peterson added that payments will be capped and landowners won't be able to get extra money to pay for things like planting pollinator habitat. "We're trying to simplify the seed, trying to get rid of the pollinator habitat stuff, trying to get this back to what it used to be," he said. "If I had my way, we'd have alfalfa and bromegrass," grown for cattle feed, in the program.

Crop insurance programs will see some minor changes, Peterson said, aimed at achieving more consistent payments for farmers.

He said the bill preserves the Conservation Stewardship Program, which pays farmers to use practices that reduce soil erosion and promote better water quality, such as planting cover crops and altering the way fertilizers and herbicides are applied. Minnesota has been a top recipient of the program. "There was a big fight over that," Peterson said, explaining that some in Congress had wanted to change the way it works. Ultimately, he said, the program will remain in place as is.

Additional money for forestry management, which President Trump had called for following the wildfires in California, did not end up in the bill, Peterson said.

Industrial hemp is considered a commodity crop in the bill, opening the door for farmers across the country to try growing it. Industrial hemp can be grown for its fiber and a popular health supplement called CBD oil. "I may grow some hemp on my farm. I'm looking at it," Peterson said. "There's a big market for this stuff that we've been ceding to Canada and other places."” (MPR, 2018)

One Year as the Executive Director of Forsyth Farmers' Market

One Year as the Executive Director of Forsyth Farmers' Market

By Jeb Bush


As I approach my one year mark as the executive director of the Forsyth Farmers’ Market, I keep coming back to that word to describe my feelings toward this past year.  As soon as I started in this position, I realized just how big the team was behind the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. As a vendor, I saw the staff on Saturdays that did so much to make sure markets went off without a hitch.  Moving into a role on that staff, I learned there was also a whole team in the background supporting this organization. There is a community around the Forsyth Farmers’ Market who cheer us on every week. This community is filled with volunteer leadership through our board, volunteers who help on a weekly basis, donors who ensure we are able to operate successfully each week, and of course the shoppers who no matter the weather, come out in full force to support our organization and the farmers.  I try to make it my mission to thank each of you weekly. Whatever your role is on this team, I want you to know how much you are appreciated.

Of course, I need to spend some time talking about the heroes of this operation.  I can tell you from my own experience that our farmers are some of the hardest working people in this area.  And every day they go to work on a hope and a prayer that they will be successful in not only growing produce but have the ability to sell it as well.  Even as hot as it’s been this summer and as wet as it was this spring, these farmers don’t ever seem to give up hope. To these amazing men and women, thank you so much. You feed us, you teach us and you inspire us.

I’m also thankful for the community that has rallied around the Farm Truck 912 program.  This past year has seen tremendous growth in the farm truck program. We expanded to eight stops.  While only adding one stop, we have doubled the number of customers. The reach of the truck grows weekly due to community support.  A big supporter of all of this growth is our local non-profit community. While each organization has its own work, we are all working for a common cause.  There are countless e-mails between organizations making sure that no clients are slipping through the cracks and that the organization who can best serve someone in need is being contacted.  These folks cheer for a group success, not just their own. I’m impressed daily with the work of all of our partner organizations. This group is also filled with career nonprofit professionals who are happy to share their expertise from years of service.  Thank you all.

I do want to take a moment to thank our Board of Directors and all of our committee volunteers.  When people use the term “working board” they are clearly talking about our board. Our board and committee members work hard to make sure we have the funds necessary to operate, our programs are functioning at their greatest potential, and the community is aware of the work the organization does.  These folks are all amazing. Thank you for your trust in me, your belief in our mission, and your leadership.

Finally, I want to thank the staff of the Forsyth Farmers’ Market.  Every day I am surrounded by a group of individuals who truly believe in our mission of helping farmers and improving food access.  Each person brings their own, unique, set of experiences when it comes to food and farm issues but they all share a passion for seeing the local food movement grow.  The market staff works so hard in all they do, whether that’s making a welcoming environment, offering a farmer support, or explaining how our SNAP doubling program operates.  I’m inspired by each one of them and so appreciate them all.

As I start my second year, I can’t help but be excited about where we are going.  So many people want to help make our farmers successful. There is a ton of work being done to make produce accessible to everyone in Savannah.  I am proud that we are helping to lead the way to make this the most delicious, nutritious, scrumptious city who supports one another and our broader community.   And more than anything else, I am grateful to all of you for being a part of this journey.

Immigration on the Farm

Every now and then FFM staff reads an article that we wish to share with our broader audience. Here we highlight the article "The High Cost of Cheap Labor" by Brian Barth summarized by Kirsten Breau.

Barth, Brian. “The High Cost of Cheap Labor.” Modern Farmer, Modern Farmer, 21 Feb. 2017, modernfarmer.com/2017/02/migrant-farm-workers-the-high-cost-of-cheap-labor/.

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Immigration legislation has become one of the most divisive policies under the current US administration. Headlines describe children forcefully separated from families at the border and major cities cutting ties with ICE over policies that are harmful to immigrant communities - even at the cost of millions of dollars in revenue for the local governments. Amidst the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on immigration, a major concern for farm owners is labor shortage. According to a 2009 survey by the US Department of Labor, 67% of all farm workers are not US citizens and 93 percent of all immigrant farmworkers in the US hail from Mexico.

In the article, “The High Cost of Cheap Labor” by Brian Barth for Modern Farmer, Barth recounts how the facilitated movement of individuals across the border has ebbed and flowed based on the US’s perceived labor needs. The Great Depression pushed the US to deny and deport those seeking employment, while WWII led to the “Mexican Farm Labor Agreement” which welcomed people across the border to fill labor shortages. The “Mexican Farm Labor Agreement” program was shut down in 1964 because of worker accusations of abuse and US citizen’s complaints about being robbed of jobs.

A case study conducted over the course of fifteen years, 1998 through 2012, in North Carolina looked into the claim that US citizen’s job security was negatively affected by migrant labor. Barth summarized the findings,

              “Upon being advised about openings on area farms, less than 0.1 percent of                                                   [unemployed individuals], on average, asked to be referred each year. Of the                                           several hundred referred, 97 percent were hired. Of those, less than half                                                 reported to work on the first day. And in no year did more than 11 individuals                                         finish out the season on a farm.”

The year those 11 individuals completed a season on the farm they represented only .004 percent of North Carolina’s unemployed population. It's clear immigrant labor is crucial for agriculture, a strike organized by Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta and the National Farm Workers Association in the 1970s caused national lettuce prices to double overnight. The US is especially vulnerable to these price spikes as we expect and insist on unsustainably low food prices, a sign of our populations growing distance from and ignorance around food production.

A number of farm owners have taken it upon themselves to create safe and sustainable practices to protect this vulnerable population that our food system is so dependent on, even before national trends financially support these moves. Barth highlights a number of farms with Food Justice certification or programs constructed around fair wages, sick days, paid holidays etc. Valuing the workers who do the jobs that many refuse, because it’s an opportunity that they didn’t have in the homes they left behind. A farmworker interviewed whose name was changed for the publishing of the article summarized, “We didn’t come here to take anyone’s jobs away. We came to escape the poverty that we have in our country and to provide our children with a better future.” In turn they provide the backbone of our country’s food system.

Image from the article. 

Forsyth Farmers Market Disappointed in House Passage of Unfair Farm Bill

If we remain educated and vocal, we can help ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill helps build a more vibrant local food system.

By: Jeb Bush, Executive Director

The Forsyth Farmers’ Market is disappointed by the passage of the Farm Bill yesterday in the US House of Representatives. The Farm Bill as passed includes huge cuts to the SNAP program, creates unfair and inflexible restrictions for SNAP beneficiaries, and enforces strict and unjust penalties.   

In our district, there are 36,500 households receiving SNAP benefits and 58% of these households have children under the age of eighteen. Annually, 1,700 people in Chatham County spend $50,000 in SNAP benefits at the Forsyth Farmers’ Market. The benefits of SNAP allow these families the economic access to purchase fresh and healthy foods from the market for their families. Beyond this, these funds are a lifeline to our small farmers whose margins are already slim. Inflexible barriers to SNAP benefits for those who truly need it will hurt Savannah’s families, farmers and the broader community in which we serve.  

We have reason to be hopeful as the process moves forward.  The current version of the Senate bill is very similar to the previous Farm Bill.  The Senate is expected to pass their version before July 4th.  If that happens a conference committee will iron out the differences between the House of Representatives bill and the Senate bill.  We remain optimistic that our community will not be negatively affected by this legislation.

Because there is a long road before final passage of the bill, it is important for all of our community to stay vigilant and involved.  We encourage everyone to continue to study the legislation and how it affects our farmers and our community. Then let your elected officials know how you feel.  If we remain educated and vocal, we can help ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill helps build a more vibrant local food system.

The Forsyth Farmers Market is committed to keeping everyone abreast of how this legislation affects our farmers and our community.  Please follow our social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn more.

Digging into Sustainability with Chris Molander

A farm includes the passion of the farmer’s heart, the interest of the farm’s customers, the biological activity in the soil, the pleasantness of the air about the farm — it’s everything touching, emanating from, and supplying that piece of landscape. A farm is virtually a living organism.
— Joel Salatin

Come most Saturdays, you’ll find Chris Molander, owner of Vertu Farm, at the farmers market selling naturally grown microgreens, mixed greens, and other produce. Chris is a part of the Roberd’s Dairy Farm community, a hub of small agricultural based businesses that share green space off of Pennsylvania Avenue in Savannah.

Chris may have inherited his green thumb as his family has always had an affinity toward agriculture and growing food. His great grandfather was a salesman for a seed company in California called Germaine’s and his grandparents tended a garden. One of his uncles has farmed on and off for 20 years. Chris also recalls memories of seeing fruit trees always around with his uncle as an arborist. Prior to starting Vertu Farm, Chris himself had farmed on and off for eight years in South Carolina and California. Savannah became his home when he followed his girlfriend, now wife, Mariana here after they finished college. In early 2016, Chris decided to take a stab at urban farming in the sandy soils of our coastal city.  

If you spend a day at Vertu Farm, you will quickly see for yourself the result of intensive soil management. Vertu Farm is booming with biodiversity; snakes, frogs, bees, fungi, weeds, earthworms, spiders, etc. He doesn’t use pesticides, herbicides, or inorganic fertilizers. Instead, he has focused primarily on building a strong foundation through soil health. He plants productive leguminous cover crops which allow nitrogen-fixing bacteria to live in their root nodules, replenish the soil, and help to sustain future growing. He controls weeds with suppression and prevention practices such as; ground covers, mulching, and torching. He uses compost and applies organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion to meet the nutrient needs of his plants. He is cultivating an ecosystem out there – one in which the macro and microorganisms contribute to and replenish soil health. His sustainable farm practices are similar to those values advocated in the early organic movement by Sir Albert Howard.  


On Urban Farming

Q: Of all the things you could do, why urban farming?

A: I love being outside, and I love growing. Additionally, I love all of the little problem-solving, troubleshooting, and planning that being a farmer requires. I think it is the perfect job for me, and I find it very fulfilling. There is a reason that many people celebrate farmers in the way that they do, and a reason why the profession is kind of “glorified” as it is today: it is truly a wonderful profession, and very important one for all of society. As far as the “urban” part of farming, I didn’t exactly “choose” that, it’s just what was available to me at the time. I’m so blessed to be a part of the Roberd’s Dairy Farm community. It’s truly a beautiful and special place.

On Natural Growing

Q: You mentioned you grow naturally out of tradition -- because it’s something you did at your job in South Carolina. But is there something more that keeps you growing this way?

Chris: Yes I started growing organically because that’s how it fell out on my first farm, but it’s definitely developed for me from there. I think it’s primarily the concept of sustainability that keeps me rooted in the organic movement now. People have been worried for years about the over usage of antibiotics in hospitals and prescription applications. Pesticides and herbicides are no different, and I would venture to guess that the amount of those chemicals that are applied annually outweigh antibiotics by a vast margin. The long and short of this is: mankind is speeding up the evolution of farm pests by the use of conventional agricultural practices: e.g. monocropping, pesticide, and herbicide use. This is to say nothing of soil development and conservation practices! I have always been one to sort of go against the grain, so when I hear people touting the latest “studies” about how much more you can grow in an acre conventionally, or with GMO seed, or with whatever other methods I disagree with ideologically… I want to prove that wrong! And of course, some farmers do claim that they have. I want to be one of those someday. This movement is still very young and not a lot of people understand it well—myself most of all! I’m really just kind of winging it, doing the best I can, and seeing what happens!


On Organic

USDA organic certification is a tedious process that requires annual fees and inspections.  For many small farmers sometimes, the benefits of certification do not outweigh the costs. And for Chris, differentiating his product to increase demand is not necessarily a priority. He’s putting all of his energy into the farm and producing food in a sustainable manner. He says, “There is a massive amount of demand for local produce here in Savannah across the board. There aren’t many farmers around! We need more!”

There’s a question that consumers tend to habitually ask farmers. It’s “is this organic?” And while that question is understandable when we think about the overall values of the organic movement and the push toward more environmentally friendly and consumer conscious food production practices, this question is too simple of a question for some and does not give a truly accurate depiction of how our food is produced.  

Chris encourages consumers to not blindly accept labels at face value:

“People should remember that there are things that are sprayed on organic produce that would kill you or make you extremely sick if you were to, say, drink it right out of the bottle. Conversely, there are some non-approved chemicals [by USDA Organic Standards] out there that probably aren’t as immediately harmful as certain organic products. I guess what I’m saying is we shouldn’t praise or vilify any particular produce simply because it’s labeled as “certified organic” or “conventionally grown.” We need to dig deeper than that. And always remember that the main reason why supermarket produce is less nutritious than local stuff is because it is far less fresh.”

As Michael Pollan says, “The final standards do a good job of setting the bar for a more environmentally responsible kind of farming, but, as perhaps was inevitable as soon as bureaucratic and industrial thinking was brought to bear, many of the philosophical values embodied in the word organic – the sorts of values expressed by Albert Howard – did not survive the federal rule-making process.”

We must remember that there is no one right way to farm; whether it’s conventional vs organic, no-till vs till, permaculture, etc. When individual farmers invest in land rather than giant international corporate farms, they are inherently invested in creating sustainable farming systems and good practices that will keep the land viable for years and years to come. Instead of focusing adamantly on ‘organic’, we should talk more about the basics of sustainable practices and policies that keep small farming a viable economic opportunity.

Often, asking such polarizing questions prevents us from delving deeper into issues or understanding an issue from a different perspective. With this in mind, we encourage you as a conscientious consumer to ask meaningful questions, as Chris suggests, and delve deeper into the issues. We challenge you to think of an alternative question to, “is this organic.”


According to Chris, a considerable amount of his weekly revenue is accounted for in direct sales to consumers. It seems we, as a community, have done a good job in supporting local farmers. And naturally, this particular producer-consumer relationship is mutually beneficial. But, there’s always more support to be garnered and change to be had. As a community, we have a collective purchasing power to effect positive change in our food system; a food system that serves the values and needs of the community. And that begins by supporting the efforts of small and local farmers, restaurant owners, non-profit organizations, institutions, and other entities who seek to challenge what is.

Death Cafe

Next date: March 22nd, 6:30-8pm @ Coffee.Deli

Death. It’s a taboo topic that most people tend to avoid speaking of. But for as long as the sun shines and the seasons change, death will be an inescapable fate for all the living. The concept of death is hard to acknowledge, let alone grasp. And the topic of death is hard to speak about. 

But Jon Underwood and Sue Reid of Britain have started a “social franchise” in an attempt to bring death into open conversation. Jon and Sue began the international Death Café movement in September of 2011. Since then, there have been 4,790 death café events in 50 countries. Despite the complexity of the topic: the concept is simple. People, usually strangers, gather over cake and tea to talk about death.

To join in on the international movement, Mixed Greens has been hosting Death Cafes here in Savannah. The next Death Cafe will take place at Coffee Deli on Habersham. We bring no agenda – only cupcakes and cake. Join us. Because we all have sweet, finite lives. It’s time to talk about it.

Better Fresh Farms, Growth in Demand

Grant Anderson, owner and operator of Better Fresh Farms, has seen a growth in demand for his product over the past few months. It's truly no wonder why. He has been able to provide the Savannah community with a consistently unique product despite the challenges faced by the climate and weather. His method? Growing vertically & hydroponically inside of shipping containers. 

Grant began his company with a strong desire to improve the local food scene in a sustainable, environmentally conscious manner. He not only challenges perceptions surrounding fresh food by engaging in meaningful conversations with people, but he also provides us with an alternative product -- one that is truly fresh, tender, and will last an impressively long time in the fridge despite being perishable. 


Grant has been incredibly thankful for the connections he has made at the Forsyth Farmers' Market. Unfortunately, he will be taking a break from the weekly farmers market until the summer. He says, "I've been blessed to have an opportunity to work with Bon Appetit (SCAD's food service coordinator) through their "Farm to Fork" initiative to encourage purchases from local farmers. They have agreed in conversation to buy all of my lettuces for the remainder of the spring semester to feature at their campus restaurant "beeFUEL" in The Hive near student housing. I am also very grateful to be selling some of our whole head lettuces & chervil to Chef Tyler Williams at Husk Savannah each week. All of my remaining kale, swiss chard, pac choi, and radishes that I typically bring to FFM are currently going to Brighter Day Natural Foods Market at the end of each week."

It's important that farmers have the opportunity to diversify their clientele to ensure sustainability. We are so excited he's been able to secure gigs that are incredibly valuable for his company going forward. The Farm to Fork initiative with the SCAD community will be a great opportunity for Grant to bring more awareness to college students the power of their purchasing power and the importance of supporting local farmers. Grant will return soon to the weekly farmers market to continue connecting with his consumers and growing his demand base.


Farmsgiving 2017 A Success

The Forsyth Farmers' Market annual fundraiser, Farmsgiving was held on Saturday November 11th. A special thanks to the organizers, local businesses, donors, and attendees who made the event a great success!

We invited community residents and businesses to host a dinner party event for friends and family while accepting donations on behalf of the Forsyth Farmers Market. The dinner party specifics were left up to the preference of the party host -- and they ranged from a back yard casual get-together to more formal events. Party hosts were also encouraged to support local farmers in their purchasing of ingredients! Lulu's Chocolate Bar donated beautiful cakes for the deserts of the party.   

If you'd like to be a part of next years' Farmsgiving, stay tuned. Details will come out around October 2018. 


Oldways in Savannah, A Taste of African Heritage

“Diabetes is not part of your heritage. Neither is heart disease. What is in your heritage is a healthy heart, strong body, extraordinary energy, vibrant and delicious foods, and a long, healthy life.”
-OldWays, African Heritage Diet.

Our nutrition educator, herbalist, and community activist, Ayo Ngozi taught the first 6-week session of nutrition education classes here in Savannah this past summer, 2017. In the coming 2018 year, this course will be taught in community centers in Savannah [dates pending]. 

The course is based on the Oldways, A Taste of African Heritage curriculum. The course is designed to teach people how to eat and cook healthfully, traditionally, and enjoyably through hands-on experience. The class covers a specific food group each week from the African Heritage Diet Pyramid.


The outline of the class is as follows:
Week/Lesson 1: Traditional Herbs and Spices
Week/Lesson 2: Greens
Week/Lesson 3: Whole Grains
Week/Lesson 4: Beans and Rice
Week/Lesson 5: Tubers and Stews
Week/Lesson 6: Fruits and Vegetables

From the Food Guide Pyramid (1992-2005), to MyPyramid (2005-2011), and now – to MyPlate, the USDA has gone through many graphical representations in attempt to help people better understand how to eat healthily. The opinions surrounding these graphs are certainly not few and far between, to say the least. But that’s to be expected with an attempt to standardize and simplify something so complex, variable, and culturally dependent — our diets.
A Taste of African Heritage introduces to us a food pyramid which intimately connects culture and food – in a way that can add value to our lives, deepen our connection with our food, and strengthen social connections. This diet specifically places an emphasis on eating like our ancestors – because we are evolutionarily adapted to an environment quite unlike the one we live in today.
The modern American diet has been shaped, to a great extent, by the industrial food system. At its core, the food system promotes standardization of inputs to maximize efficiency and market success. We have become highly specialized in producing commodity crops (corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton, etc.) – and as a result, we have experienced a great loss in biological diversity and cultural diversity. This can be exemplified in the simple fact that there are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world yet fewer than 20 species now provide 90% of our food.2Our industrial food system has – in a way, created its own culture around cheap, convenient, delicious food – while disregarding the cultural identity and health of its consumers. The modern American diet has contributed to one of the most serious public health concerns. More than 64 million Americans have one or more types of cardiovascular disease, which represents the leading cause of mortality (38.5% of all deaths) in the United States.3 Fifty million Americans are hypertensive; 11 million have type 2 diabetes, and 37 million adults maintain high-risk total cholesterol concentrations (>240 mg/dL)3

As a society, we have done a great deal of damage to our health. Profound changes have occurred in our diets over time; from the introduction of agriculture and animal husbandry to the use of genetically modified foods. The interaction of the environment, genes, gene expression and the relation to food and disease is a whole mess of complicated. There is not easy explanation for the prevalence of chronic disease in our country. But there is an increasing awareness that a disease does not arise from one single dietary element (say for example, saturated fat). It is the interaction of nutritional factors directly linked to excessive consumption of novel Neolithic and Industrial era foods (dairy products, cereals, refined cereals, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, fatty meats, salts, etc.) —  our environment has changed too fast on an evolutionary time scale for the human genome to adjust.3 And paradoxically, food has become a poison in our Westernized diet. Simply put, we must get back to our roots. And that is what Oldways is about, at it’s core — our cultural roots.

For more information or to express interest in being a part of the 6-week course, please e-mail Ayo at ayo.ngozi.herbalist@gmail.com