Ag News

Georgia farmers extend helping hand to communities

by Jennifer Whittaker and Jay Stone, Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Apr 22, 2020 at 0:00 AM

Georgia farmers aren’t immune to the economic pressure applied by the COVID-19 outbreak. They’ve continued planting and harvesting knowing that through the crisis and beyond, people still have to eat, even while waiting for answers to questions about their own businesses.

Farmers across the state have also used the bounty of their farms to respond to the needs in their communities. They’ve donated strawberries to health care workers, conducted food drives to help shore up families who are food insecure and donated hundreds of thousands of pounds of produce

At Thompson Farms: All Natural Pork in Brooks County, the Thompson family is paying it forward through The Plentiful Pig, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization the Thompsons established to provide meat to food-insecure families. Since launching the food donation program March 13, the nonprofit has donated 2,435 pounds of pasture-raised pork worth a total of $16,500.

  “This has been funded by a combination of our farm and donations from the public,” Thompson Farms Sales Manager Abby Thompson said. “Donations are hard to come by right now because so many people are struggling, and people want to save their money in case COVID continues to disrupt jobs. We totally understand that, so our farm is taking on most of the responsibility of making sure people still receive pork even if donations aren’t coming in. We will continue to do this as long as we can. The Lord has blessed us, and we believe this is what He’s calling us to do during a crisis.”

The Plentiful Pig mainly serves Brooks, Thomas, Lowndes and Colquitt counties but has also helped organizations in Florida and North Georgia. To make a secure on-line donation visit or call 229-263-9074.

Numerous Georgia produce farms are also donating produce to food banks serving Georgians who have lost their jobs due to COVID.

On April 3, The Southeast Produce Council (SEPC) reported on its Facebook page that it distributed fresh donated produce to residents in Tattnall County and the surrounding area. SEPC members packed, shipped, unloaded, re-packed, and distributed almost 70,000lbs of fresh produce via a drive-thru format to maintain social distancing. Almost 500 families received fresh produce on-site and another 500 received fresh produce from food banks. Southern Valley in Colquitt County and Shuman Farms in Tattnall, both owned by Farm Bureau members, were among the participating farms. According to published reports, Southern Valley, owned by the Hamilton Family, has donated about 300,000 pounds of fresh produce to local and national food banks during the COVID-19 outbreak.

 “During this unprecedented time, it is important that we do what we can to help those in need, both locally and nationally. There are many families with children who are in need due to the absence of school lunch programs, and there are many elderlies that might not be able to shop at their local supermarket. Our hearts are with them and our hope is that these donations will help to ease their burden,” says Jon Schwalls, executive officer for Southern Valley.

In Albany, a COVID-19 epicenter, Flint River Fresh, a nonprofit organization established by the Flint River Soil & Water Conservation Service, has been giving away boxes of fresh produce and hot meals to health care workers and those in need. Produce box recipients have included hospitality employees with reduced wages, local church and funeral home staff, as well as county and urgent care medical personnel.

FRF expected to serve more than 200 meals purchased from locally owned restaurants and boxes of fresh, local produce to recipients during the first two weeks of the program that ran from April 4 to April 18. According to a press release issued by FRF, numerous businesses and anonymous donors are funding the Produce Box Pilot Program from April 19 through May 3.

If you’d like to help fund the continuation of the Produce Box & hot meal program for the Albany area, please visit @flintriverfresh, email, visit or call 229-942-9757.

At Southern Belle Farm in Henry County, owner Jake Carter had concerns about his business, a large portion of which consists of school field trips. When the schools closed, the field trips instantly went away. But then Carter visited with his sister, Carmen, who is a nurse, and came away convicted to reach out and brighten the day for Carmen and her coworkers.

Shortly after that, he received a call from his neighbor, Tony Carder, who is a part owner of Pretoria Fields craft brewery in Albany. In the span of a few days, Carter and Carder had put together a joint plan for Southern Belle and Pretoria Fields to provide fresh strawberries for health-care providers in Henry County.

“I know personally this community has blessed us far greater than we deserve,” Carter said. “This is a way that we can with partner someone and bless some of these frontline personnel. I know it’s a small gesture. A bucket of strawberries doesn’t amount to much, but when you’re having some of the tough days some of these folks are having, that could brighten somebody’s day.”

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