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Organic gardening is no longer a fad

Posted: January 12, 2014 - 12:01am

Organic gardening, once seen as something practiced only by health nuts and hippies, is no longer a fad. Everyone wants our food and our environment to be safe and healthy. Knowledge is the key to organic gardening. UGA, along with several other universities, has compiled a great educational program at the 2014 Georgia Organics Conference set for Feb. 21 – 22 on Jekyll Island, Ga.

The conference, Green Acres – Saving the Plant One Bite at a Time, focuses on agriculture’s impact on the environment and how organic farming restores natural resources. The two-day conference, presented annually by Georgia Organics, is one of the largest sustainable agriculture expos in The South. More than 1,000 farmers, gardeners, health advocates, backyard gardeners and organic food lovers are expected.

Friday, the first day of the conference, includes a choice of several farm tours in Georgia and Florida and in-depth workshops.

Saturday begins with a day of educational sessions followed by a keynote address from Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group. He is frequently cited by national media outlets as an expert on environmental issues.

Saturday concludes with the conference’s highlight – the Farmers Feast. As always, the farmers feast menu will feature local, organically produced food prepared by talented chefs.

UGA horticulturist David Berle will lead an in-depth workshop on how to grow organically in raised beds. The session will cover selecting a site and building and filling the beds under National Organic Program standards. A second follow-up session led by Berle will take participants to nearby St. Simons Island for a hands-on workshop on raised beds. The session’s 20 participants will install a permanent bed at Oglethorpe Point Elementary School.

Georgia’s unpredictable climate will be the focus of UGA climatologist Pam Knox’s educational session. Knox will reveal how climate change affects Georgia’s agricultural industry and food prices. Carrie Furman of UGA and the Southeast Climate Consortium will explain how strong local food communities can help farmers adapt to climate change.

A team of UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences horticulturists and plant pathologists will discuss how cover crops can be used when growing cool-season crops. Cover crops are typically fall crops that are planted to recharge garden plots for the following season’s summer crops.

Conference workshop and session presenters will also include faculty from Auburn University, Clemson University, Ft. Valley State University, Oxford College – Emory University, University of Florida and Virginia State University. Numerous organic farmers will present, as will experts from the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

For more on the conference and how to register, see the Web site www.georgiaorganics.org/conference. The early registration deadline is Jan. 5, 2014. Participants who volunteer for four hours or more receive a 22 percent registration discount.

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