HARRIS COUNTY, Ga. – The Harris County School District is saving the green stuff because they are now buying directly from a local farmer cooperative called West Georgia Farmers Cooperative.
A small Harris County farmer himself for the last five years, John Knop says he helped to initiate this new “farm to school” deal that started happening in October between area farmers and the Harris County schools. So far there have been three deliveries made since the fall.
Knop says he is thankful Harris County school officials were open to the idea and he is thankful they are thrilled with the product too.
He says in recent years the participation in the county’s meal program has declined. Knop says the small participation in the lunch program caused a domino effect for both the food budget and the quality of the food.
However, with this new program in place Knop says everyone is winning. He believes it will revive the school lunch program and boost lunch participation. Knop says the school is now wasting less food because it’s fresh from down the road and not being sprayed with any chemicals. He is already hearing great feedback from his kids and teachers in the district.
More important than a sustainable farming activist Knop is also a Harris County parent. He says it warms his heart to know the veggies on his kids trays at school were grown in local dirt. He also hopes to one day soon have some of his produce sold to the district.
Besides the district and the students benefiting it’s also helping the greater Harris County economy which is made up of mostly farm land.
Eric Simpson is one of the many area farmers that is a member of the recently revived West Georgia Farmers Cooperative that is working directly with the Harris County School District. He says they were founded in the sixties and were thriving for years, but says farming suddenly dive bombed and so did the cooperative. He says with a greater national awareness on the importance of small family farms he says it’s once again vogue to be a farmer. He says the cooperative members have worked hard to bring it back to life starting about five years ago. However, he says just recently they are starting to see the fruits of all their labor. Simpson believes this “farm to school” concept is just the beginning of what’s to come for him and his fellow co-op farmers.
“Accounts and customers such as school systems. That allows us to have some predictable income throughout the coming growing season as they also work their other markets and opportunities,” says Simpson.
Addis Bugg, who is also apart of the same cooperative as Simpson, tells News 3 this new school partnership isn’t only helping to pay his bills, but says it’s giving him greater purpose to toil on the farm. He says it’s fueling his farming heritage passion. Bugg says it’s a privilege to know the youngsters in his community are eating the food he’s proudly growing.
“Planting to supply for your local school and knowing that the kids that are your neighbors knowing that they are eating off of your farm. That’s pretty amazing,” says Bugg.
Mr. Bugg just recently retired from the U.S. Marines. He says he is a fifth generation farmer and learned the craft as a child from his father. He has only been back on the farm for about one year, but he says he is picking up where he left off as a child.
He says this land in Harris County first came into his family after slavery was abolished and his great, great-grandfather worked to buy it from his former slave master.
Bugg says this historical farm land symbolizes freedom to him in more than just one way.
He also says none of it would be worth it, unless The Lord called him to this mission. Bugg says that’s the real reason he puts in so much grueling work six days a week.
Bugg tells News 3 when he gets discouraged his strength is always renewed in the next morning’s sunrise that he’s always awake to see.