ATLiens

We had a mini reunion with Ryan’s family this weekend in Atlanta, which is a halfway point of sorts between St. Petersburg, FL and Lexington, KY. The Yanks flew down and we stayed at a rental house in College Park, about 15 minutes south of central Atlanta.

We weren’t really down there to eat, however Ryan’s cousin Joe runs an organic farm just outside the metro area in Decatur, called Love is Love at Gaia Gardens. He gave us a tour, then we headed just down the road to Holy Taco.

Joe and his team organize several farm dinners each year, working with local chefs and other farms to showcase local and seasonal food. They have also partnered with Outstanding in the Field, something I have been wanting to do since forever. Below, farm photos.

Basil and curing garlic
This is a small greenhouse near the entrance where they are growing different kinds of basil and also curing garlic.

Greenhouse
Another greenhouse where they are growing lettuces and other vegetables.

Invasion of the lettuce snatchers
Protecting plants with cover.

Under a fig tree
Underneath a fig tree. Did you know that figs are only pollenated by one insect, the fig wasp? And once the female wasp crawls inside a fig to lay her eggs, the fig digests her. The ciiiiirrrrcle of life!

Birds & bees
A small beekeeping operation among the chickens.

Shiitakes
Here is Joe showing us his shiitake mushroom grove. Shiitakes are the only mushrooms that grow on oak, which is plentiful in the area. Shii means oak, take means mushroom. They can also grow on other hardwoods. Holes are drilled along the trunk, and then they are seeded with shiitake mushroom spores. The spores then take root and as they start to decompose the wood, their mycelia seek each other out and before long, the entire log is overcome by the shiitake.

Most of the farm’s income is not from farmer’s markets as they do not grow enough product on the 8-acre farm to sustain that kind of demand. Instead they sell their produce through a CSA along with other local farms. Practicing crop rotation and other soil-based practices, there are no chemicals involved in their farming. Not even organic pesticides. Garlic tea and diatomaceous ash are used to deter garden predators such as flea and cucumber beetles from eating the crops. Since the forest nearby is home to predatory insects that prey on plant insects, they try to find a happy medium where every organism can exist.

They also produce their own mulch and use crop-rotation and cover crops to let the soil rest and regain nutrients.

Here are some of the insects that are bad for plants on the farm:
Cucumber beetles
Squash bugs
Flea beetles
Kudzu bugs
Mexican bean beetles
Small hive beetles

Ugggggh. Sufficiently skeeved now after looking up those images.

Also, it’s so difficult to type b-e-e-t-l-e-s and not b-e-a-t-l-e-s!

Below, our small feast at Holy Taco. If you’re ever down there, the tongue and fried swordfish tacos are delicious. The elotes not so much – needs a squeeze of lime and a little more chile powder.
Holy Taco

I’d definitely head back down there if not only for a farm dinner, to try the restaurants that Joe told us about. Most notably, Gunshow.

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