Nearly 300 guests attended the Georgia Foundation for Agriculture’s Picnic on the Farm Eventure on Sept. 17 at Engelheim Vineyards in Ellijay. This unique culinary and educational event raised $47,000 through tickets sales, a silent auction, sponsorships and donations to fund the foundation’s many programs that raise agricultural awareness and prepare Georgia’s next generation of agricultural leaders.
The foundation chose this picturesque 15-acre vineyard in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains as the location for its inaugural Picnic on the Farm location to celebrate Georgia’s growing wine and grape industry.
Picnic volunteers greeted arriving guests inside the vineyard’s “Venue in the Vines” event center with picnic baskets packed with cuisine from North Georgia chefs and Ellijay apple farms.
After gathering their baskets, picnic blankets and award-winning Engelheim Vineyards wine, guests enjoyed the afternoon relaxing and exploring the vineyard while listening to local band Jack and the Bean Sprouts perform classic songs from the 1960s and ‘70s. Guests also enjoyed watching members of the North Georgia Plein-Air Artists group capture the scenery and spirit of the event with their paint brushes.
Engelheim Vineyards owner Gary Engel hosted three small-group, one-hour tours of his vineyards along with Engelheim winemaker Billy Branch, UGA Extension Fruit Disease Specialist Plant Pathologist Phillip M. Brannen and Gilmer County UGA Extension Agent Ashely Hoppers.
“Gary Engel is clearly very connected to the earth. I could see his passion behind why he farms and cares for his land,” one guest was overheard saying after touring the farm. “The farm tour was so inspirational.”
Event attendees also had the chance to tour the foundation’s Georgia Ag Experience, a state-of-the-art, 36-foot mobile agriculture classroom, which travels approximately 200 days a year to visit 3rd-grade through 5th-grade elementary school students and public events. The mobile classroom brings the farm to the students using interactive computer games and simulation stations that educate students using science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum.
In 2021, the Georgia Ag Experience educated 16,861 students in 63 Georgia counties statewide. The Georgia Ag Experience is one of the many programs that will be funded by the Picnic on the Farm and other fundraising efforts led by GFA Executive Director Lily Baucom.
“There is a serious disconnect between those inside and outside of agriculture. The gap between farmers who grow food and fiber, and those who consume it, is getting wider,” Baucom said. “In fact, most students are three to four generations removed from the farm. It is our job to find innovative approaches to address these issues which impact food security in Georgia, our nation and worldwide.”
The Picnic on the Farm Eventure was made possible through the support of: Premier Sponsors James Bates Brannen & Groover LLP and Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce; Signature Sponsors FBAlliance Insurance and Harrison Poultry; Elite Sponsors AgGeorgia Farm Credit, Anthem Blue Cross & Blue Shield, Farm Bureau Bank and Truist Financial; VIP Picnic Sponsors ABAC School of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Cardinal Investment Advisors, Cobb County Farm Bureau, Georgia Agribusiness Council, Georgia Forestry Foundation, Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, Georgia Poultry Federation, Guy Carpenter & Company LLC, Mar-Jac Poultry, Premium Peanut and The West Family.
Food sponsors earning five stars of thanks are: 61 Main Restaurant, A Little Baked Bakery, B&B Tavern, BJ Reece Orchards, Callaway Blue Spring Water, Donavie’s Delectables, Ellijay Wood Fired Pizza, Emily’s Bar & Restaurant, Hillcrest Orchards LLC, Ingles Grocery Ellijay, Montane Sparkling Spring Water, Red Apple Barn, Stuckey’s Corporation, Sweet Auburn BBQ and Symphony Potato Chips;
Special thanks are also extended to: location sponsor Engelheim Vineyards; décor sponsor Colquitt County Farm Bureau; communications sponsor Georgia Farm Bureau; gift bag sponsor Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce; and silent auction donors: Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa, Cantaberry Restaurant, Cobb County Farm Bureau, Engelheim Vineyards, Georgia Pecan Growers Association, Hall Booth Smith PC, Tractor Supply Co., and the Gilmer and Turner County Farm Bureaus.