Ag News

Newspaper editor uses GFB CFM Passport to explore farms

By Angela Gary

Picking blackberries in the fields at Buffalo Creek Berry Farm, a family- run farm in the countryside of Oglethorpe County.

Driving through the curvy roads of Ellijay and stopping at several of the “apple houses” where we bought fruit and vegetables, ate a fruit pie and had lunch. I have been on a quest to visit as many of the farms listed in the Georgia Farm Bureau Passport as possible. My goal is to go to at least 20 of the farms by the end of the year.

The passport guides family and friends to farms across Georgia that offer fruit, vegetables and other local food. The 67 farms listed in the passport are in the Georgia Farm Bureau’s Certified Farm Markets program. The Farm Bureau gives prizes as you visit 5, 10, 15 and 20 of the farms.

I first found out about the passport at the Banks County Farm Tour, where the participants were given one of the passports as we lunched at Jaemor Farms at Banks Crossing.

Both the Banks Crossing and Alto Jaemor Farms sites are listed in the passport.

I bought some strawberries and got my first farm “stamped” in the passport at the Jaemor Farms in Banks Crossing. I looked through the booklet and thought I could visit at least 20 of the farms by the end of the year. The farms are all across the state, so some would be too far away.

My next stop was at Southern Belle Farm in McDonough in Henry County and it was certainly a delicious stop. I enjoyed strawberry shortcake and strawberry ice cream while touring the farm, and then bought some strawberry jam and fig jam to take home. I also brought home a basket of the wonderful peaches.

At Southern Belle Farm, the fifth generation of the Carter family strive to let people, including the many children who come to the farm on field trips, know where food comes from.

During our visit, family matriarch, Mimi, was present and she visited with guests in the store. She makes her homemade pound cake and shortcake for the bakery. She shares that, “Farming is the heart of our family.”

The 330-acre farm has strawberries, peaches and a large variety of other fruits and vegetables offered. Visitors can pick their own strawberries and visit the on-site bakery for delicious strawberry shortcake and other treats.

Two farms in Rabun County were next on my list of places to visit. My sister, nephew and I were headed to North Carolina for some gem mining and I looked to see if we would pass any farms on our trip. Sure enough, two farms were listed in Rabun County that we would be passing by.

One of the farms, Osage Farm Market in Rabun Gap, is a place that our family has stopped

many times. We love their fresh fruits and vegetables and bought some of our favorites.

We also stopped at Hillside Orchard Farms in Lakemont.

This was a first for us at this farm which mostly features jams, jellies and pickles. We picked

out a few of our favorite jellies, as well as some blackberry juice which we love to put in tea.

I looked through the booklet listing all the farms trying to decide where to go next. Buffalo Creek Berry Farm looked to be less than an hour away, so my mother and I headed there one afternoon.

We traveled on several country roads with no businesses in site, so I began to worry we were lost. No worries though as we soon saw the farm sign. It is a u-pick farm so Mom and I headed out  to the fields where we filled two baskets with blackberries, which Mom later made into jelly.

In addition to getting some wonderful blackberries, we also enjoyed visiting with husband-wife owners, Cameron Phillips and Laura Pallas. Cameron pointed out the best spot to find blackberries, and Laura shared some of the history of the farm when we checked out. She says they will have okra in the fall, so we plan to return then. I love Mom’s pickled okra.

On a recent Saturday, I headed to Ellijay with Mom and Dad where we stopped at the Mack Aaron Apple House and R&A Orchards.

At the Mack Aaron Apple House, we talked with Bill, who is the third generation in his family to operate an apple house. Here, you receive friendly, personal service. It’s great to visit with Bill and his wife as you shop. We bought local vegetables and a few of the wonderful fruit pies and got our passport stamped.

Mack Aaron’s Apple House has a history of expertise in growing apples in Gilmer County that dates back to 1944. Bill’s father, Mack, was 4 years old when his parents, Otis Shafter Aaron and Reba Ellis Aaron, bought a farm of over 200 acres from Bob Ayers to produce apples for commercial and retail sales. Popular apples have included Red Delicious, Rome Beauty, Ben Davis, Shockley, Limbertwig, Detroit Reds, Arkansas Blacks, Yates, and Gilmer Pippin.

In 1977, Mack and Joyce Aaron built nearby on the current location, opening for the 1978 season. The family-oriented business continued wholesale and retail sales with emphasis on friendly service. In 2008, Mack and Joyce turned day to day operations over to their son and daughter-in-law, Bill and Gina Aaron.

In addition to apples, peaches and nectarines, they also offer several other types of produce as well as a multitude of tasty goodies ready to enjoy. Special care is given to the delicious hand-made fried pies. You are guaranteed to find at least 11 varieties to choose from.

Our last stop for the day in Ellijay was at R&A Orchards, where we bought peaches and had lunch in the diner in the back of the store. The hamburger and fries were great! Nothing like an old-fashioned burger with everything on it!

I have more farms to visit before the end of the year to make my goal of 20, and I’m looking forward to discovering more great family farms.

The Georgia Farm Passport is available at GFB county offices and at the 67 farms participating in the GFB Certified Farm Markets (CFM) program. These markets grow a majority of what they sell on their farm or they allow people to visit for a farm tour.

These farms range from u-pick strawberry patches to farms that grow a variety of goods. As marked in the passport, some farms have corn mazes and farm games, offer educational opportunities, or host special events.

The deadline to submit your passport for prizes is Jan. 10, 2020. Simply mailing in a passport with at least one stamp will enter you to win a basket of favorite products from CFMs valued at $100. Collect five stamps and earn a Georgia Farm Passport T-shirt. Ten stamps gets the traveler a GFB insulated tumbler. A collection of 15 stamps will qualify for a $15 gift certificate to the Certified Farm Market of choice. Those who earn 20 stamps will receive a full access pass farm tour with a farm-to-table meal in the Spring 2020.