Why did you begin farming?
My wife and I purchased property in Sharpsburg, Georgia, eight years ago. We had envisioned building a house and starting a small farm. Soon after the purchase, my son Mason was diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma, a childhood form of cancer. As Mason’s cancer became nonprogressive, we realized we needed to do more than just grow good food for ourselves. So we started this farm as a nonprofit organization. Today, 180 Degree Farm donates to those who are sick or in need within our community. We also have a CSA and farm-to-hospital program with Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan, Georgia.
Have you always been an eco-farmer, or did you make a change?
Yes, when I started, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on chemicals, so I learned how to grow chemical-free out of necessity. I only started to understand why that was a great choice after Mason was diagnosed.
What was the biggest hurdle you have overcome?
Dealing with the soil we started out with — it was compacted white clay and it was horrible. Nothing would grow in it, and it took several years of amendments and adding compost to get good results.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
The impact it has on our health and others who receive food from us. The other great thing is the family time we spend together. I get to work with my wife and boys every day. Not many people can say that.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received about farming?
Try to avoid debt. It will sink you. Also, that everything starts with soil. If your soil is right, everything else will fall into place.
What is your biggest current challenge?
Growing to meet demand! We have a CSA program, a farm-to hospital program and we sell food on farm. Demand has outpaced supply, and we want to somehow try to meet those needs.
What do you see in store for the future of sustainable farming?
I see growth continuing as long as farmers are able to make money and educate consumers about the differences in sustainable farming versus conventional. I think there is still a belief among many that organic or naturally grown is a trend, or only for the rich, and that conventionally grown food is perfectly safe.
This article appears in the December 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.