You can find him in the taproom most Saturdays and Sundays, maybe savoring small swigs of Skywater Golden Ale, or, recently, Rye Charles IPA. Mounds of fresh collard, mustard, and turnip greens nearly dwarf his son as he helps set out all the loads of produce–a task that usually takes a couple hours. Baskets of apples and tangelos and vidalia onions line up along another table that sits just in front of his large ice chest full of peas and farm eggs. Adults are giddy as they smell fresh tomatoes, pick the best bunch of greens, swap recipes and stories.
There’s something about the tasting room when Farmer Fredo and his wife and son are here. It transforms into a small, bustling market where parents and children alike can come and play, enjoy locally made drinks, and leave with a beautiful bag of locally grown, fresh produce.
The experience of a Flint River Fresh pop-up market at Pretoria Fields is unique and special in its own right, but when you consider the effects of your purchase throughout the community, putting your money where your mouth is takes on a wholesome, new meaning.
In our 9th episode of No Dams Given, Farmer Fredo mentions the Southwest Georgia Project, which has been an institution of support, community, and activism in Albany and the surrounding area since the early 1960s beginning with Charles and Shirley Sherrod’s tireless work on desegregation and the Albany Civil Rights movement.
Now, the Southwest Georgia Project’s mission is to provide a more secure environment for farmers and community to interact with and support each other. Dougherty County is still suffering from the recession of 2007-8, and now with the recent hurricane and tornado disasters, we need to help each other more than ever. Southwest Georgia Project and Farmer Fredo (Flint River Fresh) work toward a common goal of supporting small farmers and providing accessible ways for all areas of the community to obtain fresh produce as well as education.
This fact glared at me from the Southwest Georgia Project’s webpage:
“Southwest Georgia suffers greatly from two paradoxical challenges: food access and family farmland viability. The region has not recovered from the 2007 economic downturn, 9 grocery stores closed in Albany (Dougherty County) and as a result Dougherty County is in the top 1% of counties in the United States for the highest rates of food insecurity. Oddly, there are thousands of acres of farmland owned by family farmers who struggle to access reliable markets and make a living on the farm (http://www.swgaproject.com/support-us.html).
Farmer Fredo mentions many resources and organizations that help forge the community connection: the collective. And in the podcast, Dr. Morgan, Billy, and Fredando discuss the importance of the word “collective” in Pretoria Fields Collective. Farmer Fredo explains how using more sustainable practices of organic and chemical-free farming of foods used in both food and beer creates an even stronger bond between the farmer and the community because the farmer needs help and interaction and support from his community and vice versa. The philosophy of the “collective” is to create and foster strong bonds throughout the community through support, collaboration, and understanding. And we are so grateful that Farmer Fredo has been such a large part of that philosophy.
Agriculture is the big business here in Georgia. In areas like southwest Georgia, it is impossible to drive for very long without seeing vast fields of peanuts or cotton or soybeans or pecans. Look a little closer and you might see these small family operations who grow vegetables right in our backyard. Look even a little closer and you might see a young child helping weed the garden, or feed the chickens, or shell peas–look closely, and you’ll see exactly where your money and support can go.
Plus, it’s delicious!