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GreenLeaf Farms is one of Barnesville’s “freshest” kept secrets…till now

Past the old ‘Hot Spot’ I drove, headed down the four-lane toward Griffin. It was a trip I had made many times before. Rarely, though, had I turned off on the bypass as I ordinarily had no reason to avoid the heart of the city. I knew it was my turn as a line of semi’s sat idling, waiting to get out on the open road having steered clear of Barnesville proper. Just about a mile up the road sat a sign I had either never seen before or never paid much attention to. “GreenLeaf Farms. Fresh Produce,” with an arrow pointing to the driveway, nonetheless. I had arrived at the home of Greg and Maeda Brown. Having fled from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and the shrinking availability of land, the couple have only been in Barnesville about two years or so. They purchased their six acre spread through Spring Properties after stumbling upon it one weekend when visiting Buggytown from the ATL. ”We were both at the stage where we were ready to slow down and find a farm,” began Greg. “I had been doing landscaping and [she] had been freelancing as a bookkeeper and we just wanted something different; a destination.” We stood next to the main house, a white, two-story built back in 1825 or so. ”It was originally the main structure on a 250-plus acre dairy farm,” he said. The Browns have worked hard at keeping the integrity of the house and its outbuildings – all seven of them. ”You know, when we first came across the site I looked it over some. I knew the soil was clay and that we would have a lot of work to do to bring it back to fruition. But it appeared manageable,” he said. “Maeda saw the house and we kind of shared that ‘no words necessary’ sentiment. This was what we were looking for.” As Greg began to take me around the property, taking great pride in the vision of pomegranate trees he had for the front entrance and the fig trees just to the side of them, he continued to weave what was and what would be without ever missing a beat. ”I want GreenLeaf to be a destination in 10 years. I want people to come and enjoy the land. They can eat the crops and see how to compost and walk our nature trails,” he said. “This is more than just a farm.” Indeed it is. Classified as a naturally grown farm, GreenLeaf has carved out quite a niche at three different farmers markets between here and Atlanta as well as maintaining a 20-member CSA. A CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, is a way for the food buying public to create a relationship with a farm and receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become “members” (or “shareholders,” or “subscribers”) of the CSA. We walked past the main rows which were comprised of raised rows and some seedlings that were already peeking up through the Earth. The fence sported not just a deer net to keep out the nighttime predators but a solar-powered electrical wiring. It was obvious to me that Greg wasn’t willing to take a chance with local wild animals and in doing so was still committed to being green and using solar power. I had to ask. ”We have had a consultant come out and quote us on a solar array. The $70k he made reference to was a bit much. Something to work towards, I think,” he said. His vision continued to impress me and we marched on to what used to be the milking building. As we stood inside we regaled each other with tales of old Barnesville and Gordon from its military school days. The topics flowed freely and I soon realized that Greg was no ordinary farmer looking to make a few bucks. He is community-minded with an eye for preservation and a mind for innovation. ”Georgia is at the bottom of organic farming,” he said. “There are still quite a few government subsidized farmers and to grow that volume it is more cost-effective to farm in that style.” I asked Greg what the financial outlook was for a farmer such as himself. I couldn’t imagine how he and Maeda must make a living. ”When I first started markets in Barnesville and Zebulon, no one wanted to pay the prices for fresh-cut flowers and freshly picked produce. They told me over and over again what they could get and for how much they could get it for at places like Wal-Mart,” he said. “It’s discouraging, yes. But there are those people who value naturally grown foods and who don’t see the price over the benefits.” A benefit, indeed. After nearly an hour I felt compelled to leave Greg in the fields. I had other obligations and I could feel myself wanting to quit my job and join him in his fields; growing not corn and soybeans but a future of beauty and environmental sustenance.

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