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A growing concern
Georgia Organics conference brought hundreds of farmers to town
A delicious Farmer's Feast closed the conference, complete with organic wine from a Dahlonega vineyard

Here's the thing that strikes you when you're in a ballroom full of organic farmers:

During a time when just about every profession is seriously compromised in some way - banking, politics, law, insurance, medicine, media, you name it - this is perhaps the only profession we have left that does nothing but good things.

This past Friday and Saturday an enormous host of organic farmers and those in affiliated businesses and groups gathered for the annual Georgia Organics conference, held at the Savannah International Convention and Trade Center.

After a full day of farm tours on Friday - for which more perfect weather couldn't have been envisioned - Friday evening and early Saturday was the time for networking at the Expo, featuring dozens of vendors and informational booths.

"We met so many new people, and made so many new contacts," said Carmen Vasquez of the Savannah Food Co-op, which had a sweet location for their booth right at the entrance to the Trade Center expo hall.

Saturday afternoon was a time for extensive seminars, from Farmer D's workshop on farming and gardening on the coastal plain, to Mark Bradle's talk on beekeeping, to Kyla Zaro-Moore's workshop on chickens and goats in the urban homestead (long story short: yes on chickens, no on goats).

During the break after lunch, many attendees took advantage of the still-gorgeous weather by hanging out on the lawn by the river. Local sustainable living advocate Kelly Lockamy helped lead an impromptu "workshop" outside on the lawn, dealing with small business models for sustainable food businesses.

The most-anticipated event of the conference, the Farmers Feast on Saturday night, didn't disappoint. While keynote speaker Vandana Shiva couldn't attend due to an emergency in India, make no mistake: The chefs and their collective handiwork were the stars of the show.

Led by local chef Matthew Roher of Cha Bella, the stellar culinary gathering - which included Anne Quatrano of Atlanta's Bacchanalia, Abigail Hutchinson of the Jekyll Island Club, and even Wiley McCrary of Wiley's BBQ here in town - concocted a multi-course extravaganza for hundreds in the ballroom.

Openers included blackeyed pea hummus, honeycombs from Savannah Bee Company, pate from Far, 255, and my favorite, radishes with ricotta.

The main course featured Hunter Farm brisket, Georgia shrimp and clam scampi, winter greens with pork belly, and of course grits.

It's hard to overstate the impact of such an event on the morale of local growers and restaurateurs. Next year's Georgia Organics conference is on the other end of the state, in Columbus. See you there?