Loganville couple raises most of their food

As Gwinnett continues to grow, it's hard to remember that the county's past is rooted in agriculture. For Patti and Rich Emkey, however, farming is very much part of the present.

In fact, the Emkeys produce most of what they eat on their small Loganville farm, which is called Bay Creek Acres. The Emkeys keep white cornish chickens, heritage turkeys, free-range muscovy ducks and goats.

In a 5,000-square-foot garden, they grow herbs such as basil, parsley and sage, as well as lettuce, tomatoes, squash, radishes and beans. Rich Emkey loves potatoes, so this year he's experimenting with several varieties, including purple, red and gold ones. He has made wine from grapes grown on their property.

At the grocery store, the Emkeys typically purchase only staples such as sugar and salt. "We try to buy as little as possible," Patti Emkey said.

The Emkeys work full-time, running their home-based company, Emkey Fire Protection Design Services, but they spend at least an hour in the garden each day. On the weekends, tending to their plants and animals takes up most of their days.

Part of their duties include killing and processing the goats and poultry they raise for meat. When it's time to slaughter an animal, they take it to the other side of the barn, out of the view of the rest of the herd.

"It sounds kind of silly, but it makes a difference," Patti Emkey said.

At first, she had a hard time with the idea killing animals, but Patti has become more accustomed to the concept. "It's taken me a while to get used to it. I wasn't raised on a farm," she said.

The couple still names the dairy goats, which are kept for their milk, and treats them more like pets. But Patti doesn't get too close to the meat goats, who are raised to eat. Those animals are bound for what Patti calls "freezer camp," and eventually will be served at the table.

Milking one of the dairy goats yields a half gallon of milk a day. "Goat milk is very much in demand, but we're not allowed to sell it," Rich Emkey said.

According to Georgia law, raw or unpasteurized milk may not be sold for human consumption. Though the Emkeys can't sell goat milk, they do drink it themselves and use it to make cheese.

Several years ago, when the couple began keeping chickens and goats, they intended to raise only enough for themselves. But as more and more people began to stop by their Loganville farm asking to buy poultry, goat meat and eggs, they began selling what they produced.

"It really never dawned on us to sell it until people began knocking on our door," Rich Emkey said.

Recently, they've added animals to their farm. "We've started getting more because there's a demand for it," he said.