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Recent college grads run top-notch organic farm

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Director of Operations Haley Bryant surveys the crops during inventory at Dillwood Farms on May 7, 2012. The 60 acre farm which has 6 acres farmed provides over 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables to Atlanta area restaurants and farmer markets. Dillwood Farms located in Loganville uses an organic approach in their natural grown produce.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Director of Operations Haley Bryant surveys the crops during inventory at Dillwood Farms on May 7, 2012. The 60 acre farm which has 6 acres farmed provides over 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables to Atlanta area restaurants and farmer markets. Dillwood Farms located in Loganville uses an organic approach in their natural grown produce.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Farm manager Seth Hancock of Dillwood Farms removes dirt from the roots of cauliflower he harvested on May 7, 2012.The Loganville farms use an organic approach in their natural grown produce. Hancock lives at the farm which provides over 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables to Atlanta area restaurants and farmer markets

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Farm manager Seth Hancock and Director of Operations Haley Bryant harvest tropicana lettuce at Dillwood Farms in Loganville on May 7, 2012. Hancock and Bryant live in a house located on the farm.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Freshly picked vegetables are deployed at Dillwood Farms in Loganville on May 7, 2012. The farm provides over 40 varieties of fruits and vegetables to Atlanta area restaurants and farmer markets.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Director of Operations Haley Bryant holds out freshly picked Easter egg radishes at Dillwood Farms in Loganville on May 7, 2012.

LOGANVILLE -- Haley Bryant graduated from the University of Georgia with two business degrees and a minor in Spanish. She spends her post-collegiate days on the farm.

Bryant and Seth Hancock, another recent UGA grad, run Dillwood Farms. With a combined age of 47, they live together in an aging house near the corner of Brushy Fork and Old Loganville roads, one that might be easily mistaken for a small, aging frat house.

They use the 60 acres of surrounding land to produce organically grown vegetables, which, in addition to providing the majority of their own meals, are sold to some of Atlanta's top-notch restaurants.

"I guess you could call us tenant farmers," said Hancock, 24, who graduated in December with a more predictable degree in agricultural studies. "Luckily we both have very little debt, so we're just trying to see what we can make of this. I don't know if we'll be retiring after this year, but we're doing really well."

Dillwood Farms has been around for decades -- by the late 1960s, the farm essentially begun as a hobby by Decatur attorney George Dillard had reached about 150 acres at its current site. As years wore on and Gwinnett grew increasingly urbanized, Dillard stopped raising cattle and hogs and focused on produce.

The elder Dillard died in 2006 and passed the farm down to son Doug and his wife Rosetta. When old management "fizzled out" in January, Bryant and Hancock took over.

Bryant, 23, began volunteering at the farm last summer after she spotted it during a bike ride from her parents' house, just a few miles away. She fills the role of "director of operations," handling everything from accounting and marketing to filling orders and writing a newsletter.

Hancock, farm manager, is the master of the fields, but calls Bryant "the boss."

"We love doing it more than the people who were here," Bryant said. "We have the passion to work for it, to work hard for it. It's been a lot better. We've increased the sales, and he's made the garden look absolutely beautiful."

Though Dillwood isn't certified organic (that process is expensive), its naturally grown vegetables are used at Atlanta-area restaurants like Aria, Holeman & Finch, Empire State South, Restaurant Eugene, Canoe and Kevin Rathbun Steak.

If the names don't ring a bell, here's a short explainer: They're all upscale and highly rated by Zagat. Their chefs have won many awards.

Dillwood Farms also sells at markets in Snellville, Tucker and Brookhaven. They're trying to get the general public more involved, too.

"We still have a long way to go," Hancock said. "I think Georgia is years behind California in the food movement."

One way the farm is attempting to get Gwinnett County and the rest of metro Atlanta going in the "eat local" movement is through its CSA, or community supported agriculture, program. For $30 a week, CSA participants get a bag full of Dillwood produce each week. It's fresh, organic, in-season and helping out a local business.

"We're trying to bring back the small farmer, and the way the small farmer works is with people eating seasonally," Bryant said. "That's what we're trying to do with the CSAs, is educate people."

The farm currently has about 60 CSAs, Hancock said. For more information, go to dillwoodfarms.com.

With the help of a few part-timers to work the fields, Bryant and Hancock work six days a week to make Dillwood Farms run smoothly, typically from about sunup to 6 or 7 p.m.

Sunday is a day of rest, at least theoretically.

"We take Sundays off, kind of," Bryant said, smiling. "We still have to take the animals out, and feed them and give them water. We still have to water the plants. And answer emails or calls if they happen. And the owners come out usually on Sundays so we can catch them up on everything."

Comments

Fish2DMax 2 years, 2 months ago

You don't have to be certified organic to produce fresh product. This is much better produce than what is trucked in from other states or even other countries.

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