Category: Sustainable business


Although agriculture is Georgia’s largest economic sector, ironically 80 percent of the food that the state buys is from out-of-state. 

The Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Consortium wants to bring local food back to Georgia.  Within in the next five years,  the state wants to create  two food hubs to shift agriculture back to local markets by making it easier for farmers to sell their produce locally  or regionally.

Food hubs, a new concept, allow smaller-scale producers to directly sell produce and meats to consumers.  “This is something that can affect all of our farmers,” said Julia Gaskin, coordinator of UGA Cooperative Extension programming in sustainable agriculture.

Frank Riley, a farmer who grows corn and pumpkins, would like to develop a farmers market in Hiawassee, Ga.  “Food hubs are good for the community. They are good for everyone,” Riley said.

Food hubs are locally managed, have the potential to generate jobs, improve rural economies and increase the capability of mid-scale farms. However, the creation and implementation of food hubs can be difficult.

Additional Consortium goals include:

  1. Form a working network structure that will facilitate interaction between key institutions and stakeholders;
  2. Quantify barriers and infrastructure needed for local/regional food hub development;
  3. Conduct life cycle analysis of vegetable and grazing systems;
  4. Begin research on multi-species grazing systems; and
  5. Increase research and extension on small to mid-scale vegetable production systems.

The Consortium was formed by the University of Georgia College and Agricultural and Environmental SciencesFort Valley State University College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Other key partners are in this effort are: Georgia OrganicsGeorgia Farm Bureau, Community Health WorksUSDA Agricultural Research ServiceGeorgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association andGeorgia USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

Bunny Brundred met  Jim Murray during World War II  where she trained in the service as an aviation mechanic and attended Officer Candidate School. They married soon after they were discharged. In 1953, James and Jean “Bunny” Murray left  New York, and purchased a group of adjoining farms in central Virginia which they named Panorama Farm for its beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The farm sits on land that is part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Jim ran a manufacturing business and taught at U.Va. and Bunny ran the farm, raised cattle, sheep and eight sons.

In its early years, Panorama Farms was home to a number of conventional farming enterprises of agriculture and livestock.  In 1996 they decided to rethink their vision for the farm. “We began looking at the farm as a resource,” says Panorama Pay-Dirt founder Steve Murray of the property he grew up on. “Out of that decision, came Panorama Pay-Dirt, Panorama Running, and Panorama Trails. We also lease hay-making and hunting rights.”

So far, so good. “Our efforts have made the farm sustainable into the next generation,” Murray says.

Hitting Pay-Dirt

Establishing the compost business and other alternatives to conventional agriculture has allowed the Murray family to preserve the beautiful 850-acre property as an agricultural enterprise. At the same time, they are recycling organic matter that would otherwise be headed for the landfill, and they are supplying area gardeners, landscapers, and farmers with a product that adds vital nutrients to the soil. “The response has been enormously favorable,” says Pay-Dirt co-founder Drew Murray. “My brother and I take pride in the TLC we put into our product, and our customers seem to appreciate it too.”

 The Farm is also the home course for the University of Virginia and Albemarle County High Schools’ cross country teams. Additionally, the Farm hosts the A.R.C. Natural History Day Camp for three weeks every summer.