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Setting the New Standard

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Setting the New Standard
Photos courtesy of Serene Farms of Chattahoochee Hills, GA

FARMER PAIGE WITHERINGTON, SERENBE FARMS

After graduating from Clemson University with a degree in biosystems engineering, Paige decided she didn’t want to be an engineer. “I wanted to create solutions by developing local food systems,” she explains.

For industrial ag vegetables, Paige saw the need for a solution to the reliance on fossil fuels and the poisons used to keep pests at bay. As she observed, not only does industrially grown produce travel an average of 1,500 miles to get to the consumer’s plate, it also relies on a heavy fuel-based system for cultivation, pesticides, processing, packaging, refrigeration, transit, and storage. The longer the produce has to stay “fresh,” the more energy it takes to keep it that way.

“I wouldn’t have become a farmer if I hadn’t learned and seen the natural way of farming,” says Paige. “By replicating the systems in nature to help our cultivated varieties along, we can both help and repair the land we farm and also create a great and nutritious product.” Rather than harvesting and shipping thousands of miles away, Paige believes this is a better method:

“Pick it one hour, distribute it the next.”

As manager of the certified organic and biodynamic Serenbe Farms, Paige and her team of farmers are producing over 80,000 pounds (40 tons) of over 400 varieties of crops (vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit) each year on their four active acres—that rivals many of the bigger production farms that use modern chemical-based practices yet is gentler on the land. They don’t just rival but smash some typical conventional yields, such as in the case of corn, which generally yields from 2,500 to 10,000 pounds per acre. How does Paige explain the success? “I believe that if you treat the land with respect, it will reward you with a bountiful crop.”

The produce is distributed among restaurants in the surrounding community and Atlanta, members of the farm’s CSA program, and patrons at a weekly seasonal farmer’s market. Paige’s customers often say her vegetables and fruits taste better than shipped-in store-bought goods: “Our crops are grown with a lot of love.”

Photo courtesy of Serenbe Farms