On the outskirts of the East side of Atlanta lays the popular Hipster landmark the Starlight Drive In; once passed, the eye meets billboards, gas stations and neighborhoods sprawling of a main road. Inconspicuously tugged away in the midst of a sleepy neighborhood are 18 acres of goat country – white Saanen dairy goat ‘country’ to be exact.
It’s a dreary day when I pull up to Decimal Place Farm. I know I am at the right place when I see a line of white goats standing on the higher ground looking towards me. Nestled at the end of a cul da sec Mary Rigdon has appropriately named her farm Decimal Place Farm. She walks swiftly towards the car and directs me to the gate that leads to the goats and milking facility. I notice the acres of land surrounding us as the car slowly follows behind her steps in the mud.
Mary has been a dairy goat farmer for over 20 years and the land in Conley, Georgia for 17 years in her possession. It took patience and perseverance to acquire this land. Once she owned it, a milking facility had to be built and the right dairy equipment needed to be purchased. The process required assessing her resources critically, understanding how power lines were laid out & addressing functionality by getting the goats in and out of the buildings most efficiently. All of which she accomplished by using the means she had. In a time of credit defaults Mary’s sensible approach makes her somewhat of a modern day hero.
Her goats are having babies during the first few months of the year and I get a brief look into just how busy she gets. Mary is feeding the babies and checking on the becoming mothers periodically, meanwhile the rest of the herd still has to be milked. The days have a rhythm. She takes me outside to one of the grasing areas, while telling me how her lifestyle approach may be more of what people are talking about now and farm life is seeping into the mainstream but she has been living this way since the early 80s. She explains that in order to build the herd and utilize the land fencing had to be done. Grazing plots, comprised of clover, rye grass, a nitrogen fixing grass mix were created for limit grazing spans also called mammoth grazing. Mary tiled a few rows of soil for crop mob to come in and finish the sowing for new grazing plots. Crop Mob will also fix one of her fences and help get debris out of the creek.
Crop Mob, an initiative of young farmers and land enthusiasts, come together to help local farmers with a variety of projects around their farm. It builds the type of community interaction less reliant on monetary exchange. Being outside and learning some hands on farming know how, derived from years of experience, are plenty of reward for getting your hands dirty. At the end of each crop mob-tastic work day a dinner is shared between all the volunteers and farmers.
At the end of our excursion through the 18 acres of Decimal Place Farm, she hands me back my seven month old, that’s been carefully observing everything from her arms. She tells me about groups of children coming to the farm to learn about dairy goats, land preservation, gardening and making a living in this manner. When I ask her if she could envision anything for the future of the American food system, what would that look like, she takes time to think before answering. In her point of view we all receive the same amount of hours in the day. What we do with them is up to us & ultimately defines who we are. She questions peoples ingenuity or lack thereof. When a neighbor gives you grits in exchange for some of your goods, you learn how versatile that item can be. Furthermore, she adds she doesn’t like okra or rather the way most people in the south cook it but its an awfully space conducive and high yield type of vegetable. Therefore, she researched how to prepare Okra resulting in a dish sans a slightly gooey texture and utilizes its properties on her farm.
Did I mention just how delicious Decimal Place Farm goat cheese is? Seriously, you can’t go wrong with trying some of the creative flavors (i.e. amaretto orange chevre, pecan craison chevre, and cracked peppercorn chevre) either at a local health food stores such as Rainbow Grocery Market or Pine Street Market. During the summer time, Decimal Place Farm chevre, tuma or cheddar style goat cheeses can be located at the East Atlanta Farmers Market, Peachtree Road Market and Grant Park Farmers Market.
~ Enjoy, live well & be kind to one another
C.H. – Real Time Farms Winter Food Warrior, 2012