Yesterday’s trip to Sparta was beyond exciting. I’ve been itching to get back there ever since J and I had to speed through it last September. Sparta, a county seat made rich long ago by cotton and left high and dry by the various economic forces of changed farming, deep racial divides, undervalued education systems, and bad politics, is an interesting amalgamation of everything that is dear to me:
– it reminds me profoundly of Macon, Miss.
– so I feel I understand it, but only as much as I can claim to understand Macon
– it is rich, RICH in historic building stock, many of which are in decent condition and relatively unchanged.
– FARMING!! not the cotton, corn and soybeans kind—in fact, I know very little of Hancock County’s farming economy and how it compares to Noxubee—but the GOOD FOOD movement is RIGHT THERE!
One citizen of Sparta in particular is responsible for much of this preservation-good food pairing. I don’t know a lot about Mr. C, he made his money in the furniture business, moved to Sparta some time ago where he and his wife restored a grand old home with magnolia trees in front and lots of land in back. Perhaps it was she who started the garden, a picture perfect acre or two, straight of the how-to-create-a-garden book. A few years back, an appropriate “young land-less farming couple” moved into the house next door to take over the management and expansion of the garden and begin selling to outside markets. I once understood that this garden supplied the Four Seasons in Atlanta and now I know they supply other good-local-food-minded restaurants within a 2 hour radius which includes Augusta and Athens.
Years ago Mr. C developed an alliance with us at the Georgia Trust and today is a key ally of the Trust in our work in Sparta. Apparently he was also making friends with Georgia Organics as I later learned he is revered equally among my farm-foodie friends. Currently he instigates change in his community by investing in projects that further the pursuit of these 2 interests. He and his wife are living the dream by living what they believe in.
For the Trust, the C’s recently purchased a house at auction which they then sold to us at a bargain price for our Revolving Fund. About a year ago though, the Trust worked with Mr. C to purchase a neighboring abandoned factory and the old train depot, which has become a new food venture. JT, a farming friend who used to be president of Georgia Organics, moved to Sparta this past summer to partner with Mr. C in the development of a mushroom growing operation which is off to a good start. The first Sparta Farmer’s Mkt, organized in part at least by JT is starting up in March involving other farmers in the area whose products are not already being sold to the Four Seasons, Five and Ten or such. In my mind, it’s the first big step in the good-food revolution of a small town. It’s exciting!
Yes, you guessed it, I want to live there and truly, if I didn’t already have Macon, Sparta would be mine. I kind of wish they were right next door to each other, it’s a shame there are so many small towns to choose from, and that we can each only choose one.