EAST GEORGIA PRODUCE
No one puts the “family” into “family farming” like the Hancocks – the new owners of East Georgia Produce in Bartow, GA.
This three-generation clan hails from southwest Missouri, the Show Me State, with a few family roots back in Arizona and Idaho as well. The Hancocks bought the farm from the beloved DeMatteo family last July and bravely began the task of filling those big, red-clay-caked boots. With several weeks of guidance from outgoing farmer Matt, they dauntlessly took up the reigns and have been driving the farm toward their own vision ever since.
Cari and Coy Hancock are at the hub of it all. This salt-of-the-Earth couple has been growing food together since they met. They started with hydroponics on their apartment patio 25 years ago and never really stopped. For them, full-time sustainable farming has always been the goal; it just took a while to get there. Coy spent a couple of decades as a teacher and education development professional in the public schools. Cari was a stay-at-home mom and, later, a government accountant for their city. They raised kids, they gardened, they canned. Cari also earned a degree in floral arrangement and management; Coy once majored in horticulture. Growing food had always been central to their identity as individuals and as a couple.
Today – many moons later – they own a 76-acre farm, with a full third of it already in production.
“This has been our dream for more than 20 years,” Cari notes. “We love to farm, to grow food. That’s what we do. We’re passionately against GMOs and want to grow healthy food on the land … that’s pretty much who we are.”
“Show Me” they have! In just six months, Augusta’s newest farm family has gone from 0 to 60, from dream to really-real reality. They arrived ready to work, with their eyes wide open to the challenges of it all. “Except for the gnats. We didn’t see that coming,” Cari jokes.
Farm chores are endless, and a shared division of labor is essential. Cari handles the business end of things, keeping records, working with customers and markets, packing the harvest, accounting, and stealing some time on the tractor every chance she gets. Coy and their college-age son, Christian, co-work the land. They plant and weed and irrigate, mulch, prune and amend, following organic practices. Their daughter, Samantha, who wed her beau on the farm this fall, lends a hand with picking and the books. Her husband is a great help with fence building and the harvest. Sons Andrew, age 14, and Spencer, age 9, are homeschooled. When fencing is better secured, Andrew will be in charge of pigs, and Spencer will handle the chickens.
Cari’s parents, Mike and Janice, are also in the mix. They help with farm maintenance and veggie washing. You’ll likely meet this joyful couple en route when, together, they do the deliveries.
As for the future, each member of the East Georgia Produce clan has plans. Big plans! Cari, a licensed florist, would like to start doing arrangements for weddings and events, to include flowers that they will grow in commercial quantities, like dahlias and sunflowers. Christian, who studied chemical engineering, is switching gears to finish his degree in agriculture, with specific interests in cattle ranching, diesel engines and organic applications. Samantha, who will major in psychology this fall, is also starting an on-line Chef’s Market, to better manage their connections with local restaurants.
The best news: they’re happy. And they’re committed to making it here in Georgia. “This is our final stomping ground,” Cari says. “We’re not going anywhere.” After a year and a half of a nation-wide search and much prayer, they knew that the farm at East Georgia Produce was their answer. “This was the one we felt good about. This was the one.”