Jan 23, 2017Farmer Support, Meet My Farmer

WHEN AUGUSTA TALKS ABOUT GROWING its urban agriculture landscape, it’s talking about people like Robert Sims. Soft-spoken and new on the scene, you might not take him for a farmer at first. But then you watch his gentle green thumbs untangle a choking eggplant from an invasive weed on an otherwise vacant city lot, and you know – YOU KNOW – this young man is an answer to our urban ag prayers.

We at ALG first got to know Robert on Saturday, July 9, 2016. Remember that day? High of 100 degrees; felt like a thousand. Despite the angry, oppressive heat, more than 30 cheerful volunteers showed up to install beautiful raised-bed vegetable gardens at the Department of Public Health on Laney Walker Blvd. Robert Sims was one of them. He arrived early; was one of the last to leave; and here’s where he set himself apart from the rest of us: he also showed up the NEXT DAY – temp 101 – to see the project to its finish.

Since that kismet weekend, Robert has thrown himself into six months of intensive training as a city farmer. This summer, he volunteered regularly at Icebox Urban Farm and with the 100s in Harrisburg Home Gardens project. This fall, he graduated from a six-week Urban Ag Bootcamp with Habesha of Atlanta. He also helped start SAYG – South Augusta Yards to Gardens – a Georgia Food Oasis initiative, about which he will co-present at the Georgia Organics Conference in February. This winter, Robert moved into the neighborhood of Harrisburg and joined the leadership team for GROW Harrisburg 2017. And today, at his modest city-block home, he’s got seedlings growing indoors and outdoors in just about every cold-protected nook and cranny he can find.

Robert’s stepping up to the plate has not gone unnoticed. Last week, he was named 2017 Steward of the Incubator Urban Farm at the Clubhou.se on Telfair Street in Augusta. From this site – which will soon be Certified Naturally Grown – he will practice the trade of a market grower, selling at local farmers markets and to chefs. The people at the Clubhou.se will provide him with peer-to-peer support in starting his own company, R and R Sustainable Farms, along with his cousin, Randy Walden. Together, they plan to manage several urban and rural farming sites, and offer the service of installing raised bed gardens at individual homes throughout the CSRA. Eventually, Robert would also like to be a flower farmer, selling to local florists.

From our end, witnessing this man of a mere 28 years old take on the monumental task of growing food in-our-city, for-our-city is humbling, to say the least. As a graduate of Lucy Craft Laney High School and Benedict College of Columbia, SC, with a degree in biology, he is an earth scientist at heart, fascinated by and committed to organic practices. He is also an Augustan through and through, someone positioning himself to give back before he’s received.

How can you support Robert and the movement he so bravely represents? Come to the gardens to see his work. Buy his vegetables and pay him fair market value for them. Offer him donations of fruit trees and bushes and organic-grade compost. Hire him to build raised bed gardens at your home. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Instagram, and save his number in your phone. Because Robert IS the face of next generation of farming in America. And it is up to us – Augusta – to invest in our own local food future through him.