A luscious summer tomato, a sweet Georgia peach, scuppernong grapes that taste of fall, the oranges for your morning juice: all begin with seeds. Of course, so do the world’s food staples like wheat, corn and rice. Yet of the thousands of seed varieties available at the turn of the 20th century, 94 percent have been lost forever. Award-winning author Janisse Ray will discuss seed saving, healthy food and farming, and the inspiring stories of people who have taken on one of the planet’s most crucial challenges in “The Future of Food: Heirlooms of the Past and the Art of Seed Saving.” Ray’s talk will be the first of the Garden of the Coastal Plain’s four-lecture Lunch and Learn series, and will take place on Thursday, September 26th from 12PM to 1 PM at the Garden’s Heritage Pavilion, 1505 Bland Avenue in Statesboro. The talk includes a lunch especially paired with the topic by Chef Kevin Case of GSU Catering. Lunch and Learn is a fundraiser for the Garden, which must raise much of its operating support. The cost is $20, and reservations are required. The talk without lunch is free for Georgia Southern Students with ID. Call 871-1149 for reservations. Janisse Ray’s books will be available for purchase.
Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is author of five books of literary nonfiction and a collection of nature poetry. Her most recent book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food is a look at what’s happening to seeds, which is to say the future of food. The book has won the American Society of Journalists & Authors’ Arlene Eisenberg Award for Writing that Makes a Difference and an American Horticultural Society Book Award. Ray is on the faculty of Chatham University’s low-residency MFA program. She holds an MFA from the University of Montana and in 2007 was awarded an honorary doctorate from Unity College in Maine.
Her first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a memoir about growing up on a junkyard in the ruined longleaf pine ecosystem of the Southeast, was published by Milkweed Editions in 1999. The book won a Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction 1999, an American Book Award 2000, the Southern Environmental Law Center 2000 Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award 2000. Ecology of a Cracker Childhood was a New York Times Notable Book and was chosen as the Book All Georgians Should Read. Besides a plea to protect and restore the glorious pine flatwoods, the book is a hard look at family, mental illness, poverty, and fundamentalist religion. Essayist Wendell Berry called the book “well done and deeply moving.” Anne Raver of The New York Times said of Janisse, “The forests of the South find their Rachel Carson.”
Janisse’s second book, Wild Card Quilt: Taking a Chance on Home (about rural community) was published by Milkweed Editions in early 2003. The third, Pinhook: Finding Wholeness in a Fragmented Land (the story of a 750,000-acre wildland between south Georgia and north Florida) was published by Chelsea Green in 2005. Her first book of poetry, A House of Branches, came out in 2010 from Wind Publication and won a Southern Booksellers Award for Poetry 2011. Drifting Into Darien: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River — a lovesong and a call to action — was released by UGA Press in 2011
The author has been visiting professor at Coastal Carolina University, scholar-in-residence at Florida Gulf Coast University, and writer-in-residence at Keene State College and Green Mountain College. She was the John & Renee Grisham writer-in-residence 2003-04 at the University of Mississippi. Janisse attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on Red Earth Farm in southern Georgia with her husband and daughter. Janisse is an organic gardener, tender of farm animals, slow-food cook, and seed-saver. She lectures widely on nature, community, agriculture, wildness, sustainability, and the politics of wholeness.
Discuss heirloom produce, seed saving, and the future of food with writer Janisse Ray
The Garden of the Coastal Plain at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro has served as a botanical and historical oasis on the edge of campus for over twenty-five years. The original core of the garden’s grounds were donated by Dan and Catharine Bland (shown in the photograph below), who ran a farmstead there from when they married in 1916 until they passed away in the 1980s. The Blands were among the earliest students at what would become Georgia Southern University, and they were self-taught naturalists, keeping detailed notes and collections of the plants they cultivated and encountered in the area. They made their living on their land, and the legacy they left behind tells an important story about 20th century life in rural South Georgia.
Director Carolyn Altman and Assistant Director Robert Randolph use this unique landscape to accomplish the garden’s mission of promoting and protecting the natural and cultural history of the southeastern coastal plain. Along with 6.5 acres, the Blands left their house, barns, and several other farmstead outbuildings, all of which contribute to the interpretation of the site. The Weathervane Barn was restored several years ago, and now each stall in the barn serves as a room in the Rural Life Exhibit about the agricultural history of the region. The Oak Grove School, a restored, late nineteenth-century one-room schoolhouse originally from Tattnall County, has a new home at the Garden of the Coastal Plain, adding another component to what the garden has to offer.
The Garden of the Coastal Plain has plans to transform the Blands’ cottage into a museum about the couple, the farm they ran, and the stewardship ethic that they exemplified. Restoration of the building itself has been underway since last spring, including extensive foundation stabilization and repair, fresh paint, and the installation of new, period-appropriate metal roof and wood floors. Research has also begun, compiling materials related to the Blands and the role they played in Statesboro. Among the information discovered are records of archaeological excavations conducted at the garden by former Georgia Southern Professor Steven Hale in 1993. Professor Hale, with the help of local kids enrolled in an educational summer program, investigated the old location of Bland Cottage. Artifacts recovered in these excavations include dish fragments, window glass, nails, and harness pieces, and Professor Hale and his students also found evidence of the old well and fireplace. The records of these excavations are now part of the growing Bland Collection, and will help tell the story of Dan and Catharine Bland in the exhibits.
Visit the Garden of the Coastal Plain at Georgia Southern University here: 1505 Bland Avenue, Statesboro, GA.
Posted online on Saturday, May 18th, 2013
Garden of the Coastal Plain
at Georgia Southern University
1505 Bland Avenue, PO Box 8039
Statesboro, GA 30460