This past week, with the passing of Joe Gatins of "La Gracia' Farm, we lost a great leader in farming and a key supporter of the local food movement here in Rabun County. Joe was one of the founding members of the Simply Homegrown Market in downtown Clayton, and his farm was the first in Rabun County to produce certified organic produce. He was well known for his perennial leeks, many varieties of garlic, cucumbers, and winter squash. Upon my arrival here in the North Georgia Mountains, Joe was one of the first farmers I came into contact with and who helped me bring a true farm to table program to Lake Rabun Hotel's Restaurant. Through him I suddenly had a network of people eagerly ready to help supply items that many of you have experienced while dining with us. With the help of Joe's brainstorming ideas and my dedication to bring local food to our customers, the Featured Farmer Thursday program was born on June 16th of last year with La Gracia being the first participant. On this inaugural evening, we highlighted leeks, radishes, fresh garlic, arugula, and colored carrots from La Gracia Farm. From that point on, every Thursday through the end of November a local farm is highlighted, and a huge portion of our dinner menu on a weekly basis contains food of local and sustainable origins. Joe also has taught many free classes to the public regarding gardening practices, growing garlic, and seed saving, just to name a few. He has also taught me tremendously in my own gardening endeavors. I know that through the local food community he will live on due to the dedication, leadership, wisdom and kindness he passed to others. During one conversation I had with Joe on why he enjoyed farming so much, he said "The plants talk to me. They spring out of the ground and they say thank you."
I know many of us would like to thank Joe for what he has given us and the tremendous effort he put toward the local food movement in Rabun County. He will be missed.
I look forward to carrying on Joe's tradition of farm to table fare, and to serving you,