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Laura Lee Williams

WRCM 4990

Dr. Price

23 September 2018

Agricultural Practices at Koinonia Farm

“Fifteen years ago we went there, and we bought that old, run-down eroded piece of

land. It was sick. There were gashes in it. It was sore and bleeding. I don’t know whether you’ve

ever walked over a piece of ground that could almost cry out to you and say, ‘Heal me, heal

me!’. . . Somehow God has made us out of this old soil and we go back to it and we never lose its

claim on us. It isn’t a simple matter to leave it” said Clarence Jordan, the founder of Koinonia

Farm, about the land that is considered Koinonia Farm today (“Koinonia Website”). Koinonia

Farm is made up of 579 acres right outside Americus, Georgia. Founded in 1942, Koinonia Farm

represents community and fellowship for everyone. The members do not see race, class, gender,

religion, or any other classification as a barrier. They believe that everyone is equal. This caused

the farm a long list of issues during the Civil Rights Movement.

The farm started out by selling grass-fed beef, homegrown vegetables, nuts, and fruit at a

roadside stand. Although they produced high quality food for the community, many people in

South Georgia disagreed with the lifestyle practices of Koinonia Farm. Their neighbors showed

their disapproval when fences were cut, fruit trees chopped down, sugar poured into gas tanks,

the farm was shot up by people driving by, and the roadside stand was bombed. The only thing

that remained were the pecan orchards planted in 1966. Due to boycotts, the farm turned the

focus to pecan production since pecans are extremely easy to ship.

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The introductory quote by Clarence Jordan shows how desperately the land that is

Koinonia Farm today needed reliable agricultural practices when it was first established. Jordan,

who has an agriculture degree from the University of Georgia, had an incredibly hard time

learning to farm sustainably. He would climb on top of barns to watch other farmers in the fields

since no one would help him. Like Jordan, many people see farming in different ways. Some

believe that organic practices are healthier for the land; others believe that modern practices such

as pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs are the answers to the agricultural industry’s problems. On

the third hand, the members of Koinonia Farm do not believe in either of the first two methods to

answer their questions and to fix their problems.

Why would a farm with such a successful business need help to answer questions and fix

problems? Of the five pecan orchards at Koinonia Farm only one is currently producing pecans.

The other four orchards have pecan scab. Scab is black spots found on pecan leaves and shucks.

Dr. Carolyn Young and Dr. Nikki Charlton of the Noble Research Institute tells us that the

disease appears as small, dark lesions on the leaves, twigs, and shucks. As the disease progresses,

the lesions expand, and they can grow together. Scab is caused by spores produced by a fungus

called Venturia effusa. Spores spread by wind and cause new infections throughout an orchard.

Venturia effusa is capable of infecting an orchard multiple times during a growing season. They

say that, “pecan scab can be managed by removing orchard floor debris, thinning and pruning,

and implementing a fungicide program” (Young).

To an operation that applies conventional methods, this issue would already be cleared up

through a couple fungicide applications. It would be for Koinonia Farm too; however, the

members see the answer differently. They believe in biological farming which means they cannot

apply a fungicide to their orchards.

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According to YLAD Living Soils, biological farming combines conventional and organic

farming methods focusing on attaining naturally productive soils that display high levels of

biological activity. The main purpose is to maximize the activity of soil microbes through the

providing of soil nutrition and structure. YLAD tells us that, “biological agriculture understands

the necessity for a balanced relationship between the three aspects of the soil, namely the

physical, chemical and biological to sustain life. Everything comes from the soil and returns to

the soil, it is a living system alive with trillions of organisms that recycle nutrients and sustain

life” (“YLAD”).

Koinonia Farm’s new issue is that their current methods are not helping the pecan scab.

Instead of removing the orchard floor debris and depositing of it, they are using it to make their

compost tea. Koinonia Farm sprays their orchards with compost tea as fertilizer. Compost tea is

made up of orchard debris mixed with fish emulsions, nematodes, and water. Koinonia Farm

does this with the intentions of making the soil healthy so that the trees will become healthy in

return, the idea is that they will naturally fight off insects and diseases. The problem is that the

fungus that affects these trees is still on the twigs and leaves that Koinonia uses in the compost

tea. This means that the fungus is being sprayed back onto the trees. This only causes the fungus

to stay around and for scab spores to spread.

One thing that always comes to mind when someone mentions a farm is livestock.

Koinonia Farm has a rich history of livestock production; however, they are not currently

producing meat. When their last farm manager moved on to green pastures after the farm went

through personnel pay cuts, livestock production was no more. Livestock at Koinonia consisted

of cattle and poultry. These animals had a very positive symbiotic relationship with the pecan

orchards.

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Cattle would walk through the orchards and their hoof impressions would leave small

wells in the ground. These small holes fill with water and hold onto it better than flat land. This

serves as natural irrigation for the trees. Poultry, which consisted of chickens, ducks, and

turkeys, also had a positive impact on the orchard. The chickens lived in a chicken tractor. A

chicken tractor is a movable chicken coop lacking a floor. This was perfect for Koinonia because

the members could move the chicken tractor and chickens around the orchards to spread chicken

litter. Dr. Lenny Wells and Dr. Gary Hawkins, University of Georgia, tells us that, “the

utilization of animal manure as a fertilizer is an integral part of sustainable agriculture, and

animal manures have been used effectively as fertilizers for centuries. Poultry manure, in

particular, has long been recognized as perhaps the most desirable of these natural fertilizers

because of its high nitrogen content. Poultry manure also provides other essential plant nutrients”

(Wells). They go on to conclude by saying, “when managed responsibly, poultry litter can be a

safe and effective means of supplying fertilizer nutrients to pecan trees” (Wells).

Overall, Koinonia Farm does everything a little differently. The members are searching

desperately for an answer to their pecan scab problem, and in about five years they will be able

to see if their biological farming experiment helps their operation. Koinonia Farm is different

from most agricultural operations because their lifestyle is reflected in their farming practices.

Koinonia is a very strong community that has overcome many obstacles in their history; scab is

just another obstacle that they will prevail from.

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Works Cited

“Donate a Commemorative Brick.” Koinonia Farm, www.koinoniafarm.org/bricks/.

Wells, Lenny, and Gary Hawkins. Best Management Practices of Poultry Litter in Pecan

Orchards. UGA Cooperative Extension, Apr. 2009,

athenaeum.libs.uga.edu/bitstream/handle/10724/12328/C939.pdf?sequence=1.

“Ylad Living Soils.” What Is Biological Agriculture,

www.yladlivingsoils.com.au/ABoutUs/biologicalagriculture.html.

Young, Carolyn, and Nikki Charlton. “How to Identify and Control Pecan Scab.” Noble

Research Institute, www.noble.org/news/publications/ag-news-and

views/2018/april/how-to-identify-and-control-pecan-scab/.

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