For Fayette County residents Nicole and Scott Tyson, the labor of love known as the nonprofit 180-degree Farm off Ga. Highway 154 in Sharpsburg continues.
What began half a decade ago as a ministry and a method of sharing their conviction that eating organic food is a life-saving reality, as it was for their son Mason, the farm today is making its mark on Coweta County and some of its residents who are in need.
The farm in 2013 gave away more than 24,000 pounds of organic food to churches, food banks and community organizations.
Above, right, Coweta County nonprofit 180-degree Farm co-founder Scott Tyson recently braved the enclosure where the farm’s ducks and their “watch dog” protectors, the geese, spend the day feasting on a diet of grass free of pesticides and herbicides. Photo/Ben Nelms.
Working the farm year-round has been a labor of love for the past several years. The activities around the property in March were no exception to the work that always goes into preparing for new crops.
“This is all in preparation for a huge spring and summer,” Scott explained, adding that “Nicole is the unsung hero of the farm.”
Scott said the farm recently received a donated “hoop house,” essentially an unheated greenhouse that in early March was being used to grow carrots, kale, beets, potatoes and two types of turnips.
The 2,160 sq. ft. hoop house came in handy during the unseasonably cold winter, Scott said, noting that the farm lost 6,000 onions due to frigid temperatures.
“We’re blessed with a lot of support with things like replanting the onions,” said Scott. “This (donated greenhouse) is going to be huge for us.”
The farm now has four fields in production. As the spring growing season progresses, Scott and Nicole will see crops that include garlic, lettuce, arugula, carrots, beets, kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, turnips, tomatoes, potatoes and cabbage. And that is just the beginning. The coming months will see the addition of other crops growing across the fields at the 180-degree Farm.
As usual, activities at the farm involve much more than growing fruits and vegetables.
Other offerings found at the farm include bees, pasture-raised turkey and pasture-raised and grass-fed Katahbados and Sulfolk lamb. A staple of the operation are chicken and duck eggs from birds that consume a constant diet of grass and bugs, the way nature intended.
“We’re reducing the chicken egg stock and ramping up the duck egg production,” Scott said.
As for the geese that can be found with the ducks and chickens, they are there to produce eggs and, as anyone who may have had a close encounter with a goose knows, they are also there to protect the other fowl and will easily make quick work on anyone who might venture into their domain.
A part of the mission and the ministry that is the 180-degree Farm is to support Coweta County’s needy families. Working with local churches, the farm in 2012 gave away 13,000 pounds of fresh, organic food. In 2013, the amount given to churches, food banks and community organizations totaled 24,500 pounds, with the majority staying in Coweta County.
As has been the case since the farm opened, people continue to come from across metro Atlanta to visit the farm and participate in its endeavors.
The farm is involved in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, where participants support local agriculture by investing in (or pre-paying for) a seasonal food subscription.
Expanding their mission in 2013, Nicole and Scott developed a relationship with a local cancer hospital. The farm now supplies patients with 300-350 pounds of fresh, organic food per week. The farm is also growing ginger and turmeric, two foods often sought out by cancer patients. A portion of these products is sold at the hospital and some is given at no charge.
“It’s really cool knowing this is going to people with cancer who need it. This allows us to connect on a different level. We absolutely love it,” said Scott. “We’re Christian, so knowing (their son) Mason’s story, they let us pray with them.”
Central to their desire to establish the farm was their son, Mason, who at age 3 in 2006 was diagnosed with abdominal cancer. The tumor was removed, but the couple would not agree to chemotherapy even though doctors told them there was cancer in his lymph nodes on the left side of his abdomen. The risk of catastrophic damage to his young body and the risk of a greatly diminished quality of life from chemotherapy, and perhaps even early death, led to their decision.
Instead, they brought Mason home and soon began eating organic foods. And they began to research. That effort led to their proposal to the Coweta County Commission in mid-2009 to establish the 180-degree Farm.
“We called it ‘180 Degree Farm’ because it was a turn in the right direction,” Scott said.
And still today, now eight years later, Mason remains cancer-free.
It was in July 2009 that Nicole and Scott approached the Coweta County Commission about adding a zoning category to Coweta County’s Zoning and Development Ordinance allowing commercial farms to incorporate sustainable agriculture, organic gardening and agritourism on less than 20 acres. Their request was quickly approved.
Among other examples during the presentation, Scott cited information from the Toxics Information Project that farmers who frequently use pesticides have a six-fold increase in Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He also cited the nutritional advantages of raising free-range chickens and eating eggs from pasture-raised chickens.
Scott told commissioners that based on research, he believed the farmers’ cancer had been linked to pesticides. That reality, he said, had caused him to consider the negative health effects of food grown on conventional farms where pesticides and synthetic fertilizers are commonly used.
For Scott and Nicole, the farm is a mission and a ministry and a way to help others avoid the pesticide, herbicide, hormone and antibiotic-laden commercial foods that they believe contribute to cancer and a host of other diseases.
Beyond their efforts on the farm, the couple since 2009 have taught food awareness and nutrition classes, conducted educational workshops and hosted three documentary screenings.
For more information on the nonprofit 180-degree Farm visit www.180degreefarm.org.
Below, pasture-raised and grass-fed Katahbados and Sulfolk lamb graze on the farm. Photo/Ben Nelms.