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Whippoorwill Hollow promotes local food
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Andy Byrd’s enthusiasm for organic fruits and vegetables are undeniable. His family and friends praise his love of providing and promoting healthy food. His Whippoorwill Hollow Farm, 3905 Ga. Highway 138, is a testament to his passion.

Byrd had grown up in a community grocery store owned by his parents. He became interested in agriculture through various trips with his father to the farmers market.

Byrd sustained a broken neck in a diving accident in 1980, which left him permanently in a wheelchair.

He opened a video store and a pizza store and joined the Walnut Grove City Council, where he remained for 15 years. Yet his interest in farming never went away.

"I really wanted to start farming," said Byrd. "I had always enjoyed fresh food and I knew others would, too."

Byrd and his wife, Hilda, bought Whippoorwill Hollow Farm in 2000. It is certified organic and employs two full-time (his brother-in-law and best friend), a few part-time employees and several volunteers.

When Hilda passed a year ago, Byrd continued with the farm.

"She loved everything that was grown out here," said Byrd. "She loved her flowers and meeting people. She always had a smile on her face."

In winter, the farm produces vegetables including bok choy, lettuces, arugula, kale, carrots and beets.

There’s livestock at Whipporwill, too, including horses, goats and chickens. While the farm sells fresh eggs cultivated from its free-range chickens, the livestock is there primarily to serve as a petting zoo for children who visit the farm.

"I want to be able to educate young children on where their food comes from," explained Byrd. "That’s how we can pass down the education of how fruits and vegetables can be affordable and available to the community."

The farm operates throughout the year, facing different challenges along the way. The main obstacle the farm has to deal with in winter is extreme cold. The farm has already experienced some crop damage from cold this year.

"When it gets to be below 20 degrees, things just don’t grow as fast," said Byrd. "We try to cross-cover to keep them warm, but that only can do so much."

"It’s something new everyday," added Jerry Pilgrim, fellow employee and old friend of Byrd’s. "One day we would have to cover the crop and the next we would have to uncover it."

The staff built a 30-by-100-foot hoop house, essentially a greenhouse, that keeps the cold out at night and stores warmth from the sun during the day.

Whippoorwill Hollow Farm works with Community Supported Agriculture, an organization that helps members receive fresh and organic produce. The farm sells a percentage of their produce that is picked up once a week by customers.

"When you go to a grocery store, the vegetables and fruits are already over a week old," said Byrd. "This gives people a chance to get produce that’s fresh out of the ground."

The farm also sells its produce in various farmers markets in Metro Atlanta, like Decatur Square and Morningside Farmer’s Market. Its Whippoorwill peas are shipped across the country.

Whippoorwill has played host to several festivities in past years, including the annual Eastern Native American "We are All Related" Charity Pow Wow. Proceeds from the event were donated to assist Native Americans with diabetes.

Five years ago, Andy and Hilda began hosting the annual Field of Greens festival in an effort to promote community awareness regarding fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. The festival featured 31 Atlanta chefs serving small plates of gourmet organic meals. The event acted as a farm relief fundraiser as well, with proceeds going to aid farmers during a poor economic climate. Field of Greens proved to be success for the farm, and Byrd looks forward to more events like it.

Byrd continues to grow the Whippoorwill farm and plans to erect more hoop houses in the upcoming year, He hopes to carry on attracting and teaching people about organic products.

"(Andy) just wants to farm fresh food and help people eat better," said Pilgrim. "It’s hard to get good produce like this these days. But it’s harder to get people to eat better."