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Goodfortune Farm Tour: Gannon Organics, Organic Farming in the Summer Heat of Savannah, Georgia

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Gannon Organics is our first stop as part of a series of tours of local farms around the Savannah area. Our goal is to learn more about food and establish relationships with farmers. Gannon Organics is an organic farm in Savannah, Georgia. The farm sits on the property of Bethesda Academy originally one of the oldest orphanages in America. While the farm once operated as an education program for the school, Brendan Gannon now operates the farm and provides food for some of Savannah’s best restaurants. Everything grown on the property is high quality and 100% organic.

Organic crops growing in Savannah, Georgia

The farm is wedged between a cow pasture, a creek, and marshland draining into Shipyard Creek and eventually leading to the ocean. The farm is 10 miles away from Wasaw Sound, the mouth of Wilmington river and the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean. There is an abundance of wildlife on the property. A hawk soared above us as we strolled the property and there was no shortage of pollinators. The fields were filled with a diverse army of bees and butterflies. Brendan says a family of foxes lives on the property and sometimes find shelter in the hoophouse. He installed a deer fence but they will still manage to find their way amongst the crops.


Birds eye view of organic farm in Savannah, GA

Google (2023) Chatham County. Available at: http://www.google.com/maps (Accessed: 5 September 2023).


When we visited in early September, summer was still in full swing. The temperature was 90 degrees, approaching a record high. This time of year for South Georgia is considered a dead period for farmers. The heat is intense and vegetables become difficult to grow. Despite this, the farm was full of life and preparations were being made for fall. In about 90 days the season will change cool if all goes as planed. South Georgia seems to jump from the heat of summer right to winter without much of a fall season. The greenhouse was full with seed trays of Red Russian Kale, Broccolini, herbs, and other cold hardy crops. In the fields, peppers are approaching the end of their cycle and starting to grow wild. Brendan says he genuinely enjoys peppers and likes growing them. Padrons and Scotch Bonnet Peppers are still going strong. Brendan also grows shishitos, datils, paper lantern habaneros and others. His Padrons we purchased from the Farmers Market surprised us with it's heat and spice.


Peppers growing on a farm in Savannah, Georgia

Brendan posts videos of him sampling the peppers on his Instagram account. The results are fun and entertaining.



Peppers ready to be picked for produce markets in Savannah, Georgia

Some of the fields on the property are resting, waiting, and rejuvenating. This is part of a crop rotation plan and is vital to Brendan's organic farming philosophy. These fields are growing cover crops, mostly sunn hemp and cowpeas. Both are legumes and help return nitrogen to the soil. These cover crops will be mowed down and worked into the soil. This helps provide fuel to the next season's crops and fertilize the soil. Some interesting facts on both crops below from the USDA.


Cover crops on organic farm growing produce for stores in Savannah, Georgia


When grown as a summer annual, sunn hemp can produce over 5,000 pounds of biomass and 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre. It can produce this amount within 60 to 90 days, so it has the potential to build organic matter levels and sequester carbon in the soil. https://plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/plantguide/pdf/pg_crju.pdf


Organic farmer on farm in Savannah, Georgia


Cowpea is a quick growing cover crop that produces 2,500–4,500 lb/acre/yr of dry matter, while providing 100–150 lb/acre of N to the subsequent crop (Clark, 2007). Its long taproot and wide, vegetative spread make it an excellent plant for erosion prevention and weed suppression. Allelopathic compounds in the plant may help to suppress weeds (Clark, 2007). https://plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/plantguide/pdf/pg_viun.pdf

Cowpea has been a staple crop and important protein source for many cultures since the Roman Empire. It was the most commonly cultivated bean used for human consumption in the Old World (Allen and Allen, 1981). Roman writers such as Pliny referred to it as phaseolus. Thomas Jefferson is credited with first using the name cowpea. Today the crop is still widely popular, and good harvests are critical to ensure adequate levels of protein in the diets of populations in India and East Asia (Allen and Allen, 1981). https://plants.usda.gov/DocumentLibrary/plantguide/pdf/pg_viun.pdf

Brendan is growing Moringa on his farm, a tropical tree with leaves that taste spicy and bitter resembling the flavor of Arugula. Moringa is native to South Asia and excels in the heat but will die off in the winter here in Georgia. Moringa is considered a super food because it's high nutrition value, it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and protein. Almost all parts of the Moringa tree are edible. It's leaves can be eaten raw and add flavor to salads, it can be dehydrated and ground into a powder, it can be steeped in an herbal tea. Unfortunately, several trees were lost recently as Hurricane Idalia swept through coastal Georgia. Brendan said he faired relatively well through the hurricane and said he had to deal with some fallen trees.


Organic crops growing on farm in Savannah, GA


The edges of the fields contain a garden of flowers. Brendan collects the flowers for cuttings and sells bouquets at the Savannah Farmers Market. Zinnias, bee balm, sun flowers, and amaranth all keep the pollinators working. A huge mass of Cypress Vine is in full bloom with bright red flowers. Their tube flowers are landing pads for hummingbirds and butterflies.


Flowers on organic farm


Brendan Gannon has been an organic farmer for over a decade. His farm provides healthy food and he focuses on providing his produce in the local Savannah Market. This ensures the food is as fresh as possible. Fresh food is good food. He is regularly at the Savannah Farmers Market and makes deliveries to some of Savannah’s best restaurants. Brendan’s creativity is evident through a diverse selection of exotic plants that are growing on the property. Chefs are eager to get their hands on interesting ingredients to provide flair in their dishes. The farm is sustainable and ecologically healthy. We plan to visit Gannon Organics again soon to see a different season of crops and further our education on food and farming.


Organic peppers growing in Savannah, GA



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