Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The New Business of Agribusiness, Part II: Skylight Farm on Tending the Land and Community

[Photo Credit: Justen Clay Photography]
Last week, friends and followers of Eberly & Collard Public Relations were introduced to Justin Aiello and Skylight Farm. Our team was given the opportunity to share Skylight Farm’s integrative and relational marketing methodology, which has propelled Aiello into the spotlight as an innovative, new face for organic agribusiness. This week, our team is excited to delve more deeply into the in’s-and-out’s of organic growing and how Skylight Farm’s unique practices affect the Georgia growing community.

Why farm? Justin Aiello, the young owner and operator of Skylight Farm, could provide a long list of reasons why he chose to quit his previous job and pursue farming, but they all point to caring for the land and his community. The 27-year-old farmer, motivated by a desire to contribute to the local, sustainable food-culture in Atlanta, has spent the past year learning and researching the effects of farming on the local environment. His comprehensive study of biointensive growing methods, as well as the opportunity to be schooled in southern growing culture by seasoned veterans, has provided the farmer with a unique outlook on agribusiness. Skylight Farm is a blending of old methods and new practices with an innovative and fresh outlook on agribusiness.

[Photo Credit: Justen Clay Photography]

Aiello’s growing methods range from those that have been passed down through generations of Georgia farmers, to the employment of the most modern agricultural technology. Everything done on the farm is put to practice with great care and sustainability in mind. Skylight Farm employs a number of different growing methods that enable Aiello to produce as much as possible, while caring for the land in the best way possible. 

From SPIN, or small plot intensive farming, to conservation tillage methods, Aiello’s approach to growing is both pioneering and conscientious. Skylight Farm does intensive crop rotations and cover cropping, to keep the soil nutrient-rich as well as helping to prevent pest and disease problems. The farm also composts, harnesses integrative pest management practices and as Aiello emphasizes, makes use of “good, old-fashioned hard work.” 

[Photo Credit: Justen Clay Photography]
Since Skylight Farm sits on only a few acres, the farmer has embraced one growing method in particular, SPIN farming. Aiello explains, “SPIN farming allows you to grow very productively on a small space, only a few acres. In order to achieve the highest variety and most production out of a small space, you must plant smaller sections of crops and plant more often.” This means that a field could produce as many as 15 different crops at any given time. So, Skylight Farm plants row-by-row, alternating the rows in which different crops will be grown. Aiello illustrates that a 100 foot row of carrots might be completely harvested over the course of two weeks, so he plants a new bed of carrots, in a different place, every two weeks. He elaborates on the benefits of this method, sharing that, “SPIN farming allows us to have a steady supply of vegetables while maintaining a high variety in our crop rotation as well as making sure we don’t over-use the soil with just one crop.” The farm currently serves as a model for this method of farming and Aiello hopes to educate future growers on the environmental benefits to be found in this approach to production.

With education and preservation in mind, Skylight Farm utilizes integrative marketing to develop relationship with its local community in the hopes of sharing its engaging and unique approach to agribusiness. Those who interact with the farm, whether it’s digitally or at the Piedmont Park Green Market, learn something new about farming with each interaction. When Aiello shares photos documenting the step-by-step process of growing kale or posts an article about food seasonality, Skylight Farm bridges a gap in the connection between producers and community. Each time a customer asks Aiello about his business at the farmers market and he shares tidbits about organic farming, the purpose of Skylight Farm comes full circle. 

[Photo Credit: Justen Clay Photography]
As ECPR seeks to connect consumers with what they are consuming, our team gets excited about sharing innovative businesses, like Skylight Farm, who are creating fresh connections. In tending the land, Justin Aiello and Skylight Farm are investing in the health of Atlanta. As Aiello emphasizes, “Building relationships with a farm is not only a way to support your local economy, but also a way to support sustainable, healthy living. Know your farmer, know your food.”

To get to know Skylight Farm, click the link to visit their Facebook page:

You can also visit with Justin and the rest of the Skylight Farm team or pick up some veggies at the Piedmont Park Green Market every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Click the link for more information: 

[Photo Credit: Brittany Price]

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