Ed Janosik & The Sundance Farm
It is a balmy and mild early fall Sunday in September when I make the twenty-five minute trek to meet Ed Janosik on his organic Sundance Farm in Madison County. Armed with a spiral notebook, pen, and very little knowledge of organic farming, I am excited to see what the day will bring.
As I veer down a mile long driveway, cross a small bridge, and turn a corner, I see an utterly breathtaking expanse of carefully pruned garden rows. A pen of wild hogs greet me on the right and I can see turkeys sitting atop the trees on the hill above the vegetable patch. A finely hewn log cabin with a wraparound porch is visible and I later learn it serves as both home and Sundance Farm headquarters.
I pull over and ask the gentleman watering carrot seeds if he is “Ed.” I am greeted with a smile and a nod. I lightly track through the Georgia dirt in my leather boots, shake his hand, and note that he bears a striking resemblance to movie actor Rutger Hauer. I immediately share that I know very little about farming, organic or otherwise. Ed is a gracious teacher and throughout the afternoon I learn many cool facts under his tutelage.
Ed Janosik is cultivating organic fruits, vegetables, growing free-range protein, raising three young adults and managing a 28-acre farm. This is one man's vision, passion, and kingdom borne into fruition. It is quite an impressive sight to behold. As Ed finished his afternoon watering, he showed me the actual plants being watered were tiny carrot sprouts. They were so tiny, in fact, that they were indiscernible from the surrounding weeds. The amount of detail and care it takes to nurture something so small into a crisp orange carrot is exceptional.
One of the greatest differences between organic and traditional farming is the use of chemical agents. Organic farming is chemical-free. Ed uses practices such as torching weeds and BT spray (a microbial pest control agent) to keep his gardens in top shape. Traditional farming employs the use of harsh chemicals, especially Glyphosate, which is the chemical in Round-Up. Glyphosate has been scientifically-linked to autism, ADHD, multiple cancers, kidney disease, Celiac Disease, and several other health conditions. Round-Up is poisoning our food supply. Organic farming is the answer to eliminating chemical-borne diseases in our food supplies.
Ed Janosik is making a difference by feeding people fresh food that is grown and raised with awareness. He oversees every detail on Sundance Farm from the curing of over twenty varieties of peppers to the preparation of turkeys and hogs before they become the centerpiece of a holiday meal. The love and passion that goes into his work is abundantly clear in such a small gesture as the way he methodically waters the carrot sprouts.
Born in Pennsylvania, Janosik is a lifelong outdoors enthusiast. Prior to farming Sundance as a full throttle operation, he owned a landscaping business that he started in the '90's. His academic background complements his current occupation. Ed earned his Associate Degree in Environmental Science at Ferrum College in Virginia before coming to Athens to finish a B.S. in Zoology at the University of Georgia ('89). After graduation, he decided to take a seven year road trip with his Alaskan Malamute who just so happened to be named Sundance. It was through this cross country adventure that Ed gained a true appreciation for farming as he took migrant labor jobs to sustain his travels. He harvested blueberries in Maine and planted trees from Georgia to Maine. The road eventually led back to Athens, GA where he married and had a son and two daughters. The Janosiks found Sundance Farm and it fulfilled a big dream for Ed to have his own piece of land to cultivate.
Sundance Farms was established in 1999. Initially the farm was a part-time project that served as an addition to his landscaping business. Since 2010, Sundance Farm has become a full-time operation. Ed employs one full-time employee and seasonal employees as needed. Sundance Farm provides fresh organic fruits and vegetables to the Athens Farmer's Market at Bishop Park, which has 70 markets through the course of a year. [Editor's Note: Athens Farmer's Market doubles the value of EBT purchases. This means organic food is available at half-price to EBT cardholders].
Over the span of 28 acres, Ed Janosik forages for chanterelle mushrooms, grows kale, garlic, squash, peanuts, carrots, eggplant, artichokes, cucumbers, tomatoes, leeks, peppers, corn, pumpkins, and raises turkeys and hogs. He even has a patented seed that he has perfected over the last 12 years. It is the “Sundance Stripe Jungle Peanut” and rumor has it that it makes the tastiest boiled peanut known to man. Many of his selections end up in local Athens restaurants and markets – The National, Donna Chang's, The Daily Co-Op, Normal Bazaar Market. Chances are high that if one is eating organically-grown food in Athens, Georgia, Ed Janosik grew that delicious food.
Perhaps the most interesting tidbit I learned during my visit to Ed and Sundance Farm is the prominence of the seed. When I asked Ed what the most important factor in farming was for a successful crop, he replied “Planting a seed is the biggest thing.” Ed explained the difference between an heirloom seed and a heritage seed and the process of seed hybridization. Crossing seeds and creating hybrid strains of vegetables and fruits is common in organic farming. Traditional farming uses genetic modification (GMO) of seeds and changes the structure on a molecular level whereas hybridization is perfected through growth cycles and can take generations to form a suitable hybrid.
It is clear that Ed Janosik has developed, planted, and sprouted a multitude of seeds in his life. The seeds of a wanderer and dreamer. The seeds of family. The seeds of carrots and peppers. The seed of awareness that organic farming is the healthiest way to nourish the human body. Ed Janosik and the Sundance Farm are local Northeast GA treasures.
In summation on the subject of organic farming and seeds, Ed stated that “a seed is a miracle” and he quoted Henry David Thoreau- “Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”
[ Fun Fact: The only thing cooler than being a rugged farmer, quoting Thoreau, and developing one's own perfect peanut is being humble enough to admit that you grow organic food and yet love Swedish Fish, the bright red gummy candy. Ed revealed his love for the candy.]