Find authentic Southwest Georgia experiences, about an hour from I-10 and only 45 minutes from I-75, an ideal resting place or stopping point when en route to/from Savannah and Charleston–or even Florida, in Albany, Georgia, where farmers with sustainable practices meet creative makers, merging art and nature.
Something in the water
Across the street from the flowing waters of Georgia’s Flint River, brews at Pretoria Fields Collective (120 Pine Avenue, www.PretoriaFields.com), where the four core beers, as well as seasonally released limited editions available only in the tasting room, offer sudsy sips for everyone. Flights of beers are available to those who have a tough time choosing. The brewery also serves as a community space, a place for gathering old friends and making new connections over a shared enjoyment of craft beer.
The outdoor courtyard is the perfect place to toss a game of corn hole or practice your disc golf putt. Indoors, board and card games, as well as an exceptional view of the 30-barrel brewhouse, make for a relaxed ambiance. Field Guides offer free guided tours of the brewery on the top of the hour–just let them know when you order a beer that you’d like to join a tour. Ongoing events, including live music and food trucks, round out the experience. Well-behaved children and dogs on leashes are always welcome, too.
Neighbor nearby, The Flint (112 Pine Avenue, www.TheFlintAlbanyGeorgia.com) opened doors in Summer 2019. Owned and operated by the Singfield family, the same tour de force behind Albany Fish Company, The Flint is a full-service fine dining restaurant situated along the Flint River and remains true to local roots while exploring the flavors of the world. Guests can salivate over Southern cuisine with a modern twist, including Stuffed Flounder and Fried Catfish, while celebrating a sense of community in a gathering place featuring the freshest seafood and richest Southern cuisine in Southwest Georgia.
Fredando “Farmer Fredo” Jackson, the executive director of Flint River Fresh, has worked in agricultural outreach to low-income communities and in food production for a decade and wants to make a difference in rural and under-served communities by teaching “super simple” sustainable practices that feed people, preserving the environment and empowering young people. Southwest Georgia is one of the most productive agricultural regions of the state with an annual farm gate value of $2 billion, but many citizens of Albany are still disconnected from local, healthy foods. Albany is the main hub for much of the surrounding rural region of southwest Georgia, which is primarily farmland and forestland. In 2018, Flint River Fresh:
- Assisted with 22 school and community gardens throughout Dougherty County.
- Organized Mobile Farmers Market with Albany Housing Authority serving five communities with high population of seniors and people with disabilities.
- Hosted Grow Your Groceries workshops at churches, hospitals, community centers, businesses, nurseries, feed stores, and health/wellness centers.
- Supplied Dougherty County Schools with locally grown collards and satsuma oranges.
- Distributed over 75,000 pounds of produce from local farmers directly to shoppers Dougherty, Lee, Mitchell and Sumter County.
Farmer Fredo and his organization continue to offer healthy food and sustainable farming practices to low income and under-served communities through programs such as the Pop-Up Farm Stand, Youth Development, Small Farmers Distribution Network, Grow Your Own Groceries, Community Urban Farms and Seed to Sanctuary.
Master the art of Italian cooking with classes at The Italian Wooden Spoon (182 Oakland Parkway, Leesburg, Georgia, www.ItalianWoodenSpoon.com), where Laura Bernardi Piovesana, born and raised in Italy, along with friend, Linda Nagel, impart culinary knowledge to guests while using local ingredients as much as possible, some of which are supplied by Flint River Fresh. Book classes online to learn authentic techniques for crafting homemade lasagna, meatballs and more.
Located in the Pecan Capital of the World, Albany, the 1,769-acre pecan farm, Sunnyland Farms (www.SunnylandFarms.com/Page/welcome-to-sunnyland-farms), has been family-owned since 1948 and strives to do everything with excellence, from the harvesting to the grading to the packing and shipping. What started as a mail-order business now provides products to tens of thousands of customers around the world and shipping is always free. Sunnyland Farms is unique in that it is a farm and a manufacturer. Every product is managed on site with close attention to detail. Customers can stop by the Albany-based farm to purchase certified Kosher and heart-healthy products or shop online. Interested in a behind-the-scenes view from a Chef and food writer who came to visit? Check out her fantastic write-up and review of life at Sunnyland Farms and what makes the Georgia pecan business and farm so special—”What’s In Season: Georgia Pecans” by Virginia Willis.
Don’t miss a stop at Mark’s Melon Patch (8580 Albany Highway, Dawson, Georgia 39842, www.MarksMelonPatch.com). Just outside of Albany, the famous roadside farm market is well known for the freshest produce around. For more than 30 years, families from across the state and country have visited the Highway 82 roadside market for delicious fresh fruits, vegetables and a family fun atmosphere. During autumn, a corn maze, hayrides and other family fun activities enhance the authentic farm stand experience.
For authentic comfort food that’s good for the soul, head to Pearly’s (814 N. Slappey Boulevard, Albany 31701; PearlysCookin.com), Albany’s oldest family-owned and operated restaurant. There’s a reason they’ve been voted “Best of the Best” three years running!
Continue authentic explorations with a quick day trip to Still Pond Vineyard and Distillery (1575 Still Pond Road, Arlington; (StillPond.com). Still Pond is the only Farm Winery and Distillery in the Southeast United States and a proud member of the American Distilling institute and proudly produced craft spirits. Enjoy strolling through the lush vineyards. Sample some of Still Pond’s 18 award-winning wines and savor sips of the vodka awarded a Double Gold medal by The Fifty Best, an online guide to fine living, featuring rated listings from unbiased, proprietary blind tastings by wine/spirits journalists, spirits professionals, retailers, mixologists, spirits consultants and connoisseurs.
Jarrett and Michelle Martin are the talented Albany-based master artisans behind Rusty Cage Designs, a business offering handmade jewelry using quality gemstones, genuine leather and soldered pieces as well as custom handmade metal and wood lighting. Find the jewelry at locally owned Bellou & Company as well as Joseph’s Cottage in downtown Port St. Joe, Florida.
Complementing the jewelry side of the business, Jarrett is dedicated to crafting lighting that is handmade to order. The business was born after the Martin’s 22-year-old niece, Jordan, passed away in a car accident in 2013. Feeling devastated and channeling his grief, Jarrett made a chandelier out of rusted metal parts from his grandfather’s farm. Inspired, he continued to make lighting and the dynamic duo began selling the pieces. The name Rusty Cage Designs was again inspired by the rusty metal Jarrett uses and the song “Rusty Cage” by Johnny Cash. The bluebird in the company’s logo symbolizes the couple’s niece. Michelle builds her offerings by making what she likes to wear, and she refuses to mass-produce, citing Rusty Cage Designs as a hobby outside of working full time at an orthopedic office and raising two boys. The family also owns a landscaping business.
“I would definitely say between the two of us, being creative is our therapy,” says Martin. “My vision is just to continue being creative as long as we can, or as long as it’s still fun!”
When they’re not crafting, find the couple at locally owned Harvest Moon (Stewbos.com, 2347 Dawson Rd, Albany 31707) , enjoying community at Pretoria Fields, exploring Chehaw Park (Chehaw.org, 105 Chehaw Park Road
Albany, 31701) and the Flint Riverquarium (www.FlintRiverquarium.com, 117 Pine Ave, Albany 31701).
“Albany is home, our families are here. We both grew up in Albany. We moved away with schooling and jobs. We both made it back to Albany and have made our home here raising our family,” adds Martin.
To place a custom order, email [email protected].
Local store, Bellou & Company (www.Facebook.com/bellou2018/, 2333-2345 Dawson Rd, Albany, 31707) was founded out of owner, Amy Lamb’s, passion for design and the desire to take the old, worn-out or odd piece of scrap and incorporate it into something beautiful for herself or a friend’s home. The store offers an assortment of home décor, food items, artwork, lighting, clothing, jewelry and more and tries to source and carry items that are all locally sourced or produced in Georgia, with an emphasis on South Georgia craftsmanship. For instance, find clothing produced by the youngest person to become a member of the Albany Chamber of Commerce, as well as artists that have retired from careers in corporate America to focus on creating beautiful works of art within their respective genres.
Lamb explains, “Here in South Georgia, we have so many talented artists and craftsman. I wanted my store to bring this local talent to the customer in a funky, ‘out-of-the-ordinary’ storefront to allow the surrounding area to see what beautiful and creative artistry that we have in South Georgia.”
Lamb recommends Albany restaurants Harvest Moon, conveniently located directly in front of the shop, as well as The Bread House (TheBreadHouse.com, 520 N Jefferson Street, Albany 31701), a must when in Albany. Several of The Bread House’s fresh-baked items and locally sourced honey are available for purchase at Bellou & Company.
If you go
Complete the getaway with a retro experience at Merry Acres Inn (1500 Dawson Road, Albany; MerryAcres.com), with its Southern historic charm. Catch up over cocktails at the Manor House Pub located at the hotel while live music on the hotel’s veranda fills the air with sweet sounds. TIP: Take the inn’s free shuttle to The Catch (2332 Whispering Pines Rd., Albany; Catch.Stewbos.com) for dinner. Start off with the best hush puppies the South has to offer! Order from their oyster bar–eat em’ raw off the shell or baked to perfection. For an elegant dining experience, take the complementary shuttle to another Stewbos favorite, Henry Campbell’s Steakhouse (629 N Westover Boulevard, Albany; Steakhouse.Stewbos.com). Choose from their seven cuts of premium steak or shrimp and grits.