Jamie Vidich looked over his acre of farm land and considered the tasks that had to be done that day. Remove diseased eggplant and tomato plants, pull irrigation tape, make soil boxes for new seeds, uproot weeds -- normally it would take him days to finish. It's usually just him, a brother and a friend working the land at Bear Island Farm in Colleton River Plantation. But Sunday, the chores only took a few hours.
More than 15 volunteers came to the small farm as part of a growing trend of helping hands. Popping up all over the country, "crop mobs" are loose organizations of volunteers that organize trips to assist independent farmers with daily tasks.
"There's more people out than I've ever seen here," Vidich said.
The idea grew out of North Carolina's Triangle region when a group of farmers got together about three years ago to help one of their own with a harvest. Crop mobs have quickly evolved, an outgrowth of the recent interest in organic and locally grown foods that has swept the nation. More than 50 groups now exist, according to the clearinghouse website CropMob.org.
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A crop mob based out of Savannah sprouted earlier this spring. Organizer Andrea Malloy first investigated the concept at a conference of Georgia Organics, an organization that promotes organic and sustainable farming. She teamed with Savannah resident Grace Corry and, with the help of Crop Mob Atlanta, got under way. They work within a two-hour radius of the city, and have put their sweat into six farms so far. Malloy said the Bear Island mob was the best attended yet.
Bear Island connected to the mob when Malloy spoke to Vidich for a survey she was doing for the conservation league about small farmers in Beaufort and Jasper counties. Vidich started farming about a year ago on land that's been in his family since before Colleton River became a plantation.
The mob worked for several hours Sunday morning before breaking for lunch, catered by Cast Iron Chef, followed by a refreshing dip in the nearby river.
"Small farms couldn't do what they do without support from the community," Vidich said. "It's the community that makes the farm."
Lady's Island resident David Hislop came to help but also to glean knowledge from Vidich. Hislop helped start the Sea Island Local Outlet at Habersham Marketplace that sells locally grown products. Now he's moving into farming with a plot at Habersham, where he plans to raise chickens and grow vegetables.
Beaufort still is an up-and-coming area in terms of farming, Hislop said. It hasn't reached a saturation point, and farmers have to fight each other for business. In the spirit of the crop mob, farmers will have to work together if they want to flourish, he said.
"I believe in collaboration between farmers," Hislop said. "We complement more than we compete."