History and Delicacies: What’s Not to Love?

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What does a Southern-based travel writer do in April? Take a road trip, of course, to Georgia, for National Pecan Month, a lovely excuse for eating pecan pies, homemade pecan ice cream, candied pecans, salads rippling with the delicious nuts, and any Southern recipe that requires the perfect pecan coating.

The nutty adventure began in Americus, Georgia. Surprisingly unknown, this town beckoned and piqued my curiosity about a historic place of peace named Koinonia Farm. Upon learning Koinonia’s story recently, I was personally ashamed that I had not known of them before. Although the historic Windsor Hotel and other hidden spots within the city of Americus are well worth visiting, Koinonia had me in its grips.

In 1942, a concept of Christian communal living was brought to life by two families in Georgia. Clarence and Florence Jordan, along with Martin and Mabel England, established a “demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God.” As they built the farm and devoted themselves entirely, they employed their neighbors, regardless of color, to assist them on the farm and in the orchards. They paid black and white neighbors fair and equal wages. They prayed together even though churches were segregated throughout the south. The Koinonians also shared meals, sitting around communal tables. They were singularly committed to pacifism and equality, which infuriated many. They emphasized the brotherhood and sisterhood of all people.

Tiny and isolated, Koinonia became a threat to the segregated ways of the south. In the 1950s, targeted by the KKK, the site and the families that lived and worked there were bombed, endured bullets flying around their loved ones while their business was threatened with boycotts. All of these aggressions failed to chase the mighty Koinonia family off the farm. Their response was prayer, commitment to living the Gospels and nonviolent resistance.

Neighbors were afraid to buy the farm’s pecans and were prohibited from selling them necessary goods and food due to intimidation by the KKK. During my visit and chatting with the modern-day Koinonians, I learned that Clarence Jordan explained the mail order experiment this way, “We need to ship all the nuts out of Georgia.” It may have made his spiritual family chuckle, but it was financial survival. This adjustment of necessity was incredibly successful and the Koinonian mail order business exists to this day.

Clarence’s housing ministry gave birth to Habitat for Humanity. Millard and Linda Fuller, followers of Koinonia, brought Clarence’s concept to the world, his magical legacy. Habitat for Humanity world headquarters is also in tiny Americus, Georgia. I was pleased to note the number of Clarence Jordan’s pictures adorning the humble property on the central street downtown. It’s also fun to drive a few miles to Plains, Georgia, where Jimmy Carter and his family have given so much to this active, productive mission.

Nuts about Pecans
According to the Georgia Pecan Commission, nearly 30 varieties of pecans are grown in America. Georgia leads the way as the nation’s top producer, producing an estimated 100 million pounds of pecans annually. The pecan, recognized as “nutrition in a nutshell,” is packed with countless health-promoting nutrients, minerals and vitamins. The American Cancer Society states that research studies suggest that antioxidants such as those in pecans help the body remove toxic oxygen free radicals and protect the body from diseases, cancers, and infections.

Back on the Road
A short, lovely drive to Fort Valley, Georgia, brought my trusty Subaru to Lane Southern Orchards. Massive in size compared to Koinonia, the farm produces a bounty of peaches and pecans. The crops are planted and thrive together in the orchard due to their complementary production times. It is a brilliant and productive way to use their fertile land. Their peach trees blossom first, then the pecans follow shortly after. Pecan harvesting is now mechanized; shaking the harvest loose requires fewer labor hours than their peach crops.

Pecans, the Lane management shared, are not without Mother Nature’s seasonal wrath, such as high winds and hurricanes. In 2018, Hurricane Michael wiped out many pecan trees in Georgia as proof that all things in nature are vulnerable.

A stop in their quaint, well-appointed store and cafe is a must while visiting. Their amazing dessert and ice cream will remain in your dreams forever!

Macon, Georgia
Moving on, we discovered Macon, Georgia, our last stop on the nutty adventure timed perfectly to attend the Cherry Blossom Festival. The only pecans in Macon are in their beautiful restaurants, but these alone are worth the trip, trendy and emerging as a culinary gem in the south; travelers are noticing more and more. We stayed at the 1842 Inn, which is the center of gracious old-world living.

Utterly intoxicating, from the scent and sight, do not miss cherry blossom time in Macon. Of course, this writer advises, try not to ever bypass Macon. ■