Ruby Davis farms 12-acres of land in Arlington in association with the Southwest Georgia Project.
Take one step outside the home of Arlington native Ruby Davis and there’s no doubt where you are: “Ruby’s Garden.”
The affectionate moniker underestimates the 12-acre spread of crops that includes fruit trees, tomatoes, okra, watermelon, squash, eggplant and corn, to name a few items. Along with seasonal crops throughout the year, Davis’ land is also the home of a flock of chickens and a herd of goats.
And Davis, 74, virtually takes care of everything herself.
Davis is a local gardener and farmer associated with the Southwest Georgia Project, a nonprofit organization that works to engage, empower and educate through advocacy and grassroots organizing.
Davis has been a part of the Southwest Georgia Project for nearly 4 years, supplying food to the Dougherty County School System and the Albany Rescue Mission, as well as local grocery stores, family and friends.
Up before the rooster in her backyard crows, Davis spends her days examining her crops, harvesting the bounty and experimenting with new ways to yield the best results.
“Things get ripe at different times, so there is always something to do,” Davis said. “It keeps me busy, but I love it.”
Davis, a retired nurse, has acquired lifelong experience on the art of gardening and living off the land.
Sitting in the shade of a towering pine tree on family land just down the road from where she grew up, Davis recalls stories from the past, and reflects on some of the differences between then and now.
“That was how we survived back then; it’s just how we lived,” she said. “The only things we went to the store for were flour, sugar, and a few other staples. We provided for ourselves, and shared with our neighbors.
“Nowadays, you’re lucky if you even see your neighbor once a week.”
Another interesting comparison Davis makes between past and present is the new need for exterminators.
“You know, we just didn’t have problems with roaches and termites back then,” Davis recalls. “People want to make houses ‘aesthetically pleasing’ now, and so the walls go down to the ground. But when I was growing up, houses were built up higher, and the chickens could walk underneath them, rooting and searching.
“And they just took care of all of the bugs for us.”
Davis has come a long way since joining the Southwest Georgia Project, from hand-tilling her land with a hoe to operating a tractor on the terrain, but she never forgets her goal of helping and educating others.
Davis’ ultimate dream is to travel the area in a “rolling kitchen” in order to educate young ladies and mothers on how to cook and provide for their families.
“It is so much healthier and economical to know how to take homegrown, natural food and prepare it,” Davis said. “It tastes a lot better too, and it’s just not as difficult as people make it out to be.
“I want to help these young ladies see that too. Now, it’s true that a man likes a good-looking girl, but the real way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
Davis’ aims for this goal are to pre-prepare a variety of foods and meals as examples, transport them in a food truck, and then provide instruction to other on how to prepare them.
“People just don’t eat properly anymore,” Davis said. “You are what you eat – the nutrients of the soil are absorbed into our food, and we take that in.
“People may say they can’t afford it, but what they really do is end up eating what I call ‘dead vegetables.’ ”
Davis’ success with her gardening has been reflected nationally as well.
Upon meeting a woman from Washington, D.C., during a farming conference, Davis joined a co-op in which she shipped her food to D.C. for several years.
According to friend and Southwest Georgia Project Organizer Karen Lawrence, the food was so high-quality and well-provided that all charges from shipping and handling to production costs were pre-provided and taken care of beforehand by the very pleased customer.
“Ms. Ruby is very resourceful, and she always finds a way to get things done and make them better,” Lawrence said. “It’s so nice to see her hard work and persistence paying off in such a neat way.”
And make no mistake, it does take time and persistence. When making a bid to install irrigation, Davis had to jump several hurdles, but giving up was never an option.
“When I was growing up, you just found a way to get it done,” Davis reminisced. All the children knew that you didn’t go back to your mama and say you couldn’t do it — you found a way.”
So when her first attempts at getting irrigation for her land fell through, Davis reapplied — the same day. Nearly three years later, her land finally got the water it needed, and has flourished ever since.
In addition to her community contributions, Davis takes local orders for produce and also plans to soon provide fresh eggs and poultry.
“I love what I do,” Davis said. “It gives me satisfaction and peace, and I just want to help others see that they can do it, too. We are truly blessed, and there is no reason why people in this area can’t be healthy and take advantage of the resources we have here.”
With a contented smile that she shares with all she meets, Davis is now literally reaping the seeds of what she has sown her whole life, and her arms are always ready to bestow the fruits of her labor and life lessons learned with others.
“We all have to help each other, and you can never, ever give up – that’s what living is.”
At Ruby’s Garden, all’s well that ends well — except for, perhaps, the second rooster in the chicken yard.
“Can’t have two roosters with all those hens,” Davis said. “He’s gonna get cooked.”
To contact Davis, or for more information on the Southwest Georgia Project,visit www.swgaproject.com or call (229) 430-9870.