By Charmain Murray
Sitting with Havird Usry of Fat Man’s fame, at a table covered with evidence of ongoing construction — painter’s tape, permit signs, tape measure and a fine coating of sawdust — it quickly becomes apparent he is a passionate man.
Passionate about his family and business. Passionate about healthy lifestyles. Passionate about hydroponic and organic farming. And passionate about this new endeavor that he and his family see simply as an extension of all those things.
Continuing a tradition started by his grandfather Horace Usry in the 1940s with the birth of a string of Fat Man’s endeavors that continue today with Fat Man’s Café and Catering on Walton Way at Enterprise Mill, Havird and his dad, Brad, recently set their feet on a path to providing their families and customers with even more healthy, organic choices. The culmination of that decision, The Southern Salad, is now open for business. When Havird talks about it, his eyes light up and his hands paint pictures in the air. His quick smile and enthusiasm are contagious, and it’s easy to see how determination, hard work and attention to detail (all Usry family traits) made this dream move relatively quickly from paper to brick and mortar at 1008 Broad Street in downtown Augusta.
Honestly, farm to table, a favorite subject of Hav’s, as he is known locally, is a concept as old as time … dirt, tools and seeds are the basic ingredients — add sunshine and rain and you are good to go. Organic “farm to table” takes that one step further: it’s the product of a farming system that avoids the use of manmade fertilizers, pesticides, growth
regulators and livestock feed additives. Also, irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products produced from or by GMOs are generally prohibited by organic legislation.
Hydroponics is a subset of hydroculture, the method of growing plants without soil, using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent.
Two years ago, a chance meeting at a local farmer’s market set the Usry and Hancock families on a path that would progress from client, to friend to finally business partners.
Just last year, despite setbacks in procuring a workable location to build their own greenhouse, Havird kicked over the last remaining roadblock when he approached the Hancocks, of Hancock Farm LLC, with a proposal.
“We’ll build the hydroponic greenhouse,” he said, “if you will maintain it,” and a deal was struck.
The result: Clean Greens Hydroponic Farm, a hydroponic greenhouse located just outside of Bartow, Ga., professionally managed by Cari and Coy Hancock where three varieties of lettuce are grown specifically for The Southern Salad. The farm is certified organic and offers a wide variety of products and services. Havird says, “Cari and Coy do a fantastic job of producing beautiful, organic crops throughout the year.”
Clean Greens is a pristine, climate-controlled, greenhouse bursting with sunlight where miniscule seeds of lettuce, kale, arugula and a variety of mint are planted in squares of oasis foam, placed on hydroponic trays
where a continuous stream of water is fed. The complex watering system is constantly recycled and maintained through a strict protocol of specific organic nutrients for each species of plants. At planned intervals, the seedlings are rotated through new trays that provide the necessary room to grow without crowding.
From seed to harvest, lettuce takes about 21 to 24 days to mature. Kale takes a little longer but still comes in at just 28 to 30 days. Planting is staggered to provide an endless supply of fresh, beautiful produce that can move from greenhouse to The Southern Salad in just under an hour.
Checking in to The Southern Salad last Friday, to observe a planned, soft opening, the dining room is now both tastefully decorated and chaotic — full to bursting with every table occupied by customers enjoying bowls of salad so colorful they resemble art palettes and staff in bright orange “So Sal” shirts greeting the serving line with smiles, eagerness and the confidence to help you choose from an extensive selection of choices. In addition to convenient online ordering and pickup (thesouthernsalad.com), eat-in — including outside dining — and take-out options, the walls are lined with refrigerated cases stocked with
fresh-from-the-farm produce and homemade dressings, drinks and condiments ready for those who want to take it with them.
Chef Jeremy Miller has organized an extensive assortment of organic, vegan and standard choices on his ‘bar’ that will tease your taste buds with an assortment of both sweet and savory selections scattered over lettuce so green you will think you’re looking a bowl of springtime.
So… run on down, fill your biodegradable bowl with personalized choices, slow down, sit in the sunshine, hide your phone, reconnect with friends and family … you are certain to leave with a smile on your face and the knowledge that yes, you did make that healthy choice today.
For more than 78 years, the Usry family’s dedication to their customers has been unwavering. Their roots run deep in our community, both personally and professionally, and with the addition of The Southern Salad to their line of eateries, Augusta can be assured that tradition will remain strong for generations to come.
Local. Fresh. Sustainable. The Southern Salad is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, downtown at 1008 Broad Street. Catering is available. Call 706-504-4476 or visit thesouthernsalad.com.