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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

< Back to Oral History project: Women Who Farm: Georgia


Helen Dumba

Crystal Organic Farm

Helen Dumba farmed organically long before the word “organic” began being used in heavy rotation. Born and raised in Vienna, Austria, Helen moved to Belgium, where she raised four children. When she and her children became ill, she immersed herself in ways to nurture soils, grow food without chemicals. She took great inspiration from The Nature Doctor (Der Kliene Doktor) by Dr. Andrew Vogel. She started her own vegetable garden because at the time it was impossible to access food not touched by chemicals. Through growing her family’s food, she eventually brought herself and her family back to health.

She moved to the United States, and in 1982 purchased 175 acres of land from a retired dairy farmer named Howard Brown in Newborn, Georgia, the current home of Crystal Organic Farm. Helen used the land to grow vegetables, flowers and chickens for her family, while she worked for several different health food stores. When she considered selling the farm, her oldest son, Nicolas Donck, approached her with the proposal to take over the farm. Like his mother, Nicolas taught himself how to farm, and was an early pioneer of the Morningside Farmers’ Market in Atlanta. He continues to grow and cultivate 10 acres of farmland, supplying various restaurants throughout Atlanta. Helen continues to live on the farm, where she nurtures flowers and chickens. Rumor has it there is a secret code to becoming a recipient of those eggs.

Date of interview:

Sara Wood

Sara Wood

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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