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Market to plant seed for political chats
Jaemor Farms plans regular Thursday town-hall discussions
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First Thursdays at the Barn
When: 7 p.m. first Thursday each month
Where: Jaemor Farms Market barn, 5340 Cornelia Highway
Contact: 770-869-3999

Jaemor Farms Market is trading in peaches for politics this evening as it holds the first of several town-hall style meetings.

Drew Echols, an owner of Jaemor Farms, said he and Rep. Rick Austin, R-Demorest, have been looking to start a grass-roots movement for some time. The forums are scheduled for the first Thursday of each month.

“We want to start a new grass-roots base of people that aren’t normally politically involved. We just encourage everyone who wants to, to come out,” Echols said.

Tonight’s bipartisan meeting is a forum on education.

“It doesn’t matter which side you’re on, I think everybody realizes we need something,” Echols said. “This is to encourage dialogue.”

Austin, who also is a biology professor at Piedmont College, said education is an issue he and his wife, Jennifer Austin, a fourth-grade teacher at Demorest Elementary, hope the community can discuss honestly.

“What I want to get out of this conversation is an open conversation from educators and from administrators and from parents and from community leaders as to what they see are the obstacles,” Rick Austin said. “... Only then can will we begin to understand what teachers are faced with and what our children are having to deal with so that we begin to construct the answers to these questions.”

Austin, a member of the House Education Committee, said he hopes the forum will confront best practices for elementary instruction, the bureaucracy of education, the busy paperwork required of teachers and how schools might provide better learning opportunities using less money.

He said he hopes this will be a place where teachers can voice their opinions without fearing for their jobs.

“I also need administrators to hear the level of frustration teachers have,” Austin said.

Other upcoming topics for First Thursday at the Barn meetings include nuclear war and a firsthand account from a retired military officer who recently served in Iraq.

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