Born and raised in Rex, Mickey and Jerry Garber live together on the 50 acres of land their family has owned for over 70 years.
Brothers in their seventies without Internet tending 50 acres of the little farmland left in Clayton County, the Garbers admit they are an “anomaly.”
Jerry, 73, and Mickey, 74, spend their days tending fruits, vegetables and trees on the Rex land their family has owned for their entire lifetimes.
Jerry calls it a “hobby farm,” as the brothers give away the harvests instead of selling them. But when I visited the property one Friday morning, the dozens of rows of squash, corn, tomatoes, Japanese maples, and fig trees signaled more of a lifelong devotion to agriculture than a hobby.
Jerry is the main one tending to the farm, he said, while Mickey has found a place in the public sphere. Mickey has been a regular during public comment at various county meetings since 2016, when he and Jerry spoke out against the county’s decision to permanently ban outdoor burning.
Back then, the brothers said they were fighting for their way of life on the farm, where burning is needed for upkeep. Now, Mickey has continued to vocalize his opposition to county decisions on zoning, mandatory garbage collection, restrictions on public comment and more.
“I’ve gone this far, this many years, and I still see that my voice is needed.” Mickey said. “Not that one voice can change anything, but in order to have more voices, you start with one voice.”
But, the Garber family hasn’t always been politically involved.
As poultry farmers who moved to Rex in the 1940s, the Garbers were the only Jewish family in the area until about the turn of the century, Mickey estimated. The family was not politically motivated because of their “background,” Mickey said.
Their father David’s political reluctance, Mickey said, stemmed from the worldwide history of anti-Semitism and local incidents, such as the 1913 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man falsely accused of raping and murdering 13-year-old Mary Phagan in Atlanta. While the family had friends in Clayton County, there were others who thought “all Jews were out to cheat ‘em,” Mickey said.
Although their father died in 1988, Jerry said he would have told Mickey if he were still around today, “‘Keep your mouth shut and don’t say anything unless it pertains to you.’” Mainly for the same reason as his father, Jerry said he remains somewhat apprehensive about his brother’s outspokenness.
He pointed to the chants of “Jews will not replace us!” from the white supremacists that marched in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017 as signaling what’s to come.
“I think there’s a wave coming of anti-Semitism,” Jerry said.
However, Jerry said he has appreciated people with a larger voice than him speaking on his behalf in the past and thinks others feel the same about Mickey.
Mickey refused the notion that one should only fight for himself.
“I won’t remain silent anymore,” Mickey said. “When I see wrong being done, I have to speak up.”
Although he describes himself as an “eternal optimist” and Jerry an “eternal pessimist,” Mickey said he wouldn’t want to live with anyone else on the land.
“‘Worth more than silver, worth more than gold is to have love, admiration and respect of my fellow man,’” Mickey said, reciting a favorite quote.
This respect for others, Mickey said, he hopes will be reflected in Clayton County politics.
“You got to have hope,” Mickey said. “If you have no hope, you have no future.”