The Fulton County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) partnered with Groundwork Atlanta and the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience to successfully launch the AgLanta Grows-A-Lot Urban Farm Program. The farm is located on three acres of blighted, under-utilized utility easements strategically located in designated food desert areas within the City of Atlanta. This pilot phase was used to help meet the Atlanta Resilient Strategy Target to “identify and distribute 25 acres of arable land in the city for healthy food production by 2020.”
The program established a replicable new urban agriculture initiative through five small, urban farm businesses – Ecosystem Farm Orchard; Gratitude Botanical LLC; Farm Awry; Outdoor Fresh Farms; and Small Farms/J. Angelou Farm Inc – that were given access to arable land, infrastructure and technical support to create farm plots along these easements. Four of the five small businesses are operated by women and minority farm entrepreneurs. Fifty percent of the pilot team’s new farm businesses are located in the neighborhoods where they were raised or currently live. The farmers are committed to improving the diets and lives of their neighbors.
Outreach and education efforts increased the likelihood of long-term natural resource protection. The Urban Ag Program Coordinator worked closely with the pilot farmers to help them utilize best agriculture practices for sustainable food production. District board members and NRCS staff provided technical assistance with site establishment and erosion control.
The AgLanta Farmers hope to develop an “AgLanta Grown” brand that represents their values: “AgLanta is a collective dedicated to bringing local, thoughtfully grown agriculture to the Metro Atlanta Area. Our farms and gardens serve the unique needs of our communities and are built on vacant spaces in the city. We are creating innovative ways to grow food, end food deserts, and build sustainable urban agriculture businesses. We plant with purpose.”
The AgLanta farmers and partners plan to continue working with the district to develop practices that will increase yields and demonstrate how these urban farms are cultivating a more resilient, equitable and accessible food system for One Atlanta.
Over the year, the project’s partners have established efforts to sustain the program for the future. The most direct way to sustain the program is to ensure sufficient funding is available. The following efforts will help keep this program continuing: Groundwork Atlanta hosted the fundraiser AgLanta Eats!, which raised nearly $50,000; partners developed an IOBY online donor campaign with a goal of $50,000; MailChimp is donating $25,000 for a Crop Cooler, a self-contained storage unit that will sit on the Collier Urban Farm site; and Groundwork Atlanta is partnering with a group of local farmer organizations to obtain NRCS funding opportunities, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).