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What To Know About The Rise In Community Gardening In Atlanta

Fred Conrad, Community Garden program manager at the Food Well Alliance, said that it isn’t difficult to join a community garden in Atlanta.
Fred Conrad, Community Garden program manager at the Food Well Alliance, said that it isn’t difficult to join a community garden in Atlanta.
Credit Courtesy of Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
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Community gardens have become a popular place for neighbors to hang out.

They’ve taken root nationwide, with a 44 percent increase in garden plots within parks in the U.S. since 2012, sprouting new farmers in urban areas, such as within Atlanta.

“Today community gardening is involved and engaged in all communities, from under served communities to those who have communities who need no service at all,” Bob Wilson, CEO of Metro Atlanta Urban Farm in College Park, said.

Wilson has been a part of the community gardening movement for more than 30 years, but for the last 11 he’s has been running the urban farm and community garden, which spans 5 acres.

Their goals are teaching people how to grow their own produce and to bring locals together to tackle community issues.

“We are trying to help our young folks to make the connection between soil and food,” he said. “We are also trying to make our middle school and high school students understand the importance of agriculture in our society.”

Fred Conrad, Community Garden program manager at the Food Well Alliance, said that it isn’t difficult to join a community garden in the city. The alliance assists some local gardens with work, such as plowing.

“It will always line up with where you live,” Conrad said. “There are community gardens scattered around the entire metropolitan area at this point.”

To get one of the 45 plots in the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, it costs $10 a month which covers the water bill, initial cultivation and technical assistance.

Between 50 to 60 percent of farmers within the local garden grow more produce than they can eat, according to Wilson.

“They give it (produce) to friends. They give it to family members,” he said. “Sometimes … we buy back from the community gardeners.”

He said that participating in a community garden can have therapeutic benefits, physically and emotionally.

“I’ve seen so many people with different challenges, and they are able to get through those challenges,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen folks come out of their shell and become more active and more engaged and more talkative, where they have been in a shell and kept to themselves.”

The small size of community garden plots can make it easier for beginners, according to Conrad.

“You can gauge what your commitment is going to be and you have help taking care of other stuff, the mowing the grass, the cleaning, the fences … a whole team of people who have your back on that, ” he said.

During warmer months, the types of fruits and veggies that could be grown in a community garden include peaches, plums, potatoes, blueberries and beans, according to The Spruce Eats. In cooler months, growers can harvest ripe cabbage, collard greens, carrots, spinach and sweet potatoes.

One of the resources available for community gardeners is the Food Well Alliance’s Community Garden Grant, which awards a Garden Improvement Grant, Compost Delivery Grant and Composting System Grant.

The Federation of Southern Cooperatives Land Assistance Fund and the American Community Gardening Association are also organizations that work with community gardeners.

“We have to look at community gardening as more than food production … We have to look at it from building stronger, healthier communities by bringing communities together,” Wilson said.

Below are a few of the local community gardens that are in metro Atlanta. Click through for more information.