Growing Anything in your Backyard?
Urban farming taking root
There’s a new trend emerging for metropolitan areas—urban farming. The new movement of going green is having an impact, even for major cities like Atlanta. With a city full of major highways and skyscrapers, residents are having to find unique and creative ways to obtain fresh produce without the hefty price tag. Residents are ready for a healthy change: grow food locally. And they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty.
These urban farms can be of any size, and are not only helping the community by feeding all those around them, but many are also educating their citizens. The Atlanta Beltline Urban Farm runs educational programs to engage the community and teach residents how to efficiently use the land around them—even if there’s not a lot. Check out the farm’s seasonal produce at Ponce City Market and their new food stand where the BeltLine crosses Allene Ave on Thursdays. Plus, they’re not the only ones, there are many of these farms popping up across Atlanta. Not only does it help feed the community, but it also integrates education and community engagement. Sometimes it even sparks some creativity. Ever heard of a pepper melon?
At the Chattahoochee Nature Center, on the Chattahoochee River in Roswell, there is the “Unity Garden.” This quarter-acre plot of land is able to produce over 3,000 pounds of fresh produce every year. As an outdoor classroom, the Unity Garden shows schoolchildren where their food actually comes from. All the produce from the farm is donated to the local food pantry for needy families.
Every October, the Unity Garden is the home of the Harvest on the Hooch food and beer taste fest, one of the largest in the area, making a fun garden party educational.
As much as we hate the overbearing heat in Atlanta, it makes for some great agricultural landscape. Unlike Boston and other Northeastern Metropolis areas (where this urban farming concept originated), Atlanta has a much longer growing season. And besides the occasional flurry every couple of years (2014’s Snowmageddon was a fluke), we have a pretty mild winter that doesn’t take a lot to keep the plants from dying out. So, while those Northern cities pump electricity to keep their urban farms alive in the winter (and making the reduction of greenhouse gases point moot), here in Atlanta we can produce more and use less energy doing it.
There are some great crops you can easily grow in Georgia to start your own urban farm. Even if you have just a small balcony on your apartment, all you need is enough sun and get to growing some fresh tomatoes. However, if you want to take on a larger project, many of the urban farms welcome volunteers and have available space for a new crop that you’ve been itching to grow. Give back to your community and get dirt on your shirt by getting involved in your closest urban farm!