by Kwabena Nkromo
A community health fair is as good a reason as any to choose the day to plant a summer garden. The Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) of Atlanta Preparatory Academy (APA) partnered with an organization called P.E.A.C.H (Prevention, Education, and Action in Community Health) and students from the Morehouse School of Medicine for the “Westside Atlanta Wellness Festival” at the school on Saturday May 12th. Organized by M.D. Candidate Mahsa Golabi, the event treated community residents and school parents to free health screenings as well as services from various wellness related vendors like Herbal Fusion. With all the focus on better living going on around the campus, it just made sense to plant nutritious vegetables in the ground outside as well.
The public charter school’s PTO has a parent-led Edible Schoolyard Committee, which has been developing a “farm at school” initiative with donated project management assistance from members of the Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network @ Eco-Action (AM-FFN) team. Everything started with a Hands on Atlanta volunteer day in the beginning of the school year at which the principal Dr. Lynette Walker arranged for a simple garden to be installed. Interested parents and teachers like myself (our son Kwesi attends APA in 1st grade) quickly got involved with laying out and maintaining the initial plots, but also soon organized ourselves into a committee that envisions a classic Edible Schoolyard and Community Urban Farm complex that would benefit both the school population as well as surrounding neighborhood residents.
With generous financial support from APA’s Board of Trustees, the Edible Schoolyard Committee was able to retain the site planning services of Sustenance Design LLC to imagine the possible layout of additional gardening space beyond the existing plots. Lindsey Mann and Kyla Zaro-Moore of the firm have been involved with many excellent school garden projects around the Atlanta area, so it was it was exciting to have them helping share a new horticultural vision within Vine City. The draft plan shown here is the result of a collaborative process that incorporated ideas and resources from various stakeholders within the school community at APA, as well as expert recommendations from the Sustenance Design team.
The next step in the project’s development is to raise the necessary funds to complete the design of other areas on the campus, build out the site plan for Phase 1, and support other programming objectives of the Edible Schoolyard. Committee member are busy pursuing various grants and planning fundraising activities, but need immediate support from benefactors who believe in the outdoor classroom experience for young people and environmental education in public schools. If you or anyone you know would be interested in supporting this work financially or as a volunteer, please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with “APA Farm @ School” in the subject line.
In the meantime, committee volunteers work last Saturday on the current learning garden area under cultivation. Stephanie Radbill leads AM-FFN’s donated operational support to the project and selected a crop plan for the summer that could be described as a “Spicy Gumbo Garden”. We planted okra, three varieties of peppers (thai, chili, bell), several varieties of tomatoes (purple Cherokee, German Johnson, Amish Paste), and cucumbers using seedlings purchased from Herbal Fusion and seeds donated by The Atlanta Community Food Bank. A young gardener named Zechariah also had a good time tilling the earth in preparation for the young plants. It was a bit late to put in a summer garden, but with cooperation from nature and hard work we still expect a great season.