AM-FFN 2.0 as “Atlanta Food & Farm, LLC”

by Kwabena Nkromo


For those of us who have chosen the path of social justice and some form of spiritual transformation, we often struggle with a split view which says that attempting to do good in the world is a pure intent and conversely earning money is tainted. The unbridled greed we’ve witnessed on Wall Street for example can contrast sharply in our minds with the noble poverty of people like Mahatma Gandhi or Malcolm X. So our aspiration to live as more enlightened, conscious change agents often leads us to view money as a necessary evil.

Malcolm X & moneyHowever, this artificial division is one of the biggest struggles faced by conscious, caring, generous people who are committed to making a difference. When we subtly reject money and see it as “unholy,” we reject the power it has to have a positive impact in our personal and professional lives–and in the world. Consequently, financial struggles often end up undermining our ability to fully share the gifts and messages we are inspired to share.

society-environment-economy in balanceWhat we all need is a synergy of “doing good” and earning money that allows us to embrace the sacredness of money (yes, I said sacred!) while acting as conscious, caring stewards of what we have. We need to honor money’s ability to amplify our intentions and manifest our dreams. And ultimately we need to call forth an abundance that supports and helps create a world in which all can thrive.

Building wealthWhen I first conjured up this thing we now call Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network (AM-FFN) over two years ago, my original vision was for the idea to be expressed as a social enterprise business. To me, it was as an important and necessary thing to demonstrate the real world veracity of the local food movement and urban agriculture industry as a viable economic activity with its own inherent sustainability. What more viable entrepreneurial effort could there be than one that accurately anticipates the return of society back to a connection and interface with our most basic need as human beings: a closer relationship to the food that sustains our lives?

Founding members of AM-FFN at our 2012 Winter Retreat

Founding members of AM-FFN at our 2012 Winter Retreat

Our initial phase as a non-profit program, incubated within our fiscal sponsor Environmental Community Action Inc. (ECO-Action Inc), was a strategic period that is now coming to a close. For us, the only significant difference between our work being funded by philanthropy versus directly earned revenue or capital will be the processes which we employ to secure financial success for our core constituency and ourselves. I believe the success of this transition will be based on our ability to demonstrate the principle of “shared value” in order for AM-FFN to mature into Atlanta Food & Farm, LLC.

creating-shared-valueA resolution to the oft falsely perceived divide between for-profit enterprises and non-profit entities lies in the principle of shared value, which involves creating economic value in a way that also creates value for society by addressing its needs and challenges. Social entrepreneurs must reconnect their companies’ successes with social progress. Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success. It is not on the margin of what companies do but at the center. I believe that we can give rise to the next major transformation of social impact business thinking and our new incarnation as Atlanta Food & Farm LLC will be an attempt to help lead the way (excerpts from “Creating Shared Value” by Michael E. Porter & Mark R. Kramer, Harvard Business Review 2011).

Kwabena Nkromo is the Founder of Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network and will serve as “Lead Partner” in the transition to Atlanta Food & Farm, LLC. Our consulting group’s new business address is within HUB Atlanta at 318 Cherokee Avenue SW, Suite 104 Atlanta, Georgia 30312. 

The group on the OAC deck

The Atlanta Food & Farm family now at our 2013 Winter Retreat

ATL Food Commons “Fertile Crescent” names Community Food Fund

Willie Jackson speaking at Community Food Fund subcommittee meeting

Willie Jackson speaking at Community Food Fund subcommittee meeting

At its recent January 2013 meeting, the Fertile Crescent Steering Committee voted to rename the “Food Bank” component of the ATL Food Commons to the “Community Food Fund”. This change was made to avoid the possibility that the food system financing component of the Fertile Crescent might be misperceived as a food pantry or confused with the Atlanta Community Food Bank. The motion to adopt the new term was a recommendation from the subcommittee led by Willie Jackson, along with a plan of action that included establishment of a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) to provide financing options for the food enterprises participating with the initiative.

Fertile Crescent visioning map (Figure A)

Fertile Crescent visioning map (Figure A)

A neighborhood level adaptation of local food system economic development model know as The Food Commons, the Fertile Crescent is being developed within neighborhoods abutting the Atlanta Beltline’s subarea planning sections 1,2,9, and 10 (see figure A). The now named Community Food Fund is one of three main components that constitute the food-based economy envisioned, with the others being a Food Hub and Food commons-structureTrust. Working together in a concerted fashion, these three elements are designed to capture economies of scale that could make a local food system focused on urban agriculture competitive with the existing food industry. The goal is to create green, sustainable jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities where working people in distressed neighborhoods benefit the most.

December 2012 Steering Committee meeting  in the Mechanicsville neighborhood

December 2012 Steering Committee meeting in the Mechanicsville neighborhood

Guiding this process, the Fertile Crescent Steering Committee (FCSC) was established in November 2012 during a visit to Atlanta by the Food Commons co-founders Jim Cochran and Larry Yee. The committee is facilitated by Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network and led by AM-FFN’s Program Director Kwabena Nkromo. FCSC members are a mix of residents and stakeholders based in the neighborhoods of the selected area such as Abiodun Henderson of the Westview neighborhood, C. Shaheed DuBois of Vine City, and Gil Frank with

AM-FFN Program Director Kwabena Nkromo facilitating the meeting

AM-FFN Program Director Kwabena Nkromo facilitating the meeting

Historic Westside Gardens. In addition, key partner representative are involved like Rob Brawner of the Beltline Partnership, Erika Smith of the Fulton County Economic Development Division, and Trish O’Connell with the Atlanta Housing Authority. Meetings are held once a month located at venues throughout the Fertile Crescent mapped district and are open to the public for observation.

Along with the Community Food Fund subcommittee, sub-groups within Steering Committee are also addressing the Food Hub and Food Trust areas of

 January 2013 Steering Committee tour of meeting host City of Refuge garden program
January 2013 Steering Committee tour of meeting host City of Refuge garden program

work. The “hub” concept within the Food Commons model is quite different than its popular use in the local food movement. The Food Hub under development here is better described as a vertically integrated network of various food system enterprises that would create a “spin” of economic activity for the Fertile Crescent local food commerce community. This would entail the agricultural crop aggregating, processing and distribution functions commonly associated with food hubs, but will also include The group with railroad track raised garden beds 3businesses like food retail outlets (i.e. neighborhood-scaled grocery stores) and restaurants that offer locally-sourced based menus. Similarly, the Food Trust will be a variation on the more commonly know Community Land Trust concept. This subcommittee is moving quickly to establish an entity that would be capable of assembling “in trust” various assets located within the Fertile Crescent area (un-developed land for urban farming, warehouses, farm worker housing, etc) and making them affordably available for Fertile Crescent entrepreneurs or groups.

Anyone with expertise or interest related to any of the components of the Food Commons model is invited to be considered for participation on the subcommittees. For inquiries, contact AM-FFN Deputy Program Director Terry Williams-Cointault at

Community Food System Coalition Comes Alive in Westside Atlanta


C. Shaheed DuBois, coalition resident leader

HWG banner logoHistoric Westside Gardens (HWG) recently won funding as the lead agency for a multi-neighborhood collaborative initiative to create a community food system coalition with residents and other stakeholders in the Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta area, which is a provisional planning district including the Ashview Heights, Atlanta University Center, and Vine City neighborhoods as portions of Atlanta’s Neighborhood Planning Units (NPUs) L and T. HWG is a volunteer-led community non-profit organization primarily known for to contributing to the food security needs in the Westside Atlanta neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue.

127This current project was developed from a community food system assessment final report named “Food First! An Urban Agriculture-Based Local Economy for Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta”, produced by the Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network (AM-FFN). AM-FFN is partnering with HWG for the development of the Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta community food system coalition, having also facilitated a one day community visioning charette on August 18, 2012 at the campus of a local public charter school, Atlanta Preparatory Academy in Vine City (see more info HERE).


Vine City resident J.R. Murphy tending a crop at Historic Westside Gardens


Atlanta University Center Community Association President Wanda Whiteside

A $12,500 grant was awarded to support this work by The Neighborhood Fund, an initiative of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta that empowers community members to positively impact neighborhoods at the local level. Building upon grassroots ideas and energy, Neighborhood Fund provides grants and support to community groups to build relationships, develop leadership and change communities within the 23-county region. Funding for Historic Westside Gardens (HWG) was based on its dedication to building a civic engagement and leadership development opportunity with residents focused on quality food access and urban agriculture, including community gardens and neighborhood farms. Resident leaders involved with the grant application include Wanda Whiteside, Larry Carter, and J.R. Murphy.


AM-FFN staff presenting information at the Just Us Neighbors community meeting in the Ashview Heights neighborhoods.

ECO-Action Inc’s Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network (AM-FFN) is also highly engaged with HWG and the community and is dedicated to providing ongoing support for building the coalition. AM-FFN’s community food system assessment for the area was commissioned by the Atlanta Housing Authority, which in 2010 was awarded a HUD-funded Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant to develop a strategy for revitalizing the former University Homes area and surrounding neighborhoods in West Atlanta. The coalition will seek to include interested neighborhood residents as well as participants like  area urban gardeners and farmers or farming groups such as HABESHA Inc at the Omenala Griot Museum in Ashview Heights, the Community Gardening Program of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and university faculty or staff programs within the area such as the Morehouse Research Institute.

For more information about the Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta community food system coalition or to express interest in joining the group if you are an area stakeholder, please send inquiries to 



AM-FFN, Foreverfamily Inc, & PCIA: Partners at WSP Community Garden

Darryl Haddock of WAWA installing rain barrels @ WSP Community Garden

Among the services that Atlanta Metro Food & Network (AM-FFN) offers is technical assistance and support to community gardens. For close to a year now, we have worked with the Pittsburgh Community Improvement Association (PCIA) to help enhance the operations of its two garden sites in this southwest Atlanta historic neighborhood. With grant funding provided by Park Pride, we have focused on stabilizing Welch Street Park Community Garden in the areas of soil improvement, rainwater catchment for irrigation, and Garden Club development. Expertise in water management and rain barrel installation has also been provided by Darryl Haddock of Westside Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA).

Pierre Gaither is the Operations Manager for PCIA and he recently referred AM-FFN to another organization in the neighborhood for inclusion in our collaboration. Foreverfamily Inc was the nation’s first organization, and is still the only nonprofit in Georgia, solely dedicated to helping children who—by no fault of their own—have had to struggle with a unique set of challenges. Too often, these include a sense of shame, anxiety and fear, and social stigma, tied to their parent’s imprisonment—all of which can become evident in deep emotional withdrawal or behavioral outbursts. Since its inception in 1987, Foreverfamily (originally known as AIM) has helped more than 10,000 children, each of whom had their own unique challenges to face. Because of the compassionate care and consistent support provided by Foreverfamily staff and volunteers, the lives of these children have been enriched, if not altogether turned around for the better (Source:

For the past several months, AM-FFN staff and volunteers have been working with young people from Foreverfamily by connecting them to WSP Community Garden for horticultural literacy education as well as therapeutic gardening. Gardening is a new experience for many of the urban dwelling youth and several have steadfastly resisted getting involved with the outdoor activity, citing aversion to insects and getting dirty. However, others got involved immediately and have been enthusiastic about learning new skills and being active in a stimulating environment. It is likely that over time, more of the program participants will be persuaded to give urban gardening a chance and join their peers in growing fresh, organic vegetables.

One very interesting fact about the Foreverfamilies program is that the meals served to the youth are vegetarian cuisine, often prepared with help from the children. This characteristic provides several opportunities for synergy with the garden partnership, including periodically using produce from the garden as ingredients for their recipes. For the young people that find the all vegetarian diet challenging to accommodate themselves to, being able to choose their favorite crops to plant in the garden might offer some another path to buy-in. In addition, scraps left over from preparing vegetarian dishes can be used to teach lessons on composting and sustainable gardening.

AM-FFN staff members and volunteers who are involved with this partnership include Stephanie Radbill (Operations Coordinator), Abiodun Henderson (Operations Team Member), and Kwabena Nkromo (Program Director). Foreverfamilies staff members Beth Wettlin and Odette Duncan most often join in at the garden with the youth, but other personnel get involved as well. With PCIA as the connector, all three organizations are finding collaborative gold in relationship to their respective core missions. Community gardens have always been great places to bring neighbors together. It seems they are also good at connecting programs as well.

ATL Food Commons Launched with Visit of Co-Founders

Attendees gathered at the ARC

The Food Commons co-founders Jim Cochran and Larry Yee spent several days in Atlanta from November 15th-17th 2012 getting to know the region’s local food networks and meeting with stakeholders interested in this cutting edge regional food system development model. Hosted by Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network (AM-FFN), meetings billed as round table discussions were held at the Atlanta Regional Commission and within the southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Mechanicsville at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center. With commitments from several participants in the sessions to join a steering committee, an Atlanta Food Commons has germinated with the potential to have a transformative effect on our metropolitan area’s food system.

Co-founder Larry Yee making the presentation

The meeting co-hosted by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) was held 10:00am Friday November 16th, with consideration given to the 10-county metropolitan region as a food shed. Participants hailed from a broad cross-section of expertise and interests, including graduate students and university professors to professional planners, government officials, and labor advocates. Division Chief Dan Reuter of ARC’s Land Use department was on hand to welcome guests and express the organization’s willingness to continue serving as the people’s planning agency. The agenda moved swiftly with a report on AM-FFN’s Community Food System Assessment work for Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta, an overview of the previous ATL Food Commons exploratory meetings, and PowerPoint presentation on The Food Commons followed by a lively Q & A period. Many attendees expressed excitement about the model and had plans to join the following session in the afternoon as well.

Fertile Crescent session at Dunbar Center

A second meeting co-hosted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site (ACS) occurred 2:00pm the same day within the conference room of The Center for Working Families Inc. This gathering varied slightly in that the focus was more targeted on the ATL Food Commons “Fertile Crescent”, a smaller concept envisioning a food community connecting the neighborhoods abutting Beltline Project subarea planning sections 1, 2, 9, & 10 in South-West Atlanta. Participants at this session were generally more community level stakeholders, including Neighborhood Planning Unit leaders and non-profit professionals to urban agriculture activists and area food bank staffers. ACS Senior Community Builder Moki Macias greeted guests on behalf of Director Gail Hayes and shared the foundation’s interest in food systems planning. Following a presentation on The Food Commons by the co-founders, AM-FFN Program Director Kwabena Nkromo shared details about the Fertile Crescent initiative. Several parties including the Fulton County Economic Development Division Administrator Kenneth Dobson,  Atlanta Housing Authority Vice-President Trish O’Connell, and Beltline Partnership Program Director Rob Brawner committed to joining a Fertile Crescent Steering Committee that would work towards feasibility research and implementation of the concept (see visioning map below).

AM-FFN Program Director Kwabena Nkromo

With the high level of interest experienced at both meetings and establishment of a development steering committee, The ATL Food Commons has arrived in a powerful way.  The three components of the model (Food Trust, Food Bank, & Food Hub) will take root in the increasingly dense concentration of food sysem assets and urban agriculture sites within the neighborhoods of South-West Atlanta. Boasting the likes of Atwood Gardens & Urban Farm, Patchwork City Farms, and a Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farm at Good Shepherd Community Church, the West End neighborhood in particular is well positioned to grow further into a food powerhouse for its region as well as the greater Atlanta community.

Enjoying lunch @ the Boxcar Grocer

The Food Commons co-founders visit to Atlanta rounded out with experiencing the best of our local food scene by dining at places like the 5 Seasons restaurant and Boxcar Grocer in Castleberry Hill. They also visited several outstanding urban agriculture organizations like the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture at their Wheat Street site, the City of Refuge, and Atlanta Community Food Bank.  Lodging for Jim and Larry was graciously provided by the East Lake Commons co-housing guest house, with the generous hospitality of Anne Colson. In addition, they enjoyed a home-cooked meal

Home-cooked meal @ Joe Beasley’s

prepared by AM-FFN Operations Coordinator Stephanie Radbill from locally grown ingredients served at the downtown home of local human rights icon Joe Beasley. “I’m not sure where to start—our trip to Atlanta was personally moving on so many levels”, writes Jim Cochran by email. “It is crystal clear to me (and I think to Larry as well) that our job now is to serve your work on the Atlanta Food Commons.”

Larry & Jim shopping @ Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture’s Wheat Street farm

Preliminary visioning map for the Fertile Crescent

Jim and Larry Are Coming to Georgia!

Please join us as we host the founders of the Food Commons Jim Cochran and Larry Yee during as the visit Atlanta next week.  The Food Commons is “a new economic paradigm and whole systems approach for regional food”.  In addition to spearheading the development of the Food Commons concept here in Atlanta, AM-FFN is developing a Food Commons prototype within South-West Atlanta we are provisionally calling “The Fertile Crescent”

We are hosting two events.

The Ten County Round Table centers on the potential for Food Commons development for the 10-county Atlanta metropolitan region, as defined by the Atlanta Regional Commission. The Round Table will be held 10:00am Friday November 16, 2012 at the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Harry West Room, level C.  40 Courtland St, NE, Atlanta Ga, 30303.

A second event, the “Fertile Crescent” Meeting will be held later the same day 2:00pm Friday November 16th at the Center for Working Families, Dunbar Neighborhood Center Level 1, 477 Windsor St. SW Atlanta 30212.  This meeting will be of interest to individuals, community organizations, non-profits and businesses interested in local food system development within neighborhoods abutting the Atlanta Beltine subarea sections 1, 2, 9, 10.  These include the neighborhoods of Grove Park, Howell Station, Knight Park, Mozely Park, Washington Park, Just Us Neighbors, Ashview Heights, Bankhead, Hunter Hills, Westview, West End, Adair Park, Oakland City, Mechanics ville Peoplestown and Pittsburgh.

You can RSVP for either or both of these events by calling 404 991 0334, emailing or completing the form to the right online.

About the Food Commons

The Food Commons is a project dedicated to designing and developing both local and national infrastructure within a whole systems approach and a new economic paradigm for local and regional food. The Food Commons has 3 integral components:

  1. The Food Trust, a non-profit, quasi-public entity to acquire and steward critical foodshed assets, particularly land assets,
  2. The Food Bank, a community-owned financial institution that provides capital and financial services to foodshed enterprises.
  3. The Food Hub, a locally owned, cooperatively integrated business enterprise that builds and manages foodshed-based physical infrastructure.  Food Hubs  provide food aggregation and distribution capabilities , businesses, services, technical assistance and training for existing or new small food businesses.

You can find out more about the Food Commons on our page The Food Commons or the Food Commons website.

Hope to see you there!

RSVP for Food Commons Events

Edible Schoolyard at APA – Work Day!

Thursday October 18th was the actual workday for the Phase 1 Edible Schoolyard installation at APA. We had about 35 volunteers from Post Properties, Hilton Hotels  and Chatham Landscaping come out and help with the install. The weather was perfect. A little rain in the morning loosened up the soil and the good weather held throughout the day. It was a great day to be outside.

I asked the AM-FFN staff who helped with the volunteers to summarize their reflections.  Their words appear below, but the pictures tell most of the story. Special thanks to Principal Lynnette Walker, Earl King and Tambria Peeples at APA and Linda Ricklef at Post Properties.  Also a big Thank You to all the volunteers. You made all of this a reality.

All photos by Lynne “Serwaa” Young, Kwabena Nkromo, or Brad Bell of Brad Bell Photography .

“Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network is about connecting every day people to their food and the power to grow it themselves if they choose to do so. At no level of society is our work more important than with children’s families and schools. For me, the Edible Schoolyard we were able to help install at Atlanta Preparatory Academy is about more than just an attractive garden. It was about providing a ‘mustard seed’ of community change for the better, if the people have a mind to.” – Kwabena

Post Property volunteers @ the end of installation day

School gardener Stephanie and APA Board Member

Volunteers from Hilton Hotels

“Working with the Post and Chatham volunteers during the installation was a rewarding experience.  Our warm-up for the day was teaming up to place large stones around the perimeter of each curvy garden bed. Approaching the challenge like a jigsaw puzzle, I encouraged the volunteers to take their time with each stone’s placement.

We also planted all the edible and medicinal plants and shrubs, and the landscaping volunteer crew showed off their skills as the quickest planters around. I took the opportunity to show a small group of interested volunteers how to plant both transplants and seeds, taking care with the depth for each.

As the last push for the day, we set up temporary “compost corrals” from wire mesh to hold all our uprooted goodies in one place. The volunteers and I felt a real sense of accomplishment when looking around at all we’d built, planted, and mulched that day. I know APA’s edible schoolyard will be an amazing space for learning engagement of the arts, science, and math, and I’m thrilled to have participated in the installation.”  – Stephanie

Hilton volunteers in existing garden

Planting one of the beds

Post volunteers placing even more stones!

“Our group worked on the permaculture swale installation. Permaculture is a way of design which observes and then mimics ecological systems. In a permaculture design such as the garden design at APA, berms and swales are typically installed on slopes to prevent erosion and direct water flow to the roots of plants placed within the berm.

A swale in the making.

Partially complete with berm to left and rocks for drainage in excavation.

Post volunteers placing the finishing touches on the berm and swale

Other permaculture features of this design are the keyhole beds and the herb spiral.  The keyhole bed design maximizes the amount of edge along the outer perimeter of the bed. In our case children have access to the outer edge of bed while the adult teacher stands in the center of the keyhole.

The herb spiral allows herbs to be planted at various orientations to sun and shade and with various moisture levels. The top of the spiral is the driest, while the base remains the wettest. The Post volunteers said they had great fun, not only installing the garden but also learning more about some of these permaculture features.” – Serwaa

planted keyhole bed

Herb spiral rises ….

herb spiral completed

“One of the most exciting and sustainable features of APA’s edible school yard are the fruit trees. Why fruit trees? Fruit trees provide abundant food for decades and are low to no maintenance once established. Importantly they add aesthetics, remove atmospheric carbon, and play an important role to attract beneficial insects/pollinators to the garden. The edible schoolyard includes fruit trees, berry bushes, vines, and other perennial plants that are a great bang for the buck. Sold yet?

During the day volunteers gained  insight about the benefits of fruit trees, proper planting technique, and sustainable agriculture. Welcome pomegranate, fig, and pear to APA! ” – Robby

Early morning shot of the site. We put down cardboard to deter grass regrowth.

A flurry of activity later in the day.

Completed Edible Schoolyard @ Atlanta Preparatory Academy

Kwabena Nkromo is the Program Director of AM-FFN.  while Stephanie Radbill serves as Operations Coordinator of AM-FFN and volunteer Garden Manager at Atlanta Preparatory Academy. Lynne  “Serwaa” Young is AM-FFN’s Grants & Finance Manager and resident permaculturist.  Robby Astrove, AMFFN team member and fruit tree guru provided technical assistance to the project and hands-on instruction/education to volunteers.

Photo by Brad Bell

Related posts:An Edible Schoolyard is Coming to Vine City!

Prep Days for the Installation of an Edible Schoolyard in Vine City

The Edible Schoolyard at the Atlanta Preparatory Academy discussed in the previous article, An Edible Schoolyard is Coming to Vine City! is actually becoming a reality.  With the generous sponsorship of the Post HOPE Foundation Inc, partner contractors Chatham Landscape Services Inc and Downey Trees Inc. began work on Tuesday to build out the Sustenance Design LLC site design.

The photos below show some of the work on October 16th and 17th.  All photos by Kwabena Nkromo.

Before shot of the garden area with workers beginning to remove grass sod

Removing grass sod to expose the soil in the garden area

Granite “rip rap” to be used for raised bed walls

Compost soil for garden beds being delivered by Downey Trees Inc

Dramatic soil drop by crane

Spray painting the layout for the herb spiral

Herb spiral construction in progress

Herb spiral rises ….

Digging a trench for the permaculture berm & swale

Digging a hole for the pond

Vine City neighbor Mr. Tillman Ward chatting with Krieg of Chatham Landscaping

APA’s Edible Schoolyard site plan by Sustenance Design LLC

An Edible Schoolyard is Coming to Vine City! Horticultural Education at Atlanta Preparatory Academy

Atlanta Preparatory Academy is a charter school of choice open to all students residing in the Atlanta Public Schools district. The school incorporates a core curriculum along with a specialized curriculum called “Paragon” and a magnet-like Arts and Technology focus that links core learning with multiple learning styles. Paragon is a proprietary social studies/history/geography program that incorporates literature, drama, art, music, and technology. Paragon engages students with hands-on exploration and reinforces core morning classes by addressing varying student learning styles. Atlanta Preparatory Academy strives to work together with parents, involving them in the education of their children and forming a partnership aimed at increasing each child’s academic achievement.

Volunteer Stephanie Radbill working with APA students in the garden.

The public charter school’s Parent Teacher Organization 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 2011-2012 school year at which the principal Dr. Walker arranged for a simple garden to be installed. Interested parents and teachers quickly got involved with laying out and maintaining the initial plots, but also soon organized themselves into a committee that envisions a classic Edible Schoolyard as well as Community Urban Farm complex that would benefit both the school population as well as surrounding neighborhood residents.

Learning to love vegetables!

The fundamental purpose of creating an edible schoolyard is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables in our children. Research has shown that children who are intimately involved in edible schoolyards have increased their daily vegetable and fruit consumption by 2.5 servings per day. (American Dietetic Association, 2007) This evidence-based strategy substantiates the significance for creating an edible schoolyard. An edible schoolyard is a great tool to provide real-life experiences and to help students make the connection of how vegetables and fruit move from the seed to table.“Creating and Growing Edible Schoolyards: A Manual for School Professionals”

APA’s Edible Schoolyard site plan by Sustenance Design, LLC

With 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 the Vine City neighborhood.  The draft plan shown below 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.

Post Properties Inc’s Senior Vice President of Human Resources Linda Ricklef, along with other guests, visited APA for an awards ceremony at the end of our academic year last spring. The group had the opportunity to tour the existing learning garden at APA and receive a brief introduction to the Edible Schoolyard expansion plans, facilitated with the site plan created by Sustenance Design LLC.  This academic year, Ms. Ricklef contacted Dr. Walker regarding the options for Post Properties employees to volunteer their annual company community work day hours with APA’s garden project. Upon referral from Dr. Walker, the Edible Schoolyard Committee engaged Ms. Ricklef with the opportunity for her company to serve as the anchor financial sponsor of the expansion plans for the installation of our Edible Schoolyard site plan in addition to the in-kind volunteer labor of Post Properties employees.

Post Properties employees at the APA KaBOOM playground installation

Post Properties has already demonstrated their commitment to partnership and support of Atlanta Preparatory Academy through sponsoring the installation of a KaBOOM!™ playground during the 2011-2012 academic year. With the smart investment in environmental and horticultural education on behalf of the APA learning community, the company has again shown exceptional corporate citizenship and helped launch the fundraising drive to raise approximately $20,000 for the Edible Schoolyard construction and staffing budget. Rachel Mabie of California’s Cooperative Extension Office, states, “A school garden gives young people an opportunity to better understand their relationship with nature, creates a dynamic environment for learning core subjects and promotes cooperation through group activities. A garden encourages self-confidence and a sense of responsibility and belonging to one’s community.”

First Lady Michelle Obama in the garden with students

In addition to academic learning outcomes, the Edible Schoolyard at APA will offer the young people at this Vine City school a chance to live better lives. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program (of which APA is a participant) is a comprehensive initiative dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams. As she has stated, “In the end, as First Lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition.” The parents of the APA Edible Schoolyard Committee, the school’s leaders, and Post Properties Inc are also determined to follow the First Lady’s lead and make better learning through better eating a reality for the students.

If you would like to make a donation to help meet the budget goal of $20,000 or volunteer for installation of the Edible Schoolyard by October 18th 2012, please contact us at 404.991.0334 or mail a check to Atlanta Preparatory Academy 569 Martin Luther King Jr Nw  Atlanta, GA 30314, c/o The PTO Edible Schoolyard Committee.

Principal Dr. Lynette Walker with APA students at a basketball game.

Choosing to Grow: A Community Charts its Food Future

AM-FFN Program Director Kwabena Nkromo

Atlanta Metro Food & Farm Network (AM-FFN) and Village Habitat Design (VHD) facilitated a one day charette on the application of an urban agriculture and local food component for the Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta Neighborhood Transformation Plan. The event was sponsored by the Atlanta Housing Authority and Integral Development LLC as part of a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funded planning grant awarded to transform neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity for residents. This charette was conducted on August 18, 2012 at the campus of a local public charter school, Atlanta Preparatory Academy in Vine City. The intent of the meeting was to conduct a community visioning session focused on the urban agricultural potential for the Choice Neighborhood Atlanta planning area including the three overarching neighborhoods of Ashview Heights, Atlanta University Center, and Vine City.

Greg Ramsey of Village Habitat Design

The Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta (CNA) partners learned early on in their outreach process that a number of stakeholders would like to promote urban agriculture and local food systems development (including urban reforestation, orchards and vineyards, farms, gardens , edible landscaping and healthy soils and water)  as a core and foundation  of community holistic health and quality of life, sustainable development of local economy, life skills and educational values, celebration of history and cultural identity, as well as recreation and general revitalization for the Choice neighborhoods. The Atlanta Housing Authority has asked AM-FFN to assess the current and potential range of urban agriculture activity within the CNA geographic footprint, based on input from residents and stakeholders as well as empirical observation. The CNA Community Food System Assessment project will provide critical baseline data for the Choice Neighborhood Transformation Plan.

The event also featured a local food lunch prepared by The Intimate Chef of Atlanta with ingredients from area local food producers like Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farms and urban forest fruits donated by Concrete Jungle , as well as maps created especially for the charette by CNA consultants Urban Collage.

Customized maps of Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta communities & their urban agriculture/local food opportunities, prepared by Urban Collage.

Trish O’Connell, Atlanta Housing Authority’s V.P. of Real Estate Development & Acquisitions, opening the morning session.

PowerPoint presentation “Choosing to Scale Up: Claiming the Opportunities of Local Food Systems in the Communities of Choice Neighborhoods Atlanta”

Stakeholder Dr. C. T. Vivian of a boys mentoring program at Atlanta Preparatory Academy filling out a survey with AM-FFN staffer Colette Joly.

Resident and stakeholder J.R. Murphy of Vine City’s Historic Westside Gardens makes a point about the community’s local food vision.

Critical stakeholder involvement from Christi Jackson, Chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit K (NPU-K).

Input being given to Greg Ramsey by resident Shaheed DuBois of the Vine City neighborhood.

Attendees digging in to a local food meal and a blessing from Rev. Dr. C. T. Vivian.

Good food served at the charette, prepared with ingredients from community urban farms and gardens in the area by the Intimate Chef of Atlanta.

Bread and a “Community Salad”, made with ingredients from Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farms.

Our children are the best reason for choosing a better food future.