East Lake's Urban Farm

Growing food and a community.

by Jennifer Mummert

may close, and now Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Erroll B. Davis Jr. is recommending to the APS board that it close Coan Middle School — converting it to a 6th grade academy for Inman Middle School students. With all the negative talk around APS redistricting, I’m happy to see a positive force emerging in East Lake: an urban farm!

The East Lake Farmers Market and Southeastern Horticulture Society are joining forces to build an urban farm on the current ELF Market lot and enhance the East Lake Community Learning Garden space at 56 2nd Ave. The two organizations were awarded $82,000 through a Communities Putting Prevention to Work program grant from the DeKalb County Board of Health and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The goal of the project is to fight obesity in DeKalb County.

The farm will have 75 raised beds and a hoophouse (simple version of a greenhouse) — all on top of mulch that will cover the concrete lot. There will be seasonal fruits and veggies to sell to local community members—some at discounted prices. We have even talked about offering a work co-op program where you can tend the farm and receive a discount on the food that you buy from the farm.

I can’t think of a better time for this project to start. East Lake and the neighboring communities of Kirkwood and Edgewood could really use a boost right now. The idea of losing our schools leaves a sour taste in my mouth about the state of our neighborhoods. In a lot of ways I think the fight against obesity is similar to the fight for better education — both need a connected community engaged in understanding how to solve the problem.

I joined the ELF Market board in February 2011 as the Vice President, and I had no idea the impact a farmers market could have on a community. Like many Americans, my definition of a neighborhood was just a place with houses and an occasional restaurant or shop but nothing more.

I saw the market operating, sometimes arduously, in the spring and summer heat on that barren lot. You know, the one on 2nd Avenue and Hosea Williams Drive that use-to-be a drug corner? I thought it was cool to see some farm stands, and occasionally I would stop by, but I never took it all that seriously…that is until I got involved as a board member. I soon realized it’s not just about selling produce or cute soaps; it’s about being with your neighbors, or as the market puts it: Community through Food.

The East Lake community will not only see a visual change on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Hosea, but they will have access to fresh food growing right outside their house. They can walk to it, volunteer with building the farm and growing food, and they will have a great opportunity to engage with their neighbors. In addition to the regular market hours, Saturdays 9 a.m.-1 p.m., there will also be a mid-week market stand at the Villages of East Lake.

When I asked Lou Linzie, our Market Manager, what she likes most about the project she said, “I think it’s [the farm] a great first step to food sovereignty and solving issues like food insecurity. At the end of the day, that’s what building community around food is really about. It’s about making sure that we are actually reaching a community of people.”

While the farm is serving the production side of things, the ELC Learning Garden will continue to do what it does best—offer gardening and nutrition outreach and education to the public. The garden plans on offering more raised beds, it currently has 16, where residents can learn about gardening practices. Other additions include a greenhouse, a water irrigation system, and learning beds at the Villages.

“It’s like a snowball effect just starting to roll, and it’s just going to blow up this year. The farm, the garden [here] and at the Villages, and the transformation of the garden at the school [Charles R. Drew Charter School]—East Lake is about to get real green, real quick,” says Khari Diop, Manager at ELC Learning Garden.

With the garden and the farm, local residents will have a chance to not only build their knowledge of nutrition and learn how to grow their own food, but they will have a chance to work side-by-side with their neighbor and create something that makes the community stronger. I think it’s something we could use right now amidst all the change and uncertainty—a place to commune with one another and build something together.

To learn more about getting involved with the farm, visit www.elfmarket.org, and for information on getting involved with the garden, visit www.sehort.org.

To learn more about the grant visit: CDC's communities site.

Ms. Mummert, an East Lake resident, is vice president of the East Lake Farmers Market board of directors.


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