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What do you support when you shop at a farmers market?

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The UGRO Garden in Atlanta’s West Oakland neighborhood is a community gathering place as well as a place where food grows.

This is going to be an exciting weekend for Atlanta’s historic West End—it’s the return of the West End Farmers and Artisans Market at the Wren’s Nest house museum. And thanks to Atlanta Streets Alive, the surrounding streets will be closed to cars and open to people, whether you’ve got a bicycle or want to explore on your own two feet.

There are lots of great growers in the area, and last week we had the chance to visit the Good Shepherd Agro Ecology Center, a beautiful farm doing beautiful things for the community that surrounds it. The team at Good Shepherd has a diverse set of skills, from farming to grant writing to community organizing, and they’re just one example of the literally groundbreaking work happening in the West End.

The GSAEC exists as part of an ecosystem of urban farms and community gardens, and after a short drive from their farm, the GSAEC crew excitedly walked me through a really beautiful community garden called the Urban Garden Resiliency Oasis, or UGRO.

Several residents from the surrounding West Oakland neighborhood were tending plots when we arrived, and a sense of community pervades the place, from the raised beds that were built by participants in the City of Atlanta’s Mayor’s Youth Program to the three 350-gallon plastic tanks donated by GSAEC that collect rainwater to the planting beds constructed by students from the HABESHA Works program.

The site is designed to be a growing operation, but as GSAEC’s Eugene Cooke told me, “We’re not just growing food, we’re growing our community. It’s a beautiful relationship.”

They’ve got plans for a mural on an onsite storage building, and a circular labyrinth that’s intended to be a playplace for neighborhood children has already been planted with snap peas and radishes. This summer its low walls will be covered in cucumber vines.

One way to support farms like the GSAEC is to buy from them, whether it’s at a farmers market or through a CSA. When you spend your money at a farmers market, you’re not just buying tasty vegetables—you’re investing in farmers, and in the work that they do on-farm and in their communities. Doesn’t that make that local, organic chard taste even better?

 

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