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Celebrating a New Day for Urban Ag in Atlanta

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 10.26.58 AMAtlanta is ready to become a national leader in local food systems—today Mayor Kasim Reed signed an ordinance that will encourage and support our growing urban agriculture movement. (Read the full text of the ordinance here.)

Development of the ordinance was led by the Atlanta Local Food Initiative, Georgia Organics, a grassroots group of urban farmers, community gardeners, community development organizations, and citizen advocates working in partnership with Atlanta’s Office of Planning and Office of Sustainability and supported by the Turner Environmental Law Clinic at Emory Law School, which helped draft and negotiate the zoning updates.

Yesterday members of this coalition and city officials celebrated this new day in urban agriculture and explained the legislation at Truly Living Well’s Wheat Street Garden, a four-acre urban farm that embodies the vital, transformative work of urban agriculture. (Photos are here, and video of the press conference is here.)

More Atlanta families are growing their own food, community gardens and farmers markets are now hubs of community interaction, and Atlanta urban farms are producing—and increasing access to—local, fresh food.

But until these new zoning changes were enacted, city laws:
• Prevented urban agriculture operations from obtaining small business loans;
• Stood in the way of urban farmers being issued a business license;
• Created a barrier for farmers and community gardeners to enter into legal land lease agreements; and,
• Created a risky environment where one complaint could jeopardize an entire project.

“The passage of the Urban Ag Ordinance is another important step toward securing the future of Atlanta’s food system,” said ALFI Director Suzanne Girdner. She continued:

However, urban ag is about more than growing food in the city. It’s about adding green spaces and crucial habitats back onto the fabric of the urban environment. It’s about the money Atlantans spend on food, supporting Atlanta. While bringing together neighbors, growers, plants, and pollinators.

Here is a recipe for transformation: take a disused or abandoned parcel of land, mix in garden plots, neighbors, gardeners, seeds and water, and you will get a more resilient community that’s eating healthy, local food.

What’s more, we’re already lucky. Atlanta has a vibrant community of growers and gardens.

Take a look around you, take in this green abundance of a community that’s been hard at work. From sterile concrete to a fertile farm – You’re standing in a wellspring of transformation. Think how many people have access to healthy, good food as a result of the efforts of Truly Living Well.

Now realize the network of our growers across the city providing healthy food in their communities such as the Good Shepherd Agro Ecology CenterPatchwork City FarmsSoutheastern Horticultural SocietyConcrete JungleCrack in the Sidewalk FarmletHABESHA, the 3×3 Project, and numerous community gardens across the city Now imagine more growers, and more gardens.

This is just the beginning. The passage of the urban ag ordinance helps to ensure this continued transformation. We find ourselves here today to celebrate this achievement but it’s also the time to ask for those of us who aren’t growers, “How will we participate in this transformation?”

Connect with your local growers, support their efforts. Buy good, local food. Welcome to a growing Atlanta.

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