The Atlanta Local Food Initiative (ALFI) recently hosted a trip to Lovejoy, GA with several organizations, including Georgia Organics, to take a look at the city-managed farm run by Mayor Bobby Cartwright.
A lifelong farmer armed with a mean handlebar mustache, Cartwright initiated a 14-acre farm with the help of grants and some of his own equipment. Partly inspired by his own health issues, Cartwright wanted to show folks “that you don’t have to eat at McDonalds.”
His farm is fairly conventional, utilizing fertilizers and pesticides to control pests. In 2015, they surpassed their production goal for the year within one and a half months.
The produce is sold at a market on the property. The price structure is tiered: Lovejoy residents are offered the cheapest option, Clayton County residents receive the second-lowest rate, and the general public gets the highest rate, which is still favorably comparable to many farmers markets.
Additionally, low-income residents and seniors receive a gift card that ranges from $20 to $29 every month to spend at the market, enticing more folks to buy fresh produce.
Though the farm is supported by several grants, much of the labor is by volunteers and prison labor from Robert Deyton detention facility. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office estimated one to three inmates per day work on the field. Cartwright has also started a garden at the dentition facility and works to maintain it with the inmates. Those who work in the detention facility garden are offered the volunteer positions at the city garden.
The initiative has managed to find employment for two prisoners with the city garden. Working on the city garden also allows inmates to reduce their sentences.
After a tour of the farm, Cartwright fielded questions from the visitors from Atlanta, humoring the crowd with his big personality.
Discussing potential pushback from chain grocers, Cartwright said, “I wouldn’t tolerate it. They throw out more than they sell. You can’t let silliness control what you’re doing.”
While there is certainly room for improvement on the farm, Cartwright has established a model that seems to work for members of his community. We look forward to staying in touch with the city of Lovejoy as they take steps towards producing more fresh, local produce.
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