by Angel Mills
Our very own Director of Programs Amber Suitt spoke on the premier panel at the Georgia Environmental Justice Education and Awareness Symposium on April 22.
Education and farmer support were hot topics during the panel. The number one request we’ve received over the years is school gardens. “We have gardens at schools in Fulton, East Point, and College Park,” said panelist Captain Planet Foundation Chairperson Laura Turner Seydel. “As soon as the dirt starts flying and they put those plants in the ground, everything changes.” Panelists agreed that exposing students to gardening opportunities were integral to improve students’ nutrition and educational quality.
Golden Gate Health Care Resources Inc. Founder Mandisha A. Thomas hosted the symposium in partnership with State Representative Debra Bazemore. Georgia Organics sponsored the event along with the University of Georgia Extension, Greening Georgia, City of South Fulton Observer, and several other organizations in the city.
The symposium included several panels including a Farmers’ Round Table with Willie Miller (Miller City Farm), Keisha Cameron (High Hog Farm), Sagdrina Jalal (Georgia Farmers Market Association) and Anthony Gobert (Gwinnett Tech). The panelists discussed several challenges in urban agriculture. When asked about the new FSMA Standards, Keisha said, “Farming doesn’t look like a one size fits all. Policies often favor the corporate giants [ and not the small, local farmers].” Keisha and Willie explained that small scale farmers need specialized support. “Every neighborhood should set up an acre for a farm when considering adding green spaces,” said Willie.
The Mayors’ Round Table Discussion was the final highlight of the symposium. Mayors Tom Reed (City of Chattahoochee Hills), Alan Hallman (City of Hapeville), and William “Bill” Edwards (City of South Fulton) shared their plans for increasing the amount of green space in their cities and improving the quality of life for residents. The panel concluded by encouraging attendees and community organizations to do their part to address environmental justice.