Eight partners join to help community gardeners grow more local food through improved soil practices
For the first time in Atlanta, a local food collaboration has formed to help community gardeners build healthier soil through a new Healthy Soil, Healthy Community initiative. Food Well Alliance, a nonprofit leader in building healthier communities through local food, is working with seven other community partners to design the initiative, which will offer a series of workshops, soil testing, compost tools and online resources to increase awareness of composting best practices and to improve the soil of metro Atlanta’s community gardens.
“We were surprised to discover, through a survey we conducted with metro Atlanta community gardens, that 75 percent of survey participants said the food they are able to grow at their community garden contributes to their household’s food security,” said Bobbi de Winter, executive director of the Food Well Alliance. “We want that food to be bountiful, healthy and nutritious. For this reason, compost and soil education is imperative to improve both nutrition and garden yields to help feed local Atlantans.”
The Food Well Alliance survey also showed that 41 percent of respondents had not tested their soil in the past three years, and that 89 percent wanted additional gardening skills to contribute to the success of their gardens. The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2015 the International Year of Soils since soil is a non-renewable resource, and its preservation is essential for food security and a sustainable future. The goal of the Healthy Soil, Healthy Community initiative is to change public attitude about composting so that more organic waste is diverted from land-fills and instead contributes to the creation of fertile soil.
Food Well Alliance, along with the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Community Gardens, Global Growers Network, Park Pride, Terra Nova Compost Cooperative, Truly Living Well, University of Georgia Extension and The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, collectively worked together to design the Healthy Soil, Healthy Community initiative to address the needs and soil challenges that community gardens face across Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.
After defining a common agenda, aligning efforts and using common measures of success, the Healthy Soil, Healthy Community partners achieved the first step in collective impact. The initiative will not only strengthen community garden participation and relationships with local growers, but also the partners will assess the impact on metro Atlanta’s soil health, composting practices and awareness of nutrient and contamination levels of garden soils, with the goal of building healthier communities through more nutritious locally grown food.
More than 50 gardens will receive a Healthy Soil Tool Kit consisting of: quality compost, a compost bin, a composting thermometer, a soil test, a weatherproof instructional sign and a healthy soil resource guide – all at no cost. The general public, along with all community gardeners, is invited to join the Healthy Soil, Healthy Community Compost event, August 29, from 4 – 8 p.m. at Truly Living Well’s Wheat Street Garden located at 75 Hilliard St. NE, Atlanta, Georgia, 30312. The event will feature games, mini-workshops on composting, free soil screenings, a raffle, local food and a fall plant sale. This event is free with advance registration, and will be a chance to network with community gardeners, soil enthusiasts and compost experts.
Everyone is welcome to participate in any one of the 19 workshops from July through October that will demonstrate the perfect recipe for making compost in gardens and in your backyard. Don’t throw those food scraps away! Learn how to turn them into valuable soil. The list of events is available here.