Bobby Wilson, CEO of Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, paces back and forth while his hand taps the air like a lively metronome. He lets out a hearty “Oh, in my heart,” then the crowd of College Park community gardeners follows with, “I’m going to let it shine.”
Not quite what you’d expect at a community gardeners’ monthly meeting, but when you are Bobby Wilson and you happen to be in a room full of Golden-Agers with a penchant for Bible verses and homegrown tomatoes, it’s the perfect way to start a meeting.
Bobby Wilson says the community has been the pivotal influence on the farm since its conception.
“We started out about five years ago with the purpose to address some of the needs in food deserts across the Metro Atlanta area,” Bobby says. “People did not have access to fresh produce, and we wanted to provide opportunities for individuals to grow their own fresh vegetables.”
Bobby and Executive Director Cathy Walker, who is co-founder of the farm, are examples of local food organizers who are reaching out to members of nearby neighborhoods with programs that focus on health and nutrition, economic development, community vitality and environmental stewardship.
“There are two parts to what we do in the urban agriculture movement,” Bobby says. “One, is to teach people how to grow good, nutritional food that is free of chemicals. Two, is to organize communities around the garden to address the social needs of their communities.”
In just five years, Bobby has seen an increase of community garden plots, children teaching their parents about composting, elders cooking with less meat and politicians understanding the importance of maintaining greenspace.
“We feel like we are making progress,” Bobby says enthusiastically. “Every growing season we move it another notch higher, and I think we’re in the right place at the right time.”
Bobby talks fondly of the network of gardeners in Metro Atlanta—like his group of hymn hummers—who are using community gardening as a tool to meet the social needs of the community as well as provide access to local, fresh and affordable food.
“We reach out to the Greater Atlanta area to help provide assistance, and we do that through our network of community gardeners,” Bobby says. “In most cases they have a bed to lie in at night, a table to sit, and a full meal, but they realize that there are people less fortunate than them.”
In many ways, Metro Atlanta Urban Farm is a healing center for Southwest Atlanta’s greater community.
“It has been rewarding because we’re seeing the fruits of our labor,” Bobby says. “We want to encourage more people to get actively involved, and we also want to train more leaders so this work can continue on and we can have more of an impact on our food system, on our environment, and most of all, on our communities.”
About Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
A 3.75-acre organic farm located near downtown College Park, Metro Atlanta Urban Farm houses a farmers market and offers classes on gardening and canning and other forms of food preparation.