By the Numbers - A Study of Atlanta’s Community Gardens

Leaders Growing Community Gardens is a collaborative initiative to provide training and resources for Atlanta’s community garden leaders who are vital members of our local food movement. Eight prominent organizations and experts came together to study the current gaps around leading and managing community gardens to identify and create opportunities and resources for sustaining community garden infrastructure.

One of these individuals is Khari Diop, the chief executive at ThinkGreen Inc. Bringing members like Khari to bear to provide his insights and passion to collaborative projects is what Food Well Alliance is all about. It is through facilitating the gathering of minds and passion we will all realize better communities. Khari talked to us recently about his experience with collecting data and analyzing our local community garden landscape.

“I like to call it fuzzy numbers,” Khari explains of how gardens currently report and track their own data. A lot of organizations and individuals working in and around community gardens tend to rely on self-reporting, which is often done retroactively. What this meant for the Leaders Growing Community Gardens team is no real way to quantify or know who and what made up this community. They decided to conduct a survey to better understand the population, communities and support structures associated with Atlanta’s community gardens. This exercise has helped provide a more accurate picture of the community garden landscape, and the insights and findings are informing how we shape the initiative.

Approximately 170 respondents have completed the survey. From this current grouping, 128 gardens were identified spanning across five counties. “To know that so many community gardens are in existence is exciting,” says Khari. The survey respondents were predominantly female, middle-aged and caucasian. Since Khari’s background has dealt more with gardens providing subsistence to struggling communities, some of these findings were interesting, proving valuable for understanding the current landscape. The highest percentage of respondents represented gardens in Dekalb and Fulton counties. Survey results show that most are growing using organic or natural methods, about half identify as moderately- to well-skilled in growing and horticulture, and about a third produce more than 100 pounds of food per year.

The research validated some of our assumptions about the unique influence a community’s culture has on different needs for their community gardens, Khari explains. Some gardeners spring-up in affluent areas speaking to the desire to feel more connected with the community and some have needs to maximize the growing and production potential for a particular community.  

Our community gardens represent “little pockets of revolution,” says Khari, and they “play a huge part in building community within communities.” Members of the initiative are continuing to collect and analyze data as we are still challenged to see who we’re missing and if what has been gathered so far is an accurate reflection of the broader landscape.

Community gardens are “crucibles for a better world, a more equitable world,” Khari shares. In strengthening this community and the leaders charged with organizing and managing it, we can help transform our local communities for the better. Armed with the current findings, the Leaders Growing Community Gardens initiative is able to better understand who our community gardeners are, why they are participating and how to better provide solutions for amplifying their work.

Leaders Growing Community Gardens

Leaders Growing Community Gardens is an Atlanta collaborative initiative, funded by Food Well Alliance, designed to support community gardens. We have upcoming workshops Sept.30- Oct. 1 and Oct. 14-15. Registrations for 1X1 Coaching also closes on November 7, 2016. Check-out our upcoming opportunities for community garden leaders to get connected with the initiative!

ThinkGreen Inc. is a local transformative organization seeking to help individuals and groups be better stewards of the environment and to think innovatively about designing and repurposing our environment for a more sustainable future.