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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.

The Food Well Alliance, a nonprofit that helps build 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,” Bobbi de Winter, the alliance’s executive director, said in a statement. “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 alliance survey also showed 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 landfills and instead contributes to the creation of fertile soil.

The alliance, along with the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s community gardens, the Global Growers Network, Park Pride, the Terra Nova Compost Cooperative, Truly Living Well, the University of Georgia Extension and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry collectively worked together to design the initiative to address the needs and soil challenges that community gardens face in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

After defining a common agenda, aligning efforts and using common measures of success, the 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 deadline to register for the kits is Tuesday (July 28).

The general public, along with all community gardeners, is invited to join the Healthy Soil, Healthy Community Compost event, Aug. 29 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Truly Living Well’s Wheat Street garden located at 75 Hilliard St. in southeast Atlanta. 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.

The public is welcome to participate in any one of the 19 workshops now through October that will demonstrate the perfect recipe for making compost in gardens and in one’s backyard, including how to turn food scraps into valuable soil.

For information and event or garden registration, visit

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