Posted by Chandra Ward, ATLANTA, GA -- Summer in Atlanta is endlessly hot and humid and most people want to stay in the air conditioned indoors. But not at Truly Living Well (TLW) gardens where members of the community are promoting social change through growing fresh produce. TLW at Wheat Street Gardens sits inconspicuously in the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood next to the Martin Luther King Center. Looking at the garden, one would never know that it sits on top of a former public housing project called Wheat Street Gardens which was demolished in 1998.
TLW is not only an urban garden, but also a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and a community educator offering summer camp, workshops and seminars, as well as a farmer training program. With Wheat Street Church shadowing the garden from above and the Atlanta skyline off in the distance, children sing songs performing for a crowd of adults during summer camp. The kids learn about healthy eating and growing plants while they engage with the natural environment. When I happened upon the place I saw parents, friends, garden volunteers and workers cheering the smiling kids as they performed songs and danced on their last day of camp. While the children performed, the garden's farmers market hosted a crowd of customers.
TLW is a part of a growing movement, in which citizens are reclaiming the urban landscape by establishing community gardens in vacant lots. Places like TLW are an empowering addition to poor urban neighborhoods that are not only food deserts, but housing deserts, resource deserts, and social capital deserts as well. In Atlanta these communities are strewn with abandoned houses, closed businesses, and empty lots overrun by weeds. Typically residents do not have access to affordable fresh food. TLW offers employment and volunteer opportunities that both enhance the well being of the community and provide lessons in self-sufficiency through urban farming. Thanks to places like TLW, food desert communities now have affordable fresh and locally grown produce.