Last Wednesday, Mario Cambardella, the City of Atlanta’s Urban Agriculture Director visited the Center for Civic Innovation to speak about the AgLanta “Grows-A-Lot” program.
Melonie Tharpe, our Programs Director, explained how the program grew out of conversations surrounding urban agriculture and equitable food access that took place at the Center for Civic Innovation. As Tharpe explained, “We really like convening people, asking them: What is it you actually want to see? And then helping them think through how to actually make it happen.”
Starting in 2016, CCI and Cambardella hosted a series of events where people and organizations that want to grow and access food could identify barriers and discuss what kinds of city policies would be most helpful in overcoming those barriers. During these discussions, participants identified access to land, information, and resources as their greatest challenges, and proposed land grants, farming opportunity zones, a NPU food access survey, and a food hub where produce could be processed and marketed as potential solutions.
With this information, Cambardella and his department designed the AgLanta “Grows-A-Lot” program, which invites entrepreneurs, non-profits, and residents to apply for a 5-year renewable license to adopt a vacant, city-owned property to start a new urban garden or urban farm. In addition to land, selected urban farmers and gardeners will receive assistance with the permitting and insurance process; Cambardella also secured funding from the City of Atlanta to provide each farm and garden with its own water meter.
Cambardella explained the importance of community engagement in designing and implementing this program: “We want to stay in constant contact with the public that we serve, because inevitably I work for you.” He added, “we’re trying to build a resilient, equitable, and accessible local food system here in Atlanta.”
Applications are currently open and due Thursday, June 14! For more information about the program, including application requirements, visit the AgLanta Grows-A-Lot program page.