by Madison Pravecek and Miro Korenha 

Late last month, the Atlanta City Council voted to transform 7.1 acres of unused property into a public park and garden. The best part about it? The park will grow organically-grown nuts, fruits, berries, vegetables and medicinal herbs for local residents to propagate and pick free of charge. Once completed, the Urban Food Forest at Brown Mills will be the first food forest in Georgia and the largest in the United States.

Nature for Everyone: The city legislation commissioning the park outlined that, “The green space, currently vacant property, will feature trees, shrubs, and vines that produce fruit along with walking trails, a community garden and restored forest and stream-side areas by 2020.”

This forest has been in the works for quite some time: Originally, this site was sold to be developed into townhouses; however, the development went unfinished and the area was unused until the Conservation Fund acquired the parcel in 2016. They began the plans for the  Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill that is being developed today with the help of a $86,150 grant from the U.S. Forest Service Community Forest and Open Space Program. The City of Atlanta will now purchase the property from the Conservation Fund and it will be managed by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The Multipliers: Planting more trees and green spaces is an important component of keeping cities cool when summer temperatures spike and in a state like Georgia that is seeing its summer highs spike to dangerous levels this greening is much needed to not only feed residents but help mitigate the effects of a warming planet.

Why This Matters: In 2017, 36% of Atlanta was classified as a food desert (no access to fresh fruit or vegetables within a half mile), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The mayor of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, has a plan to ensure 85% of Atlanta residents are within one-half mile of accessible fresh food by 2021, and the food forest is an innovative part of this plan.  I (Madison) think that this is an interesting way to address the systematic issue of food deserts in large metro areas like Atlanta. A food forest circumvents traditional capitalist systems of food supply by reconnecting people with the natural ecosystems that provide them with food. It also empowers individuals with a dignified choice to seek those ecosystems out within their own city. Of course, there has to be larger systematic change, but this big step in the right direction!

Go Deeper: Is this the first time you’ve heard about food forests? Interested in finding out more about food forests, what they are, and how they work? Check out this comprehensive YouTube video for information and inspiration: 

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