Tuesday, 11 November 2014 23:29

Atlanta’s Food Desert Reaps Harvests From Farm Chastain's Urban Classroom Featured

This past spring and summer, hundreds of kids of all ages came to visit us and learn about urban gardening. But did you know Farm Chastain also delivered real health benefits to others beyond its gates?

Yes! Through our partnership with The Southeastern Horticultural Society, Farm Chastain has a sister farm in West Atlanta. Good Samaritan Farm is part of Good Samaritan Health Center that provides affordable medical, dental, mental health and health education services for underserved individuals and families.

Here’s how Farm Chastain works with Good Samaritan Farm to nourish the Atlanta community at large.

First, seeds are planted in the greenhouse by our own Farmer Josh at Good Samaritan. (Yes. He pulls double duty farming at Good Samaritan, too.) Next, Josh digs up the baby plants and transplants them at Farm Chastain. Sun shines down. Rain falls.  Bees pollinate. Pesticides are not sprayed. Leaves grow. Beans sprout. And soon, before you know it, the garden is lush with organically grown, vitamin packed peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, sweet potatoes, squash, lettuce, herbs and more.

Once the vegetables are ripe, Farmer Josh picks them to take back to Good Samaritan. Perhaps it’s here, in West Atlanta where Farm Chastain’s vegetables are most appreciated. With few grocery stores for miles and just a handful of fast food restaurants and convenience stores, this community is considered a “food desert.” To make things even tougher, many residents lack money, transportation and access to healthy eating options.

“What that means is people are more likely to suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure,” said Karen Rose, Chief Development Officer for Good Samaritan. “In fact, to be in our program, you must be overweight or diagnosed with a chronic illness.” So, Good Samaritan took a vacant lot and turned it into a community supported agricultural resource. During their weekly "Tuesday Harvest," patients who have prepaid for the market program get to pick up 7-8 pounds of fresh picked, organic produce, much of it grown at Farm Chastain.

Thanks to Farmer Josh and Good Samaritan, Farm Chastain is going beyond our mission to promote environmental sustainability, wellness through farming and environmental education within Chastain Park. We're stepping outside our own farm gates to deliver a healthier diet and lifestyle to those who need it most.