Melon, Tomatoes, Okra Oh My!
When you hear Urban Gardening Resiliency Oasis (UGRO) what first comes to mind? Atlanta may not seem like an ideal location for urban gardening, especially with the rapid rise of the metro population and the unchecked growth of gentrification, but in fact, Atlanta is leading the way in urban agricultural development. Nestled quietly in the historic Oakland City neighborhood lies UGRO, and while poverty and crime have come to characterize this neighborhood, it acts as an oasis and a haven for the community. Each week Eugene Cooke, Nicole Bluh and Imran Battla along with volunteers from Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority Youth Build program give the garden what we all need at times, Tender Loving Care. But before the sun peeks over the clouds we all gather in a circle for a check-in. Eugene has worked with youth and in gardening for some time and knows the importance of setting the tone before work begins. A simple question that means so much… How do you feel?
One thing that is unique about UGRO in contrast to Good Shepherd Agro-Ecology center (which the team also manages) is their distinct purposes. UGRO is designed primarily as a community based education garden whereas Good Shepherd is primarily for farm to market production. As learning gardening it is important for volunteers to be cognizant of how they feel, especially when tending to the plants. Energy cannot be created or destroyed only transferred so good vibes are a must.
The learning experience begins as we rustle the morning dew off the grass and tread through the garden. “How do you know a plant is weak?” asks Eugene pointing to a bed of collards riddled with bug holes. Various answers are given but to our surprise the right answer is the simplest answer, the immune system. In so many ways plant life is but a reflection of your own and we have so much to learn about our reflection. In essence the purpose of UGRO to provide a literal oasis from the corner stores and abandon houses that surround the area, and even more so to emphasize the need for resilient communities and horticultural literacy.
Article written by Iman Folayan. She can be reached at i_folayan at yahoo.com UGRO is located at 1401 Bridges Ave, SW Atlanta GA 30310 and is completely open at all times for the community and visitors.