Monday, August 9, 2010

Home from Hotlanta...American Commmunity Gardening Association Fabulous Annual Conference

Participants loved to explore the gardens...this is the Dill Street Community Garden that is part of the Sullivan Community Center in Atlanta

I haven't blogged in a while but am still on a "high" from a fabulous annual conference for ACGA and NEED to write about it because it was so wonderful. Previous conferences have been held in Portland (Oregon), Indianapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, NYC, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Toronto, Boston, Columbus (Ohio) and Atlanta again (did I forget any?).  This conference took place August 6-8 at the Loudermilk Center in downtown Atlanta.

The mood of the conference was enthusiastic, inspiring and hopeful. There was amazing energy among a truly diverse group of nearly 300 participants of all ages and backgrounds. The conference was filled with great workshops, garden tours and excellent speakers (including First Lady Michelle Obama via videotape about the White House vegetable garden and her commitment to fighting child obesity). The theme "A Holistic Approach to Building Sustainable and Healthy Communities " was carried out beautifully with an emphasis on how community gardens can be a force in preventing childhood obesity and promoting child health.  Speakers and workshops gave great examples of how this is being done in schools, community gardens, food banks, etc. 

Two workshops that I attended were outstanding.
Bikes and busses were the methods of transportation to visit community gardens

Founder of a booming neighborhood community garden in a lot behind her backyard
Participant from a new citywide program in San Francisco
"Growing Healthy Kids: Community Garden with Obesity Prevention in Mind" was presented by Maria Hill from Chapel Hill, NC.  Maria shared their experience from three years of establishing new community gardens to serve immigrant families with young children. The one in Chapel Hill primarily includes Latino families who are learning to grow food for their children and encouraging healthy eating habits of fresh vegetables and fruits. Close to 30 per cent of children in NC are either obese or in danger of obesity leading to higher child rates of hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.

The Mother Hubbard's Cupboard is a food pantry in Bloomington Indiana. Leader Stephanie Solomon led a workshop "Growing Food Access: Garden Education at the Food Pantry". Mother Hubbard sponsors four gardens which are tended by those who receive food from the food pantry.  Stephanie shared great ideas for connecting families with healthy eating habits.

 I left feeling in awe of how brilliantly these women are organizing truly  "holistic" programs.

Dill Street Community Garden
Program of Sullivan Community Center
(Top)Atlanta's Community ToolBank progam that lends tools for communtiy programs
(Bottom) Tool shed that has a solar panel to provide power for lights and sound systems)
Experienced and enthusasitc gardener tells us about her plants including this awesome Princess Amaranth
Bus and bike tours to community gardens were fun and inspiring. I really learned a lot about design, crops, community organizing and eco practices.  I went to three outstanding community gardens plus the Atlanta ToolBank Program ( which was a totally new concept for me. This is a lending warehouse for tools for gardening, home repairs and other community projects.  Tools can be borrowed for a week.  ToolsUSA is now a new organization based on the Atlanta model and the next one will be in Charlotte!  (Just wish I could get some tools for our Food Bank Community Garden project with 80 wake Forest students next weekend when we convert our garden from a summer to a fall garden).

My only regret is not having photos of a fabulous party on Saturday night at the Urban Metro Farm with every kind of southern food, a blues band and a tour of their new farm. A silent auction yielded $1500 for ACGA.
Ursula Chance from Bronx Greenup...checking out that mulch!

I returned home feeling renewed and refreshed.  I'm inspired to keep connecting with these great people, especially those in our NC gardens and to improve our Food Bank Community Garden here in Winston-Salem.  (

Thanks to the organizers and the great participants.  Bobby Wilson and Kathy Walker of Fulton County Extension are the best!

For more information about the American Community Gardening Association, go to