College Students Take Over MAUF During Spring Break
The Metro Atlanta Urban Farm is an unexpected oasis of green amongst a patchwork of pavement, fast food restaurants, railroad tracks, and liquor stores. The farm’s mission is to provide fresh, affordable, and healthy produce to the local community. A friend of ours recommended Bobby Wilson, the farm owner, and it was immediately after our first phone call with him and Mrs. Walker, the program director, that we knew we were in for a treat.
Upon arrival, the tasks we found assigned to us were simple yet demanding. A few of our duties included feeding the chickens, planting beets and Russian kale, consolidating the greenhouse’s structure, trimming bushes, tilling the soil, setting up drip irrigation, and distributing compost. All this occurred under the care of Mr. Moses, the farm manager. On top of acquiring agricultural skills and techniques, we discovered the admirable patience and trust necessary for this lifestyle. Additionally, the hours spent at work gave us the time to get to know one another all the better. We found out that, while the farm aims to provide fresh produce, Bobby’s commitment to community involvement has led the farm to expand its reach to a multidimensional stage. Initiatives include providing a platform for education on healthy lifestyles, supporting urban agriculture programs throughout the South, and sending basic relief supplies to disaster-hit regions of Puerto Rico. All of this community work is accompanied by a truly heartfelt focus on sustainable farming, such as the use of solar panels, organic compost, old window panes for insulation, and fish-tank water from local schools as fertilizer.
The Metro Atlanta community’s access to affordable healthy produce contrasts that of the Middlebury community in Vermont. While the former is dependent on fast food options,
the latter has its own locally-grown, fresh food co-operative. Through this trip to Atlanta, we have come to recognize the privilege of this access and, in the process, have understood how Atlanta’s food insecurities are strongly linked, beyond class, to the greater questions of race, gender, and even disability.
We leave the farm with a better understanding of responsible food growth and a renewed appreciation for community involvement in agricultural efforts. We thank Bobby Wilson, Ms. Walker, Mr. Moses, the various local volunteers at the far
Georgia State University
Summaries- Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
The divide between large and small institutions has been something that has always been on my mind, especially as someone who has lived with multiple families and felt that gap very personally. Large institutions are notorious for the corporate greed and wealth disparity that impoverished communities often suffer from, either from food waste, product cost, and even institutionalized racism with avoiding helping impoverished communities that may be competing with their own small businesses against the larger ones. It’s hard to think of what a solution is, but I did give it a thought while we were exploring the outdoor area and seeing all the wonderful things the farm was creating.
One possible solution is to try to advocate that STEM is cool, and STEM is do-able. My friend whom I lived in College Park with was African-American, and I’ll never forget when she told me that when she was younger it was seen as “un-doable” to go into a computer science degree for “her kind.” That really hurt, because I always saw her as a very intelligent and strong person, and would never think that she grew up in an environment where any form of STEM education or career wasn’t plausible. It all makes sense when you think about it because there aren’t many role models for people of color/minorities to see in the STEM field. How can children of color even begin to imagine themselves wearing a lab coat or becoming a successful farmer if there is not a previous leader that can give them the courage?
Another solution is to work on collaboration and building trust. I really liked the pamphlet that Bobby Wilson presented to us about the need for people to build relationships and trust one another. Lack of trust and empathy is something that can destroy anyone and their dreams, and I have seen it happen far too often. What a world it could be if, instead of treating each other like starving wolves, we could work together to solve poverty and starvation? Could we actually give poor communities a chance? These are all the questions that I wish those with power and institutions could realize, they could change and help.
Another big solution is to try for more program availability. STEM is an extremely competitive field, and while I understand competition is sometimes a healthy thing, there are too many questions and problems in life to afford to let people fall through the cracks and not become successful in STEM. Institutions like the government could spare more funding towards agriculture, science, math, technology, and cut back on militarized expenditures. Our country needs next generations of powerful STEM leaders, and our lack of funding for these brilliant minds, especially in the minority communities, is hurting us.
As for my learning at the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, I learned a lot! There was a wealth of science being implemented that many probably do not even realize. Some of the plants were made by cross-planting, the seeds were cared for with careful protocol, and the farm ensured usage of non-dangerous materials in a sensible way. They also made sure to have a mentoring program that would benefit youth of color who are suffering from our prison industrial complex system, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. Instead of them not gaining any foundation to do better in life and support themselves with skills that can literally feed them, they could be lost to the cyclic cycle of in and out of prison cages. I think that what they are doing at this farm is very great, and I hope they continue to do it for generations to come.
I think that smaller, less formal science institutions (such as the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm) are the best soft introduction to STEM fields for many students. The farm presents a different perspective on plant biology and ecology than what students learn in a classroom or other more formal science institutions. At the farm, children are exposed to a completely different learning setting than the highly structured environments they are used to with school, which can open their eyes to a different way of viewing STEM fields. Some students may be intimidated or disinterested by the structure of school and formal science institutions, so something fun like the farm may pique some children’s interests in a way that a textbook or a research lab could not. Since there are many different learning styles, we as educators and concerned community members should provide as many different learning environments as possible.
The existence of more informal science institutions help to tear down the “ivory walls” of a more formal science institution like a research lab or university. While the prestige of these establishments is definitely important, the flip side is that often children from minority backgrounds often feel unwelcome or unprepared for the rigor of the well-regulated formal institutions. This feeling is present especially if children come from a lower class background, going through schools that lack the proper resources to present students with opportunities in STEM fields. By having a more flexible introductory environment, children can not only gain experience but also gain confidence in themselves and their abilities. Informal science institutions also play an important part of building a bridge between where students are currently and the formally recognized science institutions.
After an introduction to STEM in a place like the farm, students can relate their real-world experiences to what they learn in a classroom. Students can become more motivated to learn in the classroom and the lab after seeing the multitude of settings where STEM is applied. By turning abstract concepts from a textbook into tangible, real world experiences, science becomes more accessible than before.
Students learn best when the material is fun and relatable. The Metro Atlanta Urban Farm manages to not only help the College Park community tremendously, but also makes learning about plant biology, ecology, and environmental science fun. Once kids see science as fun, they are more motivated to continue within STEM fields. The farm operates as a significant member of the College Park community and provides a perfect opportunity to encourage kids to see science in a completely different light.
I believe that it would be difficult to “bridge” the divide between large and small institutions because there will always be unequal funding. However, I believe mixing large and small institutions at events like volunteering for the garden can be beneficial as well as creating a coalition between small and large institutions. Coalitions would be a council of different institutions, big and small, that come together for certain projects in the STEM fields. The exposure between large institutions and small institutions will hopefully foster communications for the two to interact in future occurrences. Essentially, I think that the only difference between small and large institutions is the number of opportunities, so the best way to bridge the gap is to increase STEM opportunities for children of color at smaller institutions. While I was at the farm, I thought it would be great if we could get someone from Coretta Scott King Young Women’s Leadership Academy (CSKYWLA) to be a liaison between Mr. Bobby Wilson and a gardening club, a community service club, to help arrange events and form a partnership for their garden. The liaison would be an officer of the said garden club that would help maintain the relationship between Metro Atlanta Urban Farm and CSKYWLA. I learned the basic information that we as facilitators would need to know to help CSKYWLA with their garden day. I learned about warm and cool seasons, what to grow during each season, raised beds, the basic process of planting, and organic methods to restore nutrients to the soil. My hope for the outcome of the partnership between MAUF and CSKYWLA is that the students will learn how to grow their own garden to start combatting their situation of living in a food desert.
I did not even think about the divide until Mr. Wilson brought it up. The more I think about it, the more I think it is a systemic problem. There are not only racial issues at play but also socioeconomic and sexism influences. One way that could possibly bridge the divide is if one of the smaller organizations that have specific goals to reach the poorer and misrepresented classes were to be sponsored and grown by the community into a larger organization where more individuals could be affected. As for bringing STEM to more children of color, I think at least three things need to happen. The first is that the parents have to be encouraging about STEM and science. I believe that children who grow up in a house that encourages STEM and a STEM career (even with a lack of financial resources) have more desire to follow that path. Secondly, the school system has to change. It must give more opportunities for children of color to follow STEM. They also cannot just give up on children with hard situations via suspensions, detentions, or alternative schools. Schools need to nurture and enhance the desire and encouragement that the children harbors and brings to the classroom. Thirdly, the community and organization that make it up must be supporting and willing to work together to provide the best opportunities for all children equally. When communities work together to create more STEM opportunities for children of color, it will have huge implications and help mitigate the systemic inequality in our society and current STEM pathways.
I thought the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm is a good initiative to bring to the city and promote eating fresh produce to the community at a low price. I think one of the main reasons that there is a divide is because of the lack of exposure that African Americans and minorities have to institutions like MAUF. This is compounded with the limited access to specific tools. I think implementing programs in schools that can help expose students to various STEM fields could help. This allows the students to become knowledgeable about the STEM careers. Offering other opportunities like internships that engage, provide hands-on activities, and networking opportunities can also help students. While at the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm I learned many things. I learned about different planting techniques, such as the difference between warm-season and cold-season crops. While there the class had hands-on experience and was able to plant seeds there.
When I think of bridging the divide between large and small institutions, it is important for there to be a larger institution that can be an umbrella or a mentor for smaller programs. Incentives are always helpful to get larger institutions to help smaller ones, like giving the larger institutions funding, but then problems could arise when it comes to funding, because it is possible that larger institutions will take advantage of the funding and only do minimal help to get results instead of investing in the smaller school to be able to succeed on their own one day.
MAUF and its commitment to bridging gaps was very eye-opening. I never really stopped to think about whether anyone is doing anything about bringing contrasting communities together. I noticed that it is a big challenge. I think in order to bridge the divide between large and small institutions, it has to start with the collaboration of different non-profit organizations that bring the community together. Many organizations can benefit each other by working together and by spreading the word. Trust has to start somewhere, and it can take a long time, but there is hope. School field trips to the farm would be beneficial if different schools from contrasting communities came at the same time. It’ll give the students opportunities to get out of the typical classroom setting. They can learn to be hands-on and see different perspectives other than their own. When kids have real life experiences, they can carry what they learn outside of the classroom to their future education, so they can really understand how and why things work the way they do. The environment at the farm is a safe place for kids to come together to work hard and learn about the different fields that STEM can offer (in science). Also, I think it’d be neat if school faculty found a way to incorporate the farm into their assignments. Volunteer projects at the farm could be beneficial.
In order to bridge the gap, I believe that we should encourage children from a young age that they can achieve anything that the other children can do. Some individuals but a stigma on children of color; however, they are just as capable as any other child in the area, once given the right tools. In a way, it is kind of similar to teaching a young child a foreign language. That young child will have a faster and better understanding of the language than an older person trying to understand the same material. If a child is taught a specific mindset from a young age, he or she will eventually grow with that mindset. I feel that we should also seek to provide more opportunities to students who may not be able to do them otherwise. Another reason why people of color are not as prevalent in the STEM field could be that they are not exposed to the possibilities. Personally, I would not be where I am today if I had not been given the opportunity to experience different programs in high school.
with whom we worked, as well as the Metro Atlanta Urban Farm for hosting our group and answering our questions.
– Group of Middlebury College students – MALT 2018 Program
Alternative Spring Break
Metro Atlanta Urban Farm
Amherst College, Massachusetts
I truly enjoyed my visit to the farm, particularly the time we spent learning about the different herbs and vegetables grown there. Over the course of our visit it became abundantly clear that the farm is its own mini ecosystem. Everything from the watering/irrigation system to the greenhouse, tunnel houses working together to keep things running. I’m an English major who’s admittedly intimidated by the serranoes but I loved the small biology lessons I learned as I worked. For example, Moses taught us interesting facts about the larger ecosystem when he talked to us about the gourds he uses to make bird houses. It’s important to attract birds to the area so that they can manage the insect population which is present because the farm doesn’t use any chemicals. Essentially the birds and the farm are in a symbiotic relationship. These birds are of importance, but simple lessons demonstrate how the farm is an invaluable classroom that brings the sciences to life. Finally, the community building that happens on the farm is also an invaluable learning experience.
My time at MAUF was invaluable. I learned about how farming takes form and effects not only the technical, but the theoretical. It takes a lot of technical skills to farm. I learned about the science of cross-breeding and even the molecules of water from Moses. It is important to have knowledge of natural science in order to think ahead when it comes to farming. I also was exposed to the technical and mechanical tools behind cultivating and planting, that make the farming work more efficient and less labor intensive. As Moses said, you need to work smart instead of hard.
I also very much appreciated the culture behind MAUF. Bringing communities together and welcoming people in order to achieve a greater good Is and inspiring mission to live by. Both Bobby and Moses made it clear that MAUF is here to serve and be a part of the community. I appreciated my time here and I hope to visit again soon.
My experience on the farm was incredible. The generosity, openness and friendliness of Moses and Bobby. I will never forget as an American studies major, I enjoyed getting history and hearing new experiences from the people and older generations who actually lived through the time. There are also pieces about farming and the role of the farm within poor and black communities that stuck with me. Bobby talked about farmers as both scientist and engineers. Moses said that the greenhouses allow them not only autonomy over their own food and body but also the ability to grow and cultivate fruits and veggies that are typically hard to come by, especially in Atlanta which is a food desert. At the farm we practiced both ploughing and laying down plant beds and we saw the end results by taking mint and spearmint home with us today. I learned that farms, especially this farm, signified so much more than a place that grows food. For Moses, it’s a place for fun and giving back. For children, it’s a place to work and not hard. For me, it’s a historical site. Lastly, it’s a natural site for innovation and technology. We learned how to grow different things in the same house including strawberries and cabbage. We learned about cross breeding of collards from Alabama and Georgia.
Thank you for this incredible time! If there is any way that Amherst College or me can give back and donate to MAUF please, please let me know.