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Atlanta to have ‘pick your own’ food forest with vegetables, nuts, berries

Food forest, locator map

Atlanta is soon to have the nation's largest food forest, on land between Lakewood Fairgrounds and Browns Mills Golf Course. Credit: Google Earth Plus, David Pendered

By David Pendered

A 7.1-acre food forest is slated to open shortly in Atlanta as a place where the public is welcome to come and pick to eat whatever catches their eye. The idea already has spread around the world– a town in England even offers communal food grown in a cemetery.

Food forest, locator map

Atlanta is soon to have the nation’s largest food forest, on land between Lakewood Fairgrounds and Browns Mills Golf Course. Credit: Google Earth Plus, David Pendered

“We’ve got sprouting cemeteries; the soil is extremely good,” TED speaker Pam Warhurst said during her talk titled, How We Eat Our Landscapes. Warhurst is a British environmental advocate who founded Incredible Edible, located in Todmorden, West Yorkshire. Her TED speech has garnered more than 1.3 million views.

Atlanta’s food forest isn’t going to be anywhere close to the level of Todmorden’s citywide communal food supply.

But the city’s potential food forest has its start and advocates bring a joyous enthusiasm to seeing it blossom. Atlanta Councilmember Carla Smith may be the most vocal.

“You want some basil, and you go out there and grab it,” Smith said during Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Community Development and Human Services Committee. “Anyone can go out there and grab it.”

Grabbers should be on their best behavior, Smith added.

“Please have respect and only take what you can use,” Smith said. “Just what you can eat. Be super respectful and take only what you can eat.”

Cavemen were among the first to harvest food forests, according to Smith’s account:

  • “The cavemen would be hunters and gatherers, and there was just food out there all the time. Something I’ve learned – did you know broccoli will come back? You don’t have to plant it every year.
  • “So things like berries, muscadines – I’m thinking of the things I got excited about – you plant them and then the food forest sort of takes care of itself.
  • “I know they are doing projects out there and Trees Atlanta is very involved. But one of the reasons we got the original grant is we are in a food desert [in this area of Smith’s district]. It is a place where people can come and the food will be there for them to hunt and gather.”

The committee took just over a nanosecond to vote unanimously in favor of buying the land. The vote sets it on track to be approved by the Atlanta City Council at its May 20 meeting.

Terms call for Atlanta to buy the 7.1 acre wooded tract from the Conservation Fund. Atlanta is to pay $157,384 for the land located at 2217 Browns Mill Road SE, at Rhinehill Road. The tract is located a few blocks north of Atlanta’s Browns Mill Golf Course, and southeast of Lakewood Fairgrounds.

The money is to be paid from development impact fees. The land is to be managed by the city’s parks department, according to the legislation.

The Conservation Fund paid $94,000 for the site on Nov. 4, 2016. Since the purchase, the fund has been covering costs associated with the land.

The price to be paid by Atlanta, as well as by the Conservation Fund, represents an enormous drop from the $747,000 paid on Oct. 22, 2017 – a time when the Great Recession was underway but not officially designated, and this tract had been purchased by a residential developer.

David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Dorothy Pirzad May 19, 2019 10:45 am


  2. KL May 21, 2019 10:24 am

    I think “2017” in the last paragraph should read “2007,” no?Report

  3. Clayton Preston May 21, 2019 1:40 pm

    The neighborhood of Chosewood Park started its Edible Neighborhood program 5 years ago with fruit trees, vines, and bushes along the sidewalks. This has been expanded to include culinary herbs at the curbs. And now a medicinal herb garden within the neighborhood.

    The Browns Mill food forest will be a great addition for the area.Report


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