See Kelly Jordan’s photos from AgLanta Eats below this article.

AgLanta, the City of Atlanta’s urban agricultural department, was joined with Groundwork Atlanta to bring the popular AgLanta Eats festival back to Atlanta on Aug. 21 for the second year in a row. It was previously paused in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19, but the festival dates back to 2018, though not in the Atlanta Botanical Garden.

AgLanta Eats “celebrates, educates, and unites our local food system while raising funds to support Atlanta food producers,” according to its web page. It does this by pairing chefs from all over the city together with local community gardens and urban farms to create fresh meals. 

Attendees toured the botanical garden; live music, culinary demonstrations and agriculture educational sessions were also performed at the event. Mayor Andre Dickens stopped by and gave a few remarks as well, noting this is his second AgLanta Eats as mayor but he had been attending since he was a councilman.

“This is a true collaboration and as I say, Atlanta is a group project — including our farmers, our growers, our chefs, everybody that’s doing their part. This is a true urban agriculture system,” Dickens said.

Justin Nickleson, program manager of AgLanta Grown, said he is excited about this year’s festival.

“It’s the City of Atlanta’s first and only hyperlocal food festival where we partner local food businesses with local farms to highlight the farm-to-table connections that are happening regularly within our Metro Atlanta landscape,” Nickelson said. “The goal here is to make sure that general consumers know what chefs, restaurants and food businesses are working to source produce locally from our local landscape, and also give a great viewpoint of how consumers can consume local produce.”

A total of 30 chefs were confirmed for the event this year, and Nickelson said they are looking to source upwards of 500 pounds of local produce for the event. Last year, more than $3500 worth of produce was sourced locally, and more than $30,000 was donated to local growers through another AgLanta program. 

AgLanta is based out of the Department of City Planning Office of Housing and Community Development.

A graphic found on the AgLanta website. (Graphic from AgLanta.)

AgLanta started with the mission of ensuring 85 percent of Atlanta residents live within a half mile of fresh food. Nickelson said a festival like Aglanta Eats is a perfect event to garner support for the mission.

“[We seek to] uplift new market and distribution access for local growers and galvanize public-private consumer support to strengthen the urban agriculture community,” Nickelson said.

AgLanta has a few programs; one program, AgLanta Grown, seeks to “cultivate a resilient, equitable, inclusive, just, and accessible food system,” according to its website. Another is the AgLanta Grows-A-Lot program transforms vacant city-owned lots into thriving community gardens. The Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill, which is the largest urban farm of its kind in the country, also acts as an extension of AgLanta and its programs.

AgLanta sees its work as crucial to promoting local food business; with more than 30 urban farms in the Metro Atlanta area, Nickelson said, the producers need consumers to support them and know they exist.

The mission towards local food promotions extends beyond just local business — it has real, positive environmental implications.

“The sustainability of our local food ecosystem; we have to train ourselves and the community how to eat seasonally and regionally,” Nickelson said. Often, the organic food at our supermarkets is grown in places like California or even in Central and South America.

For instance, more than 90 percent of tomatoes grown in the U.S. are grown in California; likewise, more than 70 percent of lettuce is grown in California, which another estimated 30 percent in Arizona. Those food miles — in the form of transportation emissions — add to environmental degradation, Nickelson said. 

Finally, the health benefits of fresh, organic food cannot be understated, according to Nickleson. Both consumers and the ecosystem at large are strengthened with diverse food for people and diverse plants for pollinators.  

Plus, any food eaten means less food going to waste and towards a landfill, where it would sit and eventually produce methane — a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the U.S. EPA.

AgLanta and Groundwork Atlanta hopes the AgLanta Eats 2023 festival was the best one yet, and only the latest installment in a festival they hope to see return for years to come.

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