After six months of community engagement that culminated in the selection of a steering committee comprised of three community-appointed delegates and seven city-appointed delegates, metro Atlanta’s first-ever City Agriculture Plan has now entered the highly anticipated planning phase of its pilot program with the City of East Point. Phase 2 - in which the steering committee will begin planning with experts from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) - began on Thursday night with the kick-off steering committee meeting at ArtsXchange. The steering committee will act as a stakeholder advisory panel that provides input throughout the Phase 2 planning process from January - June 2020.
The City Agriculture Plan is a program developed and led by Atlanta nonprofit Food Well Alliance to give metro Atlanta’s urban growers a place at the decision-making table with their local government leaders. In 2020, East Point will be guided by ARC’s expert planners to develop city-wide plans that prioritize urban agriculture. The end goal is more thriving farms and gardens providing greater access to locally grown food for city residents, ultimately resulting in healthier communities.
East Point’s City Agriculture Plan is comprised of three phases. Phase 1 Community Engagement ran from August - December 2019. Phase 2 Planning will run from January - June 2020. Phase 3 Implementation is set to begin in July 2020 after the plan is approved in June. Food Well Alliance will grant up to $75,000 to help implement it.
“It was powerful to witness Phase 2 unfold with the first official steering committee meeting because it really brought to life our vision of urban growers having a voice at the table with policy makers,” said Food Well Alliance Executive Director Kim Karris. “Phase 1 was all about legwork and putting our ear to the ground - inviting residents, growers and community leaders to share their perspectives on how we should move forward. Now, the steering committee gets to use all that valuable information as they work with ARC and the city to develop the plan.”
Samyukth Shenbaga, Manager, Community Development Group, Atlanta Regional Commission, will be leading the ARC team that will guide the steering committee through the planning process. "Access to healthy local food for all our region's residents is a priority regional issue," said Shenbaga. "We are excited to assist the City of East Point in developing our region's first City Agriculture Plan."
Long before East Point was selected as the pilot for the program, Food Well Alliance understood how important it would be for the program to be equitable and sustainable. They secured experts from Taproot, a local firm that champions community-driven development, to lead the community engagement phase. Taproot invited residents to participate in focus groups, one-on-one meetings, and even a bus tour where they could meet local food champions and see first-hand where local food is grown and sold in East Point.
“When I talk about the work we are doing, people are really impressed because it’s not typical for this degree of community engagement to take place when we’re talking about city planning,” said Taproot Consultant Sagdrina Jalal as Phase 1 came to a close. “And around the topic of agriculture, that’s even less common. So, this is very progressive. It’s exciting to see it happening in East Point, to see it happening in Georgia, to see it happening in the South.”
East Point Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham attended every event during Phase 1 and is fully invested in the program. She believes a successful City Agriculture Plan in East Point has the potential to capture the attention of other cities. “We are, and will continue to be, a model city for fairness, justice, inclusion, and holistic equity which includes our health, and just really building community,” said Ingraham. “Not only for East Point, but across the country.”
Steering Committee meetings are open to the public and will take place the third Thursday of every month atArtsXchange in the Dooley Studio from 6-9 pm from January - June 2020: January 23, February 20, March 20, April 16, May 21, and June 18.
Funding for the City Agriculture Plan pilot has been made possible by The Zeist Foundation and Food Well Alliance founding benefactor, the James M. Cox Foundation.
Keep up with East Point’s City Agriculture Planning journey at foodwellalliance.org.