Urban Ag Keeps Floruishing

This story originally appeared in our March 2023 print edition.
Elementary students sow seeds to be grown in the Pi Farm Greenhouse.
Elementary students sow seeds to be grown in the Pi Farm Greenhouse.
Courtesy of Emily Roberts

The Paideia Farm, like all farms in the region, had to adapt after the deep freeze in late December caused major unexpected crop loss. Though freezing weather is generally something that the farm is prepared for, below-freezing weather for four days in a row left the winter-hardy crops hugely vulnerable. While Paideia farmers do not rely on crop yield to make a living, this frost put many area farmers and farm workers’ livelihoods at risk. “Luckily, there are mutual aid and safety net programs in places like Georgia Organics’ Farmer Fund and Community Farmers Markets Freeze Fund. Of course, we also encourage everyone to support local farmers by shopping at local farmers markets,” shares Urban Ag Coordinator, Emily Roberts.

Paideia’s Urban Ag program works with several community partners, including a garden program on-site at Metro Transitional Center (MTC), a women’s prison for individuals serving the end of their sentence. Individuals at MTC have the option of becoming involved in an educational program that is led by Leah Clements. Paideia students and growers at MTC participate in monthly workshops side-by-side, learning together how to maintain a micro-farm year-round, whether that be a garden in your backyard or a food-production farm. Through this program, students and individuals at MTC make connections in a way they otherwise would not. The workshop in March focused on mushroom log inoculation. Inoculating logs with mushrooms is a versatile, space-saving task, making it achievable for individuals in different climates, and for individuals without a farm.

The farm has also been working together with other program leaders to experiment with regenerative landscaping, which is a more sustainable way of landscaping. The Urban Ag program has been growing native plants in the greenhouse this spring in an effort to work with the land on campus instead of against it. From stirring up potting mix to sowing seeds to managing seedlings in the greenhouse, students of all ages have contributed to the project.

Over the summer, the Urban Ag program will be offering lots of chances for high school students to be involved in the farm. There will be paid apprenticeships that people can apply for. There will also be unpaid internships, where students can get both PE credits and volunteer hours. “The farm fosters a community. Getting a chance to volunteer over the summer is a great way to meet people not only in your school community but in your community as a whole. By working on the farm, you give back to the land and give back to your soul,” says Emerson Moore ’24.

“Changes and adjustments are pretty much the only constants with farming,” Roberts says. Looking ahead, the farm will continue to focus on its guiding lights that have proven to work: creating meaningful experiences for students to be engaged and growing thousands of pounds of fresh, healthy, and delicious food to donate.

Paideia resident goats, Lola and Luna, are going to join their herd mates in New Mexico with Urban Ag’s former coordinator, Tania Herbert. “Lola and Luna have had a lovely life on Paideia Farm for the past two years, and we are extremely grateful for our community members who have helped us provide great care for them. We know that Runty Roo, Lemon, and Jack are going to be excited to have Lola and Luna join them on Tania’s ranch. Maybe they’ll get to see and play in the snow!” says Roberts.

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