Deliciously fresh, hyper-local produce is in Danny Glover’s DNA. Founder and principal developer of ONE-South Community Development Corporation and 2016 National HBCU Outreach Director for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Glover grew up in Macon, Georgia, where – until about the 90s – many families, like his, kept vibrant, productive gardens.
[Danny D. Glover, 29, Project Lead + Executive Director-ONE~South Community Development Corp.; 3rd Generation Southside Resident]
“My grandmother had a garden,” Glover says. “Her neighbors and friends had gardens. I was a gofer between houses, you know, delivering plants and vegetables. So if my grandmother was cooking collard greens and she wanted hot peppers to go with them, she would send me to the neighbors two houses down to get some. And in exchange, the neighbor might want tomatoes. Most of our produce came from the garden, from my uncle and cousins. There was always a relative dropping off fresh strawberries or watermelon. It was just a day in the life. This was how we lived.”
Today though, Macon suffers from disinvestment, and it’s in a food desert. It’s nearly impossible to find fresh, healthy food in the area. Even the fruit truck that Glover remembers from his youth has disappeared. The problem is that the community is aging – and emptying – dramatically. Young professionals are leaving home in search of greater opportunity, and they’re not coming back. Grandparents are passing, leaving behind poorly maintained homes that neither their kids nor grandkids want. You can walk past vacant lots and see exactly where gardens used to be.
[Neighbors including 96-year-old Edward Oliver, center, at the groundbreaking on April 22.]
Putting fresh food back at the center of things
That’s why Glover’s come back home to Macon, to remind people how things used to be, and to help the community give itself a fresh start. Literally. He’s conceived of and broken ground on Georgia’s first agrihood, for which he and his team are now raising money with ioby. What’s an agrihood, you ask? The term was coined in Detroit in 2014; it’s an urban neighborhood designed with large-scale community agriculture at its heart. In this case, twelve disused parcels of land in Southside Macon are being transformed – with the support of the county commissioner, the mayor, and the district water and soil conservation chairman – into 5 acres of urban farmland. The first 2.5-3 acres alone should, according to Glover’s early estimates, feed 2,500 people YEAR-ROUND. Collards, cabbage, corn, carrots, okra, fruit trees, all strung together by wheelchair-accessible paths.
“You know how you have neighborhood maps that show you different buildings, stores, things like that?” asks Glover. “Well ideally, we want to create a garden and vegetable and fruit map for the Gateway Heights.” In other words, a map that allows you to set out for your morning walk or afternoon bike ride, and choose your route based on which produce you happen to need for dinner that night. That’s not to mention plans for a connected farm-to-table restaurant, a commercial kitchen space to be used for demonstrations, a gym, and lots of walkable affordable housing in the agrihood. Does this sounds pretty much like heaven to you?
[At the groundbreaking with neighbors, April 22, 2017]
“We’ll be the first agrihood in Georgia, and I believe we’ll be the first one in any state where agriculture is the main export,” explains Glover. “In Georgia we have pecans, peaches… but we’re not growing those within city limits. I think it’s going to reignite the spirit that already existed in this neighborhood. Farming and gardening are not new to this community. This neighborhood has a tradition of urban farming, long before it was the cool thing to do. Let’s not wait for county government. Let’s not wait for a university or someone else to come and save our community. We can do it ourselves. We have the tools. We have the assets. Let’s come together and grow a neighborhood.”
[Breaking ground on the garden with neighbors, April 22, 2017]
Glover himself is most excited for the turnips and rutabaga, but he already knows what the biggest hit will be. “People are excited about the collards, the tomatoes, the okra, and the variety of peppers,” he says. “But mainly the collards. We’re a really really big collard greens community. We love our greens.” We’ll raise our forks to that.
To learn more about Gateway Heights, and about community agriculture, visit the project’s Facebook page, here. And if you’d like to vote with your dollars for a sustainable food future, you can donate to the ioby campaign here.
Feeling inspired? Want to take action in YOUR neighborhood? If you have awesome ideas about how to make your town greener, safer, and more fun, let us help! Tell us your awesome idea right here. We’d love to help you get started today.
Pssst…. In OTHER ioby news: Have a great idea, but feel like you need a blueprint to get you started? Or a recipe to follow? We’ve got you covered. Check out some of our very best recipes for change, here.