A green thumb is being passed around as Atlanta communities flourish with community gardens and farms. Urban Sprout Farms is a local farm, that wants to change the way people work and live by promoting sustainability.
Improving the way people live their lives, is the ultimate goal for this community farm located in Atlanta. For about four years, Urban Sprout Farms has worked to create a place where people can live, work and enjoy life, while helping to cultivate the economy and environment.
Creating an Agriculture Hub
Georgia State Alumni Nuri Icgoren is the founder and curator of Urban Sprout Farms. After graduating, Icgoren became interested in learning more about agriculture. He joined the World Wide Opportunity for Organic Farms (WWOOF), an international organization that teaches people how to grow fresh organic food by giving people an opportunity to farm, while traveling the world.
“I’ve [worked] in Belize, Australia, Africa and a bunch of different farm to learn about how to grow food, and learn more about how [certain] communities were growing,” Icgoren said.
Once Icgoren returned home he began growing plant starts, a small plant nursery, in his backyard. In 2012, Icgoren and his brother came across a plot of land in Atlanta, and purchased it with the hopes of creating something that would benefit the community.
Urban Sprout Farms vision is to cultivate the land with freshly grown produce, while building an agricultural settlement, which is a place where people can live sustainably off the land, by starting a business and having a place to call home. The idea is to have a space that small businesses can lease while living and working on the property.
“Traffic would always be driven there because it’s an organic farm,” Icgoren said. “It’s something that’s not really in the city of Atlanta, and we’ve had a lot of interest in that by having people rent studio and business space.”
There is currently seven old motels on the property that have been painted and decorated by street artists and moralists in the city. One art group called Transgression has used the motels to create a literary story called Lost in Oz; Stories from over the rainbow. Their goal was to create an interactive experience, where people can walk through the outdoor exhibit, and view artwork placed on the dilapidated structure of the old motel.
The urban farm recently purchased a high tunnel (greenhouse) two years ago, as they were initially putting up the structure, nearly $4,000 worth of materials and parts were stolen from the site overnight, according to Icgoren.
“[It] set me back like six more months, and I wasn’t able to pay for that again,” Icgoren said. “I had to make due, and I made it work, but I didn’t know a really heavy rain storm would bring it down.
The farm made due with what they had and fashioned the greenhouse. However, the hard rain storms in early August demolished the structure and destroyed a few poles that they needed to keep the high tunnel stable.
The farm raised enough money to purchase a few parts needed to get the greenhouse back up. Urban sprout farms is currently raising money through crowd surfing sites like GoFundMe. Once the structure is up, Urban Sprout Farms already has plans for leasing out the space to small businesses.
Within the past year, Urban Sprout Farms was recently recognized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a certified organic farm. The certification is a major achievement because the farm is able to sell all produce as being raw or organic, according to the USDA website.
Since the fall season is just beginning most of the crops are transitioning into the new season. Green leafy vegetables such as kale, onions or broccoli flourish during fall. There is currently 10 to 15 varieties of plants on the farm, along with fresh well water and an onsite compost.
The farm envisions creating a food supply that can stimulate the economy in Atlanta, by having a space where people can come together and be involved in the farming process, and learn how to cultivate their own food.
“ An agriculture hub can benefit Atlanta by having local produced goods stimulate the economy in underserved neighborhoods,” Icgoren said. “ [Through] innovation, there are small businesses that are growing in the city and young minds that have great ideas.”
The urban farm hopes to share their vision with Atlanta. The goal is to promote better living, by providing an alternative to people who don’t want orthodox careers. The community can learn a variety of farming techniques, such as how to make compost and soil. The farm can also open the door of enterprise, by allowing not only businesses, but also universities to come out and conduct research.
“You don’t have to travel far to go to work, and the goods and services don’t have to travel far,” Icgoren said. “ It provides more unique opportunities for people in this neighborhood to have news jobs or skills that they can learn.”
Urban Sprout Farms is setting the framework for next season with their community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. A CSA allows small farmers, to create programs that allow people to pay a subscription to fresh produce, prepared for pickup every week. Now that the farms have a new irrigation system, with fresh well water, they plan to have a larger CSA next year. Fresh food grown in a local environment and picked right off the plant provides great nutrients, according to Icgoren.
“Next year we are going to have a larger CSA, more food at the market, and more work to be done for the volunteers,” Icgoren said. “We will be introducing our nursery, where we are going to have trays of plants [for sale], and that’s for small farmers, landscapers and urban gardeners.”
Helpful Hands Needed
An extra hand is always needed, the farm has plenty of potential for people who are interested in the creating an agricultural hub, giving back to the community and learning how to cultivate their own food. The first saturday of every month the urban farm hosts a volunteer work day that is open to the public.
Icgoren and his team are also looking for interns who would like to gain experience in event planning, public relations, cultivation and more.