Georgia Organics Releases "Expanding Organic Edibles Across Atlanta"

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Monday, August 12th, 2019

Georgia Organics released a new report, Expanding Organic Edibles Across Atlanta, that is the first in-depth analysis of the barriers and opportunities to expand more fruit production in Atlanta and cities across the nation.

Specifically, the report examines the commercial, affordable housing and green building sectors to better understand how we can address roadblocks and build momentum to grow more fruit trees, vines and bushes in urban environments.

Despite the formidable growth of farm to table initiatives, there has been slow adoption of fruit production in commercial and institutional landscapes.

“Eighty percent of Americans now live in cities, yet 90 percent of us fail to eat the daily requirements for fruits and vegetables,” said Alice Rolls, Georgia Organics President & CEO. “These commercial landscapes are the next frontier of the good food movement, so we need to understand the challenges in converting these spaces into healthy food oases.”

The report written and researched by Lynne Davis and funded by the Kendeda Fund relied on over 60 interviews with developers, farmers, landscapers and advocates. Not surprisingly, money is a roadblock. But green building incentives, the right training for maintenance workers and appropriate plant selection could support the inclusion of more edible plantings within municipal, institutional and commercial sites in the future. And while the report focuses on urban environments, rural landscapes — where there are even greater food access challenges — should also consider how their landscapes can provide nutrition for their own communities.

Atlanta already has some inspiring examples of fruit production. Last year, Delta Air Lines hired Cory Mosser, a former organic farmer who runs an edible planning and planting consulting business, Natural Born Tillers. Mosser installed raised beds and a new orchard with volunteers at Delta’s corporate headquarters; employees there can now keep an eye out for ripening blueberries, to be joined soon by figs, peaches and muscadines. In July, Delta’s wellness program worked with Georgia Organics to introduce employee culinary classes in association with these edible landscapes.

Mosser believes edible gardens create a space for people to engage their senses, gather away from the office, and enjoy interacting in a natural environment.

"The concept of growing food at the workplace solves a lot of problems,” he said. “Digital fatigue is real, and there is a need to interact with tangible, natural things. People are hungry not just for the food, but for the knowledge around organic techniques and seasonal eating.”

In May, the City of Atlanta approved the establishment of a seven-acre “food forest” in the Lakewood area; residents and visitors will be able to walk trails lined with fruit producing trees, vines and shrubs. And the Living Building, currently under construction on Georgia Tech’s campus, will feature a rooftop garden containing a honeybee apiary, pollinator garden and blueberry orchard. These innovative projects and others only hint at the massive potential beyond community gardens and urban farms.

Rolls is hopeful that commercial developers and landscapers will become innovative champions in the future.

“I like pansies, don’t get me wrong, but blueberries and figs within commercial spaces can move us beyond aesthetics to cultivate space for nourishment,” she said. “I look forward to the day when our biggest problem will be dividing the harvest among eager employees and students.”