Task Force Shelter Producing Pounds of Veggies on Rooftop Garden
(APN) ATLANTA — The Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless has made good on its plan to help feed the homeless people it serves through an organic rooftop garden, involving bees and a rainwater collection system. The garden is so successful, an expansion is planned.
Residents at the shelter, located in downtown Atlanta’s Peachtree and Pine Streets, will gain real life work skills removing the old roof and laying the new roof.
“Part of the contract for any construction, we will be doing, is that indigenous, resident labor will be used and certified, but the requirements are the same as professional labor,” Anita Beaty, Executive Director, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“Everything we do here involves residents. They get job training and every job is preparation for a job outside,” Beaty said.
The rooftop garden is at its capacity with eighty raised vegetable beds, but plans are underway to refurbish the roof on the older building next to the garden. “We will double the size of our garden once we get that roof finished,” Carl Hartrampf, Board Member, Rooftop Garden Coordinator, told APN.
Some of the vegetables beds are harvested every thirty to sixty days, and then they are immediately replanted. When it doesn’t rain, two 500 gallon tanks, filled with rainwater, pump water to the garden.
“On our first harvest this spring, we harvested 55 pounds of greens,” Hartrampf said.
The residents receive supervision and training, at the rooftop garden, which prepares them for urban farming. The sustainable, organic foods market is rapidly growing in the Metro Atlanta area, with organic gardens, community gardens, rooftop gardens, and yard gardens popping up everywhere.
Rashid Nuri, founder of Truly Living Well, a nationally-recognized leader in natural urban agriculture, has been involved with the rooftop garden from the beginning.
The plan is to seek grant funding that will allow the garden, under Nuri’s training, to be used as a classroom; and certify the residents who are being trained in the garden.
“It is important to share and train residents in green technology, that we are involved in, because poor and homeless people are being left out of the green development that we see burgeoning in our community,” Beaty said.
“We are growing collards, turnips, mustard greens, lettuce, kale cabbage, chard, herbs, strawberries, grapes, radishes, squash, peppers, tomatoes, and much more. We are in our summer season now. In the fall, we plant watermelons and we also have a winter garden. I have been trained in agriculture and have a license. I take care of everything up here and make sure everything gets done, ” Anthony Brooks, the head resident gardener, told APN.
Another resident gardener is learning useful urban farming skills and is grateful for the work.
“The garden keeps me out of trouble. I like doing it, learning new things; and it’s something to help people,” Romeo Mack told APN.
A bee hive was added to the garden last year that was donated by Jay Parson with the Atlanta Bee Club.
“They did so well over the winter, until we had to split them this spring because the hive got so big. We will have honey this fall,” Hartrampf said.
“Because of the elevation, we have less trouble with insects and the mites that attract the bees. The bees have enough to eat on the roof until they don’t go in search of food and bring back pests. We get eight to ten hours of constant sun, nothing blocks the wind, the plants and the bees love it. This rooftop is a microclimate,” Hartrampf said.
The next big project for the homeless shelter is to build a kitchen to cook and prepare all the food they grow.
Currently, they give the food to the Cathedral of St. Phillips or Cascade United Methodist Church for preparation. The food is then returned to the shelter as a salad or side meal for the shelter’s approximately five hundred residents to enjoy.
In addition to the churches that prepares the food grown on site, almost fifty other churches and organizations come on a regular basis to bring food for the residents at Peachtree and Pine
“All the equipment for the kitchen has already been donated. Chefs are going to teach and certify our residents who want to become chefs and get jobs,” Beaty said.
Every project, from the new roof to the garden and kitchen plus many more projects, is a learning experience and job training for the residents at Peachtree and Pine. It is a homeless community on the cutting edge of the green revolution and organic urban farming.
As previously reported by APN, the Task Force has been in litigation with downtown development interests who conspired to sabotage the shelter through an apparent scheme of tortious interference with the shelter’s private business and donor relationships.
That litigation is still pending in the Supreme Court of Georgia.
The rooftop garden is just one component of the shelter’s master plan, reported upon by APN in 2006, which was disrupted by the business community’s conspiracy.
The shelter had also opened a coffee shop in 2010, but it was less successful.
The City of Atlanta almost shut off the shelter’s water last year, but an anonymous donor paid several hundred thousand dollars to pay the disputed bill.