East Point is pilot city in new urban farm initiative

EAST POINT, Ga. — Empty grocery store shelves early in the pandemic highlighted a problem agriculture experts have warned us about for years, too much of the food we eat is not locally produced.

Now farms big and small are working to get more local food on your table.

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Channel 2 Anchor Lori Wilson spoke with Reynaldo “Brother” Holmes who has his own community garden, Soul Spirit Farmers in East Point.

“We really believe growing your own food is really the key to self-sustainability and really the key to true freedom,” said Holmes.

Holmes was inspired by his family’s Caribbean tradition of home gardening. His garden and produce is available to anyone who is hungry or ready to learn.

“If every one of the majorities of our neighborhood a community was growing, there would not be no such thing as a food desert,” said Holmes.

Holmes is proof you don’t need acres of land to grow food. Shopping carts, rain gutters, even a play pen are filled with produce.

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Kate Conner is the interim director of the Food Well Alliance, she told Wilson their objective is to connect growers and city leaders to create access to healthy, local food. She says food scarcity in the first weeks of the pandemic highlighted the need.

“What brother Holmes is doing is exactly what we want people to see. Local food is the healthiest food, and it is the most important in terms of resiliency in the long term,” said Conner.

Conner hopes a new program will do just that. Food Well Alliance received a $250 thousand grant from the US Department of Agriculture to create the Atlanta area’s first city agriculture plans.

“Just like we do with transportation and housing, we could have a plan that boosts urban agriculture,” Conner said.

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The Alliance hopes to implement plans in 54 cities. East Point is the first one and Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham is thrilled.

“It’s really, I think, empowering you know we’re in a time of a global pandemic and all resources are scarce people have to eat,” Ingraham said.

A little more than six hours away in Morehead Kentucky, Jonathan Webb couldn’t agree more.

“We’re definitely are not talking about our problems in the food system and agriculture enough. “COVID is exposed some of those problems,” said Webb.

Webb is the founder of App Harvest, another sustainable farm, just a lot bigger and high tech.

His first 60-acre greenhouse uses ultra-efficient lights, recycled rainwater and is within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the US population to reduce transportation waste. “Imports into the US for fresh fruits and vegetables have tripled in the last 10 to 15 years. So we’re importing and trucking a fresh vegetable and fruit 2000 or 3000 miles to get to a grocery store and ultimately get to the end consumers plates,” said Webb.

Webb is working with Wall Street, using investors to get his idea off the ground. He said his beef steak tomatoes should taste like they were picked from your grandmother’s garden on a hot July day.

His first crop is already showing up in markets, and he says they won’t break the bank.

“The average American cannot pay more for fruit, vegetables,” Webb said.

Back in East Point, Brother Holmes said he doesn’t want his neighbors to rely just on a grocery store, but each other.

“Even if the grocery stores for any apparent reason was to run out of food if we took that model like the islands and everyone. In our community was growing something we all could share we all would have food to eat, even at a time of crisis,” Holmes said.