Most visitors to Chastain probably don’t even notice the little farm nestled around the park conservancy headquarters that offers visitors a chance to learn about conservation and the global environment.
“The majority of people have no idea we’re back here,” said Josh Fuder, the farm’s environmental program manager.
But the farm is starting to win attention. Some 500 students already have visited Farm Chastain.
A partnership between the Chastain Park Conservancy and Southeastern Horticultural Society, Fuder says the idea for an urban learning farm came about because residents of the Chastain community indicated they would like to see gardening opportunities in the park.
“The Chastain Park Conservancy had this nice spot of land that really wasn’t being used,” Fuder said. “This was just a lot of rubble and a storage area.”
Now, a walk through the area reveals raised-bed garden rows that are wheelchair-accessible, a rainwater catching system, a composting station, beehives and a rescued goat.
“We’ve got a little bit growing,” Fuder said, and that includes kale, potatoes, garlic, onions, winter peas, collard greens and lettuce, with some okra, cucumbers, squash and tomatoes to make an appearance by summer.
Fuder says he hopes to have a fruit orchard in the future, and there’s still a couple of beds to be built and some grading to get done, but the farm is just about in its final building stages.
Students from nearby schools like The Galloway School, Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School and Morris Brandon Elementary have visited the farm. “It’s pretty fun when the school groups are here because the kids bring a lot of energy, a lot of excitement,” Fuder said, adding that he’s often surprised at how much they already know.
“Having this amount of acreage in the middle of the city is a treasure,” said the conservancy’s executive director Rosa McHugh. “The Southeastern Horticultural Society has helped bring a learning resource that wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
But it’s not only farming and composting the kids are learning.
“The lessons that teachers can incorporate are endless,” Fuder said. “We had a writing class out here” where students just sat and wrote about what they saw. “I think the history and the social science aspect of this type of work are very important to understanding that we were an agricultural society up until 50 or 100 years ago, and how much labor and how much work that must have required.”
He pointed out that a walk around the farm can be a geographical lesson.
“I find plants to be incredibly interesting as far as their geography. Where in the world did this plant come from and how did it get to Georgia?” Fuder said. “Eggplants are from Turkey and the Middle Eastern area. Most people associate tomatoes with Italian food. Tomatoes are from North America. They didn’t get to Italy until the 1500s or 1600s. What were Italians eating before they had tomatoes? I think there’s a wealth of opportunities for education here in the garden.”
And it’s not just school groups that come to the farm. Volunteers and community service workers are part of the mix, and the farm also hosts wounded veterans who come and work as part of their therapy.
“What we hear from veterans is that they get a lot of value from being in therapy with other individuals, and that gardening for fun is rewarding for them,” McHugh said. “We’re happy to provide an opportunity that allows them to see a project from beginning to end.”
To learn more about Farm Chastain visit www.chastainparkconservancy.org.