Gardening not only is a means to providing healthy food choices for ourselves and our families; oftentimes, it can be quite calming and therapeutic. For the residents of the Metro Atlanta Task Force, a homeless shelter, gardening also means helping others and obtaining valuable job skills, such as marketing and entrepreneurial farming, that could lead to a brighter future.
The rooftop garden was started in 2009 as a way for “residents to learn about urban food production, sustainable technologies and to have the experience of producing food for Our Community,” the Metro Atlanta Task Force website states. The residents maintain 80 single raised beds and have produced carrots, chard, collards, kale, lettuces, peppers, radishes, squash, tomato, watermelon, zucchini and more. They’ve even added a beehive, according to the shelter’s website.
“Everything we do is a learning experience and job training for our residents,” Anita Beaty, Metro Atlanta Task Force executive director, told Vice. “Everything involves the residents, and our whole building is a certification effort. The garden functions as a classroom where we can train residents in green technology, which is important because homeless and poor people are regularly excluded from green development.”
Resident gardener Romeo Mack told Vice, “Life can get you down, man. Nobody wants to be homeless. Being up here, away from everything, really helps you reflect on what you did before in your life. Then, you can start applying that knowledge here in the real world. This is our real world, you know what I’m saying? At least till we get out. It’s not just the food, man … Up here, you get can get away from everything. You can focus. It’s real peaceful. Dealing with plants is like dealing with people. You have to have other means than fighting. Plants and people can both piss you off. Something gets knocked over by wind or by another resident or something … you can’t just rip it up or knock it down. Same way you can’t just hit somebody. That doesn’t solve your problems. You gotta learn how to make it work, how to do your job. You learn stuff up here, you really do. And you leave a better person.”
Do you think every shelter should have a garden that its residents maintain?