When Greenleaf Management began it was built under the goal to build community and a place to call home. We enable communities to flourish, to achieve dreams, and to share the best that life has to offer.
Greenleaf Community Farms began with a small community garden and flourished in to farm program that engages our residents through hyper local, organically grown produce and community events.
Greenleaf Community Farms focuses growing food, but more importantly, growing community. Through our farm programs we are able to bring the initiative to different properties through our Farm in a Box Program, educate and retain residents through our Farm to Resident Program, and engage our local community through creating strong relationships with our local government and businesses.Our properties are diverse and each farm has its own unique personality but it is our visionary core values of sustainability, and social responsibility that drives us.
It has been an interesting journey since our focus on programming began in June 2018. We had a small garden, but as we all know in the food world we have to figure out how do we engage our community. With that thought in mind, we worked to build our half acre farm at Eastside Crossing with the goal of piloting programs, standardizing building procedures, and utilizing our skills to engage and provide access and education to our residents. Unlike other farms, we have no focus on selling produce. Our focus is primarily on creating an environment where our residents want to continue to live. Retention is our primary focus.
It was important to us to start programs on small scales, piloting to see what works and what didn’t. We were lucky that we did not have to go search for our community, it was already there. Though that seems like it would make everything easier, it was still a challenge to get out information and figure out how we were going to one, grow enough food, and two, distribute that food to our residents. Our first thought was, let’s set up a system to where the residents would pick their own using a harvest board to label what was ready and what was planted. This proved to be unsuccessful due to the fact that people were overwhelmed and timid about harvesting because they did not have any background in gardening or farming. It was also unsuccessful because plants ended up getting damaged or harvested incorrectly and we did not have the staff to train 60+ residents on how to properly harvest their food. We began making videos and sending them out, but as we all know in the world of marketing, email marketing rates tend to be below 30%. And this is where the idea of a text delivery system was born. We would essentially be creating a small free CSA that would use text to reach our residents. This has proved to be very successful and I look forward to going into this further at the Aglanta Conference in April.
Another hurdle was to figure out, how do we staff our programs so that we are able to grow. We know running a farm takes manpower. I am one person running multiple projects and so I needed help. This is where our resident liaison program was born. I took the idea of workshares and just tweaked it a bit to make it a win-win for each party involved. We have had some challenges, mainly figuring out the best ways to track hours, what everyone’s strong skills are, and holding everyone accountable without really having to be the “farm police”. Overall, where we are at now is streamlined and is proving to be successful.
The farms have multiple projects and events that we are piloting. We always set our vision for what we are doing and set quarterly goals around that vision. It is crucial that we stay hyper focused on what it is that we visualize, start small, and document progress through data tracking. Transparency is very important to us as this program is very unique not only to the metro ATL area, but nationwide. There are many Agrihoods that offer farms and CSAs, but I think what makes our's unique is that we are providing access to a free amenity with the vision of always seeking to make the lives of our residents better.
Our residents range from students, to millenials, immigrant families, etc. and most property companies would not or are not able to figure out how to make this a financially viable option to these demographics. We are setting out to create a model that would do this. I am very excited about being a panelist and expanding on our projects at the Aglanta Conference. This will be my first speaking position and I am very much looking forward to hearing questions and getting to share “my baby” aka farm projects with you all.
Find this blog post here.
This week we welcomed the Girls of Greenleaf to the Eastside Crossing Farm. We live in a time where you can order chickens and they arrive in the mail. The post office was a little shocked to receive a package that clucks, but the girls made it safely all the way from Iowa. I was in Dahlonega for the day so Elle, our animal guru, squealed at the opportunity to go pick up the ladies.
The residents helped to get the coop built and it was serious girl power! Julia and Rebecca broke out the drill and figured out the instructions that contained no words. We purchased a small coop as well as some electrical fencing to protect the ladies from predators such as raccoons and stray cats.
Elle was a bit scared to pick up the chickens because she had never held one so Kyle, our construction manager, had to come to the rescue to get the girls in their new home. We kept them in the coop for a full day before letting them explore the outside. They now know where their home is and will stay close and put themselves to bed once the sun goes down.
At Greenleaf we are driven not only by our successes, but how we can learn and become better through our failures. Each place has it's own unique growing climate, from the soil, to the elevation, pests, and diseases. Coming from Florida, my growing season was from November to May, the soil is sand, there was intense pest and disease pressure, and the weather is well....HOT. Where here it is February-December typically, the soil is clay, the weather (usually) is pretty predictable, and the pest pressure is not as intense due to this area getting a freeze.
I came in to the growing season a little late here and one big fail (not on purpose) was having to source seedlings late in the game and from a box store that doesn't have the knowledge about raising healthy seedlings. I am really not used to this "don't plant squash after this date" time thing AT ALL. The weather has also been very unpredictable and the mixture of unhealthy starts and weird weather is breeding ground for terrible disease! Take these sad, sad peppers...I have just ripped them up and given up on them this season.
The moral of this farm fail is....always...I mean ALWAYS source your starts from a reliable grower. That is where Aluma Farm comes in to save the day for our fall starts. We will be working with them to grow all of our little healthy babies for all of our farms. We don't have the infrastructure or time to do so and it is putting money in the pockets of LOCAL FARMERS. From failure comes growth...trial and error people! Learning and growing everyday!
Our farm was featured in the Gainesville Ga newspaper for building better communities. We installed a pumpkin patch to prepare for fall!
The saying "It takes a village" is what we keep in mind in our mission to grow food for our residents. My biggest passion in farming is sharing it with the community and at Greenleaf we keep that mission in the fore front of our minds. This is for the residents, for the people who call our properties their home and when we keep that idea as are drive we really get to connect and get to know each of them.
Eastside Crossing Farm is thriving and it's not only vegetables growing, it's community. I have had the honor to start handing out produce to our residents as well as working with a few of them on the farm. Their passion for sustainability and local food is what keeps us motivated and sharing the bounty is the most rewarding thing we could hope for. Keep an eye out for chickens and new resident run composting projects. Big things happening at the farm!!
Your personal farmer,
Yesterday we took a trip out to our Park Hill Apartments in Gainesville, GA. The skies are so beautiful and vast up there and it is a beautiful community nestled next to Lake Lanier. The team at Park Hill worked with us to create a new garden for their residents on a big empty concrete slab. We try to be innovative in ways to beautify with a mission! This ten raised bed garden got planted with pumpkins (will be ready just in time for halloween), gourds for the kids to make bird feeders with, winter squash, watermelon, sunflowers, and zinnias. We also spread our perennial flowers to attract pollinators to the garden to ensure our plants fruit. We can't wait to watch this project grow and we hope to work with the residents to expand it in the future!
Greenleaf Community Farm is run by, you guessed it, farmers. Our skills are honed in the art making things turn green and growing food!