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!
Our goal at Greenleaf Community Farm is to inspire and build engagement opportunities through agriculture and fresh food for not only our residents, but our staff. This afternoon we hosted the first in our series of Fresh Harvest Lunches. Our staff at Greenleaf Management got to enjoy a home cooked meal straight from our gardens.
We used fresh vegetables from our corporate garden, Foxwood Apartments, and Pinewood Townhomes to prepare around 6 homemade dishes. At Foxwood, we cleaned out our remaining spring crops and used the kale today to make a Kale and Yogurt Spanakopita. Pinewood Townhomes built a garden with their residents on the side of their new retention wall. They are currently growing squash, eggplant, tomatoes and other summer veggies. Ana, a Greenleaf employee, used Pinewood veggies to prepare a roasted eggplant dish for us to enjoy. Lynn, the inspiration behind the gardens, has a garden in the back of our corporate office. She harvested fresh Sungold tomatoes, which we used to make a vinaigrette, and beautiful cherokee purple tomatoes that went in to a blistered eggplant and feta dish.
The idea behind our farm gardens is to inspire and educate our community about local food. Today we did just that!
On the Menu:
Kale and Yogurt Spanakopita Tart
Roasted Summer Veggie Salad with Sungold Tomato Vinaigrette
Blistered Eggplant with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta
Chicken with Roasted Summer Vegetables
Peach and Blueberry Galette with Cherry Vanilla Icecream
What comes to mind when you think of community garden? I think of the community involvement more than anything--without buy-in from the community and their involvement, the garden becomes just an overgrown space that does not impact anyone's life. For years we have had a symbiotic relationship with the land by growing food in the earth that nourishes our families and friends. Community gardens allow us to come together, build relationships, and strengthen our bonds with our planet through a very old tradition of growing and eating food.
Our key word is “Community”! We started a garden at Eastside apartments with just a simple idea and a basic map. Meeting with the staff and management at the apartments helped us flesh-out ideas of what the residents will want to see in their community space. We always try to create a space that resembles the community, offering the residents an amenity that will only get better over time. This is not your average pool or tennis court...this Community Food Forest space will include 20-30 fruit trees and berries bushes, picnic area, shaded pecan grove, herbs and flower beds and some really great earthen raised beds to grow a bounty of fresh vegetables.
Event at Eastside Crossing
We had a really productive and fun day installing the garden. The Event lasted 2 days and there was a ton of prep work to make sure that everything was organized.
Earlier in the week:
We met with our vendor, Humble Harvest, to talk about the layout of the garden and the scope of the project. We ordered all the materials so we would have everything there when we needed it. Our plan included a 500 gallon water tank to be installed at the garden site, so we also included a second vendor to make sure that they understood the scope of the rain barrel project.
During the Event:
Thursday was a major earthworks day and we made raised beds with a machine and then raked and smoothed them out to get them ready for planting the next day. The garden team created over 1000 sq. ft of growing space for the garden. Tons of earth was moved and cleaned and the crew worked hard!
Friday was the Donuts for Digging: 10+ people showed up for some good old fashioned digging and planting. It was the perfect Summer day and we were so excited to host such a successful event. Everyone showed up with smiles on their faces and were extremely eager to get going. The beds were prepped and ready to receive seeds and starter plants, the crew got going and in no time at all we planted and watered tons of feet of veggies! We exceeded our expectations and had to open up more beds and soil to get things in the ground, everyone planted and did so much. We even got some much needed tree work done from the boss!
Was an amazing day and it was a true testament for how when community comes together how much we can accomplish. Gardens need people and its important to keep the community engaged so that the garden has the best chance for it to the the very best that it can be.
In one of our rarer finds today we dug up a small plastic bag full of coins! Nothing fancy or old, just a small bag of modern coins. We have high hopes for the East Side Crossing farm out future organic coin production.
Our farms are built in very populated areas, around apartment communities. This leads to some very unique finds in the dirt. Everything from old silverware, plastic toys, random trash, but also some cool historical items. Today while turning over some new raised beds, we found a small glass medicine bottle in great shape. I could tell it was old from the design and researched it a little more after reviewing the manufacturers mark on the bottom of the bottle. Turns out - this 55cc medicine bottle was from the Owens-Illinois Glass Company and manufactured in the later part of 1939!
The Owens-Illinois Glass Company was assembled in 1929 with the merger of the Illinois Glass Company and the Owens Glass Company, and a new manufacturers mark was used on the bottles. The mark was started in 1930 and was used through 1939, when in 1940 they added the "duraglass" label to the front of medicine bottles. This particular find has a "9" on the right side of the mark, indicating 1939 with the associated manufacturers mark.
Interested in more bottle history - check these out.
Modularity "is a design approach that subdivides a system into smaller parts called modules, that can be independently created and then used in different systems. A modular system can be characterized by functional partitioning into discrete scalable, reusable modules"
Eessentially successfull systems have interchangable components that can be built, maintained or replaced without the whole system failing or having to replacing the entire thing. Like a car, you can replace the tire and dont have to buy a whole new car, and you have lots of choices for which tire to pick!.
The same lessons can be applied to farm. Looking at a living Food Forest as a combination of various modular pieces enables us to assess the performance of the Forest on piece by piece level. This is especially helpful across multiple small sites. The Greenleaf Community Farm is spread across multiple sites, with very different topography and sizes. Not only are we loosing out on the scale of our system compared with large scale farming, we are also at a disadvantage from our location, or, well, multiple locations. The complexity of multiple small site farming means we must be well organized with a very specific plan.
With that in mind we developed our farming program with a modular approach to site analysis. When reviewing a parcel of land, we divided up the installation options to 9 core modules. These are the only modules we install which enables consistency across multiple sites and improves coordination. It also has the benefit of being able to analyze one module, say a Berry Patch at Foxwood Apartments for example and then we can disuss the Berry Patches as a whole to assess their performance and success in the garden environment. If we find an issue on one site in one module, we can quickly adapt and fix it before it occurs on another site. This is like diversification in your stock portfolio! We are able to use a perceived weakness as an advantage for our whole system.
Modular Components of a Food Forest
Not all land is ready to plant, and some of it is pretty terrible. To restore soild sections we must first stop erosion that washes away topsoil, clogs drainage and destroys the landscape. Here we see some extensive eriosion issues that will require roughly 1 foot of mulch depth to compost into new topsoil along with the installation of a dry creek bed to help slow water flow and allow it to permeate into the ground.
This is a way to for us to reuse all the boxes we recieve from shipments to our communities. From applicanes boxes to bulk orders, we receive lots of cardboard each week. With Emilies approach to ground cover we are able to reuse this material in our food forests.
Our third garden is underway! We took over the grounds of a 1.5 acre land parcel and converted the entire property to our food forest platform. The property sits on a downward slope from the road frontage, which enable us to build multiple swales to capture the rain water. This water is held in the swales for the plantings that are located on the low side of the swale. The remainder of the property was mulched and planted to provide a low maintenance, highly productive landscape. The overall conversion took only one day with our team!
Our first steps at the Embry Food Forest site were to start working to land to enable rain capture and soil development. We converted the first component of the food forest, our swale garden on the slopes of a 1 acre pacel in the heart of the community. This initial land work will be the basis of the food forest and provide a very visual experience for the residents to watch as in starts production in the spring. Below is a final view of the fodo forest swales that were build by Jamie.
We have expanded our opeation to include a large food forest in NE Atlanta. The complex sits on a very spread out 10 acre parcel of land with numerous sections for our modular garden instllation. The site plan will have swale gardens, berry patches, a pond section with walking paths and and outdoor kitchen, all available to our residents! Our first steps were to plant a hybrid apple tree with the help of our residents.
Water..apparently plants really like it. After a couple weeks of growth, we realized the natural rain would not be enough for our little babies. So, couple clicks through Amazon and we had a DIY drip irrigation system that we could hook up for our beds. In total it took about 2 hours to fully install, and lay out the water system. We dont have a flow pattern scheduled, but plan to check on it daily to see progress and how it holds up.
Fall is here and we are planting our first garden! We have have one and a half acres of available land that we are are clearing for the start of our garden in Doraville Ga. In this area, we built 12 raised bed gardens with rough cut cedar boards. Filled with excellent composted soil a little bit of sweat our newly planted seedlings will begin to prosper!