If food is our most sacred offering to our bodies, how have we become so disconnected from our most familiar source of life-giving energy?
At the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture in Atlanta, Georgia, Rashid Nuri and his team are trying to rectify this crisis by spreading the sermon of horticultural literacy. Founder and CEO of the farm, Nuri coined the phrase “horticultural literacy” in an effort the reemphasize our need to connect back to the land.
“Understanding who grows your food, the quality of the food and how it gets to you is key. A local food economy helps to mitigate this, especially considering that historically we used to live in walking distance of where our food was produced,” advises Nuri. This is precisely where Truly Living Well comes in. At the height of the season, the network of farms, along with its CSA program and farmer’s market, provides over 35 jobs to local communities.
Setting forth to “transform both people and places,” the urban farm works to connect people back with community, education and spirituality. Not only do the farms employ 100 percent natural, GMO-free practices when it comes to growing the food, they are also responsible for cleaning up their surrounding neighborhoods. “Locations with the farms have lowered crime, drugs, and raised overall property value in the area,” Nori says. He attributes this phenomenon to the soothing effect of the farm, which he likens to “an oasis of peace, calm and coolness.”
Always mindful of the healing properties of the land, Nuri is never shy to state the many virtues that can be found working the garden. “Being present on the land not only connects us back to Mother Nature, but also keeps us grounded and teaches us values such as humility and patience. There is a revolutionary act in bringing excellence to any situation. That is what we have set out to do.”
Truly Living Well also functions as a learning laboratory. In the summer, youth of all ages can be found learning about the importance of organic, locally grown food, and how they can lead the charge for a cleaner environment. New to youth programming is Camp WOW, a healthy and safe environment where children with autism can engage in holistic healing through gardening.
However, youths are not the only ones benefiting from the teachings of Truly Living Well. The farm hosts an array of urban grower training programs that provide participants with knowledge of the practices and principles needed to sustain a successful naturally grown farm. The students hands-on training helps to equip a new generation of farmers with skills designed for urban application, a philosophy that is integral to the farms mission of economic development in regards to natural urban agriculture.
When contemplating a utopian vision for Truly Living Well, Nuri calls out Atlanta’s title as one of the greenest city’s in the United States. “We have an expanse of trees and open land, one million acres to be exact. It would take only 23,000 acres to provide the greater metropolitan area with all the fruits and vegetables they need.”
At the heart of it all, Truly Living Well is not just a network of urban farms. It is setting a national model for a center that advocates for healthy, sustainable communities though nurturing the growth of member’s mind, body and soul. “After all,” says Nuri, “If we are not growing, if we are not learning, we are dying.”
Learn more about Truly Living Well here.