Neighbor: Our Community Farm Project
Operator: Susan Pavlin
Neighborhood: East Decatur
Business Address: 121 Sam Street
At the corner of East College Avenue and Sam Street, next to the Friends School of Atlanta campus, lies half an acre of fertile soil. The land, though nestled in Decatur’s concrete hubbub, has yielded hundreds of pounds of fresh produce since being plowed in April 2010.
The journey from recess turf to fruitful farm began when a group of Burundi refugees landed in Atlanta in 2007. Rural agrarians by trade, they were perplexed by the city’s strip malls, so they went searching for a familiar niche. Obed Nzigimana and Venance Ndayiragije, two Burundi men with agricultural backgrounds, teamed up with Refugee Family Services and, following a year-long hunt, found the soon-to-be farmland at 126 Sam Street. The centrally located plot is conveniently close to the Department of Family & Children Services office and mere yards from the Avondale MARTA station.Â The site’s biggest asset, however, may be the playground that shares the land.
“The Burundis work inter-generationally,” explains Susan Pavlin, the Director of Policy at RFS and a key player in the farm’s development. “So the playground is great because the older children work and learn from their mothers, while the young kids can play.”Â The dynamic makes the farm a positive and comfortable place for the families.Â Another practice the Burundis employ is skilled stewardship. In accordance to their farming traditions, they create and use their own compost; they work with hands and tools instead of machines, and they even dry and store their own seeds for next year’s crop.
With the help of Emory University, the Atlanta Food Bank, several Atlanta-area farmers, and a host of volunteers, Our Community Farm Project enjoyed a successful first year. Looking ahead, the Burundis hope to expand the operation to outside of East Decatur and acquire more land. They are also interested in joining a farmer’s market and may rebrand the farm with a new name.