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Everyday Heroes: Haylene Green

West End Community Urban Garden

Haylene Green was destined to grow things. Like five generations of her family in her native Jamaica, Green grows soursop, mangoes, and hibiscus.

But Green’s plots are here in metro Atlanta and her mission is broader: to bring fresh food to those without it and teach them to grow their own.

“The whole neighborhood needs to learn how to grow,” said Green, 77, of her latest garden which opened in June in East Point. She said there are few healthy, fresh options in the area to purchase produce.

“If everybody grows a specialty item, they can come together and share with each other and everybody will be able to eat,” Green said.

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Haylene Green

Credit: Photo Courtesy of Haylene Green

Green, a self-proclaimed ‘garden queen,’ was born in Jamaica. At the age of 14, she moved to the United and lived in New York until she visited Atlanta for a family reunion and fell in love with the city right away.

Green, a former nurse and printer, was determined to bring a piece of her home to her new surroundings, and has since been growing fruits native to Jamaica in her metro Atlanta gardens.

Today, she manages two community gardens: one in Atlanta’s West End and one in East Point.

“I take it from a seed to the table and beyond,” said Green.

Her new garden in East Point is tucked away just behind the historic Atlanta Utility Works. Old train tracks run through the space, which is organized into sections for fruits, vegetables, greens and so forth. In her West End garden, tall plants peak over the fence at passersby.

Green maximizes her growing space by using and reusing containers, from plastic bins to handmade wooden raised beds, for produce like soursop, hibiscus, mango and basil.

“You don’t have to have acreage to be able to grow,” said Green.

Her gardens are open to all to take food or help in the garden. All she asks is that anyone who takes from her gardens return with seeds— some even return with seeds from the very fruit they took from the garden.

While Green prides herself on running a one-woman show, she welcomes volunteers and is always willing to educate others who want to lend a helping hand.

“She’s a sweetheart and a huge personality,” said Kirstin McWhite, 27, a volunteer who works closely with Green twice a week. “She’s doing this because it’s her passion, and I have a lot of respect for people that do and live the passions that they have.”

Green focuses on teaching people how to grow their own food and the health benefits of doing so. Over the years, she’s become a matriarch of the urban agriculture movement in Atlanta.

“She’s a connector,” said Bobby Farmer, the grants manager for Food Well Alliance, an Atlanta nonprofit that supports urban farmers and community gardeners, including Green. “I think one of the things Miss Haylene brings to communities and metro Atlanta in general is her dedication and her passion for growing food for others as well as educating people on growing food themselves.”

HOW TO HELP

For more information, please visit https://www.thegardenqueen.com/.

To make a donation, check out https://www.thegardenqueen.com/donate.

ExploreMeet more Everyday Heroes from the AJC and our news partners


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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