Grant seeds Alpharetta plan for growing sustainable foods

Alpharetta is creating an agricultural master plan for growing healthy sustainable foods that could eventually be woven into city development.

The plan has $150,000 in initial funding and will be approached similar to a master plan for economic development or recreation and parks, Amanda Musilli, Alpharetta community services manager said.

“What we want to do is work with the community to identify ways to incorporate community agriculture into all aspects of the city’s planning efforts …” Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said. “From large-scale projects to parks and trail systems to what people can do in their own yards.”

Alpharetta is receiving $75,000 from the nonprofit Food Well Alliance to help develop the plan and the city will contribute matching funds.

City leaders and a steering committee will map out a food network and system linking local growers, distributors and consumers.

During a Jan. 18 meeting, Alpharetta City Council approved a memorandum of understanding with Food Well Alliance and the Atlanta Regional Commission, which will help guide the plan’s development.

The nonprofit and ARC invited cities in Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton to submit grant applications last August. In December, Alpharetta was selected to receive the grant.

The steering committee is expected to spend about 12 months creating the plan with input from community focus groups. The final plan will be presented to City Council to be voted on for adoption.

Monday, Musilli and Kate Conner, executive director of Food Wellness Alliance, said there’s an abundance of ways to bring sustainable food practices into the community including planting fruit trees in residential developments and growers exchanging seeds.

A neighbor sharing a seed from a nice harvest of okra is keeping what’s grown in the community, Conner said.

Food Well Alliance was created through funding from the James M. Cox Foundation and input from James C. Kennedy, chairman emeritus of Cox Enterprises. The James M. Cox Foundation is named in honor of the founder of Cox Enterprises, the parent company of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Alpharetta is only the second city to receive funding from Food Well Alliance to develop a city agricultural plan. East Point received the same amount of funding with matching funds in 2019.

In 2020, East Point received an additional $250,000 through a Regional Food Systems Partnership Grant of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Conner said.

East Point Urban Agricultural Manager Tenesio Seanima said the funds have been helpful in organizing local food growers. He added that he would like to see municipalities add agricultural funding to city budgets.

“The fact is everyone has to eat, so there is not culture without agriculture,” Seanima said.