(Pictured above, 2nd photo, top row): Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring, Board member Aretta Baldon, and Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown are joined by Washington High School staff and students and local community members.)
Atlanta Public Schools and the City of Atlanta – District 3, led by District 3 Councilman Antonio Brown, recently celebrated the creation of an urban garden, as well as an outstanding new achievement for Booker T. Washington High School that will prepare students for a burgeoning new career path, and help provide the community with fresh, healthy food options.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new community garden was held May 8 at 418 Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, about a mile from Booker T. Washington High School, which recently became one of the first high schools in Georgia to offer a curriculum pathway in Urban AgSTEM (Urban Agriculture/Science Technology Engineering and Math).
Students in the AgSTEM pathway will cultivate the community garden. The food that will be grown in the urban garden will be made available to the residents in the Washington community where access to fresh fruits and vegetables is not always readily available.
“District 3 has been a food desert for far too long. I am extremely proud to support the creation of the Community Farm and encourage healthy and sustainable dietary choices,” Brown said. “In addition, through an incredible partnership with APS and community stakeholders, we’re providing our brightest students with educational, economic and workforce development opportunities. We must continue to work together to uplift our neighborhoods.”
This new academic pathway will help Washington students earn an industry credential in Aquaculture, with the option available to earn a dual certification in Agribusiness, which will prepare them for a college agriculture program or help them transition directly into an agriculture-related career field.
The pathway is being created at a crucial time. When Booker T. Washington High School opened for mostly African-American students in Atlanta in 1924, the USDA Census of Agriculture reported that African-American farmers comprised 14% of farmers in the United States – the exact figure, 925,708 farmers. In 2017, the last official figure available, only about 45,500 farmers were African-American, representing a mere 1.3% of the total farmers in our country. Even when other occupations in agriculture are factored in, African Americans only comprise about 3% of managers, inspectors, and supervisors and perhaps 5% of all other jobs in this field. These statistics bear out across other biological occupations as well. Finally, only 19 supermarkets in the country today are owned and operated by African Americans.
“The evidence makes it clear that we have a crisis in agriculture today particularly in the way we employ African Americans and sustain their neighborhoods and communities,” Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said.
A number of community partners and organizations helped craft the curriculum for the program, including: Atlanta Botanical Garden; Bronner Brothers; Citrix; City of Atlanta Watershed Management; Georgia Aquarium; Greenleaf Foundation; Mercedes Benz Stadium; Morehouse School of Medicine; and Truly Living Well.
“We celebrate this new academic pathway because we come together in the spirit of Booker T. Washington himself – who as president of Tuskegee Institute worked with one of the leading agricultural scientists of his day, the incomparable George Washington Carver,” Dr. Herring said. “This partnership and urban farm puts the work and valuable real-life experiences right in our students’ neighborhood and backyard. With the power and support of our community partners, we are preparing the next generation of George Washington Carvers for the agricultural industry of the future.”