Joe Reynolds and his wife, Judith Winfrey, had always been involved in sustainable agriculture but decided to try urban farming in Atlanta. In 2008, the two took over operations of Gaia Gardens, a 4-acre certified organic farm plot in Atlanta owned by East Lake Commons neighborhood right when the local food movement in the city began to pick up momentum.
Love is Love Farm is certified organic and uses soil-based practices, such as continuous crop rotation, annual cover cropping, on-farm composting, conservation tillage, and hard work to cultivate the best and healthiest diversity of vegetables and fruit. They plant their crops, and then when they’re ready, they transfer them to one of their greenhouses.
Their mission is, ultimately, to connect organic food from their farm to the residents of East Lake Commons that own Gaia Gardens, restaurants in Decatur and Atlanta, and good food customers that find them off the farm. All of their materials come from these market communities - they compost uncooked plant-based kitchen scraps from East Lake Commons, Decatur restaurants, and Compost Wheels. To promote their mission of sustainable farming and circulating organic food, they host a spring/summer sale.
Despite the fact that their main goal is to grow and sell fresh organic produce, they also educate people about sustainable food. One event they host is Compost Critters: Kids Science Day on the Farm (Atlanta Science Festival), which educates children about local sustainable food, and makes learning about agriculture fun by having children partake in a scavenger hunt on the farm.
Additionally, Love is Love offers educational farm tours of Gaia Gardens to schools and groups that would like to visit the farm. They also target adults in another event they host, called Chef’s Collaborative Presents: Supper at the Farm. This is an event where 25 local Atlanta chefs will prepare a potluck-style spread of food, all made with seasonal and local ingredients. Chef’s Collaborative’s mission is to inspire, educate, and celebrate chefs and food professionals building a better food system.
Love is Love Farm has been operating successfully for 10 years.
They are connected with many good food and farm organizations as a strategy to sustain the success of farmers, including companies in the city of Atlanta, the southern region, and national and international organizations.
Since Love is Love was established, they have been featured numerous times on Certified Organics website and in both “Creative Loafing,” and “Atlanta Magazine.” Specifically, they have won the title of Best Local Farm in “Creative Loafing” under their Annual Index of Winners page, not once, but in four times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Additionally, in 2016, they received a Local Food Grant from Foodwell Alliance, an organization that supports food projects and convening around food and community in Atlanta. From this grant, they were able to purchase a 15-gallon compost tea brewer and supplies to make the most of their compost and directly inject it into the drip irrigation systems.
I did a variety of activities during my five hours of service on Love is Love Farm. For the first three hours in the morning, I helped the team organize chard in preparation of selling to buyers. I did this by cutting the chard at their roots and removing the chard that had leaves with bird droppings or several holes in them. Once I gathered a healthy handful of chard in my hand, then I used a plastic tie to group the stems of the leaves together. Together with other members of the team, we filled a total of 3 huge buckets of chard, ready to be sold to buyers.
After lunch in the afternoon, I helped the team prepare for the annual Spring Plant Sale, which takes place on the farm. I did this by organizing the plants that were to be sold at the sale. The plants I organized included a variety of tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, medium heat and hot peppers, eggplant, okra, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, basil, classic and unique herbs, edible flowers, kale, chard, and lettuce seedlings.
I helped specifically with transferring plants from the greenhouse to outside towards the entrance of the farm (we did this by using an assembly line method because there were many plants that needed to be moved!), labeling various plants with their proper names by placing popsicle sticks in their 3 x 3 inch plantable Fertil pots, watering the plants, and organizing pre-ordered plants for people that wanted a fast pick up come the day of the sale.
Through volunteering, I offered a helping hand to Love is Love Farm, and contributed to their mission of spreading organic produce to families in the Atlanta and Decatur communities.
Therefore, I played my part in helping Love is Love connect organic food from their farm to the residents in the surrounding areas around the farm’s grounds.
In addition to helping Love is Love Farm prepare their produce to be sold to buyers, I also felt really connected to the team members working on Love is Love year-round. It was really enjoyable to work together with people who care about the environment and the sustainable food movement as much as I do. I had a great experience and would definitely volunteer on the farm again in the near future.