May 2, 2011 16:11 Age: 3 yrs

Turner Clinic Helps to Promote Urban Agriculture in Atlanta

(left to right) Amelia Myers 12L, Jennifer Bellis 12L and Sarah Morse 11L

Emory Law’s Turner Environmental Law Clinic is working with the Mayor's Office of Sustainability and Georgia Organics to discuss their ongoing collaborative effort to promote urban agriculture within the City of Atlanta.

Turner Clinic students Jennifer Bellis 12L, Sarah Morse 11L and Amelia Myers 12L, along with Staff Attorney Mindy Goldstein, spent the spring semester studying urban agriculture in 16 cities across the country.

Urban agriculture includes activities like commercial and non-commercial community gardening and sales of locally grown produce within the city limits. Increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables, community building and restoring abandoned properties to productive use are some benefits of the programs.

“It’s just amazing to see the turnaround that cities like Cleveland had with all these empty lots that have turned into farms,” Myers says. “Every time I go around [Atlanta] now I think, ‘that could be an urban farm or that could be a garden.’” The students researched the initiatives of community groups and city governments to promote urban agriculture, reviewed zoning codes and assessed how the cities have amended their codes to facilitate urban agriculture.

“The cities are all different,” Bellis says. “We picked them because we either had heard good things about their urban agriculture programs or because they were similar in some way to Atlanta.”

A 90-page draft report that summarized the students’ findings was presented to the Mayor’s Office on March 23. The Turner Clinic, the city and Georgia Organics now are discussing the project’s next steps, which include drafting proposed changes to the city’s zoning code and publishing the final report.

The Mayor's Office is eager to meet Atlantans’ demand for urban agriculture and plans to update its zoning ordinances to expressly permit community gardens.

“I’ve really enjoyed this project because it’s different. It’s not like litigation,” Morse says. “It’s very much focused on the community. I think it has the potential to impact Atlanta quickly and for the better.”

“It’s been the most fun project I’ve done in law school, by far,” says Bellis. “Everyone that I talk to in the environmental community is so excited about it because everyone loves a garden. No one loses.”

Jennifer Bellis 12L contributed to this article.

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