- Vegetables: eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), okra, peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, study circle, technical assistance, workshop
- Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, agritourism, market study, marketing management, value added
- Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, community services, employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, partnerships, social capital, social networks, social psychological indicators, urban agriculture
Based primarily in metro Atlanta, the HABESHA Works program trains and certifies low to moderate income adults, ages 18-35. Participants in the program become urban growers by developing skills focused on sustainable agriculture practices. HABESHA Works was established in 2011 as an outgrowth of a youth-based gardening program, Sustainable Seeds.
Our goal is to serve 50 participants through the HABESHA Works program, which will, in turn, increase knowledge of sustainable urban agriculture, and increase access to healthy foods. Our approach is to examine the issue of food access in low income communities and improve these conditions by training the community in becoming producers of their own food. Specifically, research has shown that in many communities where health disparities are the greatest, access to high quality, fresh and affordable foods is inadequate. In the community where HABESHA has primarily worked and served for the past nine years, research conducted at the neighborhood health facility, Southside Medical Center, shows 39 percent of adults surveyed from the community self-report having been diagnosed with hypertension.
The HABESHA Works curriculum includes components of in-class lectures, lab sessions, volunteer time at partner urban farms in Georgia and neighboring states, and a final practicum assessment. The course is approximately 200 hours and is focused on principles and practices in sustainable urban agriculture. Trainees are led by subject matter experts; conduct independent research on classroom topics, and volunteer a minimum of 25 hours at local farms. Through this exposure, trainees are introduced to various tracks supporting urban agriculture including production, distribution, consumption, financial planning, marketing and restoration.
As one of the country’s premiere urban agriculture training programs, successful participants receive certification in sustainable urban agriculture. Candidates may also receive continuing education and training for up to 3 years, providing participants with specialized skill development in the previously mentioned areas. A major outcome of this work is aimed at advancing the sustainable agriculture field. Graduates are partnered with training sites that assist students in developing more specialized skill sets. Advanced training opportunities also support participants with professional development opportunities including assistance with business planning, networking and accessing resources in sustainable agriculture.
In six years, HABESHA Works has trained more than 120 growers from around the Atlanta metro area and throughout that state. Support and partnerships have formed across numerous organizations including Georgia Organics, Spelman and Morehouse colleges, Fulton County Health and Human Services, Kaiser Permanente, and more. As a result, this work continues to produce a cadre of growers that are actively engaged in the local food system.
In an effort to increase the capacity of the HABESHA Works program, HABESHA, Inc. is seeking funds to facilitate its 14-week curriculum in addition to expanding advanced training opportunities through the development of an incubator farm. In 2018, HABESHA, Inc. is partnering with two local organizations, Organic High Yield and Nature’s Candy Farms. The partnerships will provide an incubator farm space for advanced trainees to access land resources while establishing a framework for developing their farming business and planning their long-term viability.
The goals of the HABESHA Works program are to increase employment opportunities for minorities while establishing greater access to fresh, healthy food. Both outcomes are achieved through the process of localizing food production. Sustainable agriculture in urban areas still remains a largely untapped resource as a viable method for food production. Despite this lack of consideration, urban farming services as an opportunity to expand agriculture activities and attract new farmers to the industry. Consequently, this process also further advances agricultural sustainability in the following ways:
- Increases the number of growers operating within the urban environment who are uniformly trained using a sustainable agriculture curriculum that emphasizes minimal adverse impacts on the environment, financial sustainability and promotes greater community benefits;
- Maximized limited availability of land and reduces startup costs for beginning farmers by establishing a supportive network of growers that cooperatively share resources provided through an incubator site;
- Encourages local distribution of food to markets through the development of a local food system leading to greater food access in urban communities.
- Increase minority participation in the urban agriculture industry by providing a high quality training opportunity centered on sustainable practices within the urban landscape.
- Develop a cadre of urban growers equipped with financial management skills to support successful farm businesses, which in turn advance local food systems in disadvantaged communities.
- Through the creation of an incubator farm, build the capacity of local urban growers to initiate their agricultural business concepts with a supportive network of farm professionals.