by Robin Kemp

After a battle that made headlines worldwide, a change in city law, and a year of COVID-19, the Little Lions Farm Stand at Little Ones Learning Center in Forest Park will reopen at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, April 21. The stand sells locally-grown vegetables and fruit, including vegetables that kids grow in the daycare’s Jazmin Greene Community Garden, and offers double quantities for people paying with an EBT card. The Clayton County Chamber of Commerce will join Little Lions’ ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. (Transparency note: The Clayton Crescent is a member of the Clayton County Chamber.)

Photo: Little Ones Learning Center

In August 2019, the city shut down the popular neighborhood produce stand at 993 Forest Avenue off Jonesboro Road, saying it did not have a permit to sell produce required by a city zoning ordinance. City leaders had expressed concerns about limited parking and whether unpermitted produce stands would start popping up around town.

After the kids and parents showed up at City Council, and with backup from former State Rep. Valencia Stovall, the Turner Environmental Law Clinic’s Mindy Goldstein, attorney Michelle Namer, Georgia Organics, the Food Well Alliance, the National Farm to School Network, and others, the city changed its ordinance and granted Little Lions a conditional use permit.

In an e-mail, the school thanked Forest Park city leaders for changing the law and invited them to join the festivities. “We look forward to welcoming them to the Little Lions Farm Stand on April 21 or anytime, as we work with the City in new ways going forward.”

Little Ones Learning Center Executive Director Wande Okunoren-Meadows said, “We have waited for this moment. It has been a lengthy process, through COVID-19 and all, but it has also taught us that, through dedicated partnerships and meaningful collaboration, local legislation can change, grassroots efforts do work. If
people believe in your mission and cause, everything else will fall in place.”

YouTube video

While the daycare teaches kids about healthy food from seed to farm stand, it also extends those lessons into the local community. The produce stand is part of the daycare’s “Hand, Heart, and Soul Project,” which aims to “celebrate community and confront inequity by developing and growing a movement of leaders. We empower others by creating and sustaining purpose driven projects that educate, inform and inspire others.”

Little Lions Farm Stand partners with Wholesome Wave Georgia so that people can get $2 worth of produce for every $1 they spend on their EBT cards. Proceeds from the sales go directly to garden education and sustainability. On certain days, they also can get vegetable plant starts for half price to start growing healthy food at home–teaching area residents how to take control of their own food supply.

Here’s a video about what Wholesome Wave Georgia is doing:

YouTube video

“Buying fresh food for families should be accessible and at a price point that all in our community can reach
and they should not have to cross zip codes to get nutritious and wholesome food,” said Little Ones Learning Center President Toyin Okunoren.

Little Lions Farm Stand is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of the month from April 21 through November 18. People who use EBT (food stamp) cards are more than welcome, and Little Lions also takes cash and credit cards.

The stand is reopening as local municipalities and groups redouble their efforts to provide community gardens and farm stands:

  • In Morrow, next to the dog park on Lake Harbin Road, the city has put in about four dozen large raised beds, as well as three smaller elevated beds.
  • In Jonesboro, the Community Gardening Club will hold a kickoff cleanup event this Saturday, April 17 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 118 North Ave. Call (770) 478-3800 to RSVP.
  • Atlanta Harvest moved from its former Lake Harbin Road location to 3529 Anvil Block Road in Ellenwood, where it invites vendors to join them.
  • The University of Georgia Clayton County Extension Service also offers gardening courses, including this orientation to beekeeping:

YouTube video

  • And on March 15, Forest Park unanimously approved a resolution for the Department of Recreation and Leisure Services to apply for state grant money for community gardens in each ward of the city. The money, about $2,500 for each ward, would come from the FY21 Georgia Department of Public Health Community Garden Mini-Grant.

The daycare’s Jazmin Greene Community Garden is named in memory of the two-year-old girl who died in 2011 after a 16-year-old daycare worker and two adults forgot to check whether Jazmin was still inside a hot van at a Jonesboro daycare. Learn more about the garden’s history here.

If you are involved in community gardening, sustainable home agriculture, “full-frontal gardening,” or are a small farmer, beekeeper, fruit grower, or farm stand owner, we’d like to hear from you. E-mail us with your name, contact information, location, and what you produce.

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