Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture, a nonprofit based in Atlanta, works to engage the community in developing local food systems through education and food production. Founded in 2006 by Rashid Nuri, TLW works to provide a model of urban agriculture as a sustainable and economic solution for helping people to eat and live better. One year after they broke ground, TLW became one of the first Certified Naturally Grown farms in Georgia. We interviewed Rashid in 2013 about how he became a farmer, what it's like to run an urban agricultural center, and why he joined Certified Naturally Grown. (Photo by Joeff Davis, used with permission)
How did you get into farming? What made you want to become a farmer?
Sometimes your life’s mission is revealed to you in your youth and you spend the rest of your life dancing in the passion of that vision. I discovered my life’s passion was agriculture, economic and political development for under-served people. I have dedicated my career to food education around the world. Today, as the Founder and President of Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture (TLW), I grow fresh, nutritious food right in the inner city and in nearby communities where people have little or no access to locally grown, chemical free food.
What do you grow? Do you have a specialty?
We grow seasonal vegetables, fruit and herbs for our year-round markets. Restaurateurs and customers love our collard greens! Our broccoli is to die for! Okra is really popular here in the south and heirloom tomatoes are always a hit.
What are your markets?
We sell to CSA members, restaurants, small grocers and the two markets we operate. See our website for days and times.
Community building relationships in the soil. Photo from @trulylivingwell
Who farms at TLW?
We have a staff of farmers who produce food. We also have an intensive training program in which 15 to 20 trainees work alongside our farmers to learn urban agriculture best practices.
Why did you get involved with CNG?
We decided to become Certified Naturally Grown because it's "peer to peer". People that are committed to natural, organic and quality methods that benefit people and the environment are responsible for the certification process.
Talk about the biggest challenge you’ve encountered as an organization.
One challenge is to develop an evaluation method that measures the overall benefit that an urban farm brings to the community. We must create a new lens through which to view our service because the dynamics of urban agriculture are so different front the dynamics of commercial rural agriculture.
Economic measurement of urban agriculture is about more than money. People, property, time resources, wellness and many other factors can be calculated and organized into an econometric equation that much more accurately defines the impact of urban farms on the local economy. The tool should include gross domestic happiness, a measure of productivity and quality of life which goes beyond the traditional economic measures of gross national product and gross domestic product.
What tricks and solutions have you invented to address challenges or improve operations on your farm?
We're utilizing a composting system that creates high quality soil in as few as 45 days!
What is unique or unusual about your farm?
The quality of our soil. Rashid Nuri, TLW founder says, "We build the soil, God grows the food." Recent soil tests indicate that we're doing a superlative job. The nutritional value of our soil rated extremely high in all categories. TLW diverts over 70 tons of natural waste to composting.
What was your most positive farming experience?
Having people tell us how much they enjoy the taste and quality of our food. We believe good food should not be a privilege for the few; but a right for everyone.
What unexpected customer interactions have been especially rewarding?
Since 2006, we've only missed one market! It was a snow storm that closed the city down. Our customers depend on us for good food!
Who is your mentor or hero in the farming world?
Elijah Muhammad, Kwame Nkrumah, George Washington Carver
What’s special about your farm?
The people. The work of TLW is truly transformative. We have staff and volunteers who come from all walks of life, socio-economic, cultural, religious and racial backgrounds that work in harmony to grow good food and connect other people with the land and the food through education, training and community outreach. Our relationship with the land informs our relationships and sets the stage for expansion and growth. Together we're creating communities that are truly living well.
For more information visit www.trulylivingwell.com