Despite being the wealthiest country in the world, food insecurity continues to permeate the United States. One in eight households, or 44.2 million Americans, lack access to affordable and nutritious food, according to the Food Research and Action Center, and the statistic only gets worse in the South.
The region with the most food insecurity, the South is home to 14.5 percent of people facing food insecurity. Unearthing Farm and Market is hoping to change that.
The people behind the hyperlocal farm bought land in a neighborhood that was formerly a food desert and worked years to make it habitable for agriculture.
“The whole reason why we started the farm, why we started growing produce in this area, is because for the longest time, until Lidl opened up down the street, that part of Kirkwood was considered a food desert,” Pritali Amrutkar, the volunteer coordinator for Unearthing, told Georgia Voice. “The point was to reduce food insecurity, and the mission and the goal is for people to have access to outdoor space, to fresh food, and for it to be accessible.”
The structure of Unearthing is simple: every Saturday, they host a market selling the food they grew on the land, as well as food from other local farmers, like Southern Cap Mushrooms. To ensure everyone can have access to this freshly grown produce, Unearthing operates on a pay-what-you-can model, and nobody is turned away if they can’t afford it. Those who can’t make it on Saturdays can swing by the farm during nonmarket hours to find a fridge stocked with veggies. Anyone can help tend to the land with the head farmer, Marianna, and they have a steward program where people can work their own plot of land. Through this model and the power of food, community is created.
“I’m South Asian, and I’m also an immigrant,” Amrutkar said. “For me personally, food has been the biggest thing that brings people together; that is the foundation of community … I think that isn’t lost in the Western world entirely. We have big feasts where people celebrate, [but] I think food has become something that we’ve commodified; you eat because you need fuel so you can work … Something about running a farm or garden, producing food, and having people involved with the production of food slows everything down a little bit. It gives you that sense of connection to the earth, to the food that you eat, to the people that you did this work with.”
It’s not only the food that brings people together; it’s the space. Unearthing’s mission is to provide both food and a public green space for people to come together, thus acting as a necessary “third place” — a sociological theory that people need a third place to gather outside of home and work. Referred to as the “ of society, third places — despite their importance — are dwindling.
Amrutkar has been at the farm for only a year and a half and has already seen firsthand the impact of having a third place on people. Unearthing is cultivating a space where relationships between volunteers can flourish: they show up, work together, and when the work is done, they sit together, talk, and connect.
“We are made of what we consume — in a scientific sense, as well as a philosophical sense,” she said. “The conversations plus the work, it all comes together.”
Unearthing Farm and Market is at 1534 Memorial Dr. SE. Its markets are every Saturday from 10am to 3pm. Learn more at unearthingatl.org or on Instagram @unearthingfarmandmarket. If you’re interested in volunteering, you can DM them on Instagram, fill out the form on their website, or just show up.