The West Broad neighborhood was established around the community’s historic African American schools. As home to several of Athens’ first African American churches, schools, and institutions, the neighborhood has been important to the community for nearly 150 years. The physical and cultural centerpiece of the neighborhood is the now-vacant West Broad School. In the early 1900s, the school’s principal established garden plots for students to grow food for their families and offered evening courses for adults in cooking and nutrition.
Through the West Broad Market Garden, Athens Land Trust hopes to continue the agricultural legacy of the site and to celebrate the history of community empowerment through food. In February 2012, with the support of community leaders, the Clarke County School District allowed ALT to use the West Broad School site to create the West Broad Garden, a half-acre, production-oriented urban farm. The garden, as a Certified Naturally Grown agricultural site, utilizes sustainable growing practices. We avoid all inorganic fertilizers and pesticides as well as genetically modified seed. The West Broad Garden serves as a model for beginning farmers in the community to practice sustainable agriculture.
In May 2013, the West Broad Farmers Market opened in the school’s tree-lined courtyard with the goal of increasing access to affordable, local, healthy food as well as providing economic opportunities for residents to grow food and sell their agriculture-based products. Shoppers can purchase produce that is grown steps from the market booths. The West Broad Garden and Farmers Market addresses barriers to healthy food access (including affordability, accessibility, and nutrition education) and celebrates the legacy of the West Broad School by maintaining it as a vibrant community asset.