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Bonner Scholars Program

Sisters of the Soil

Spelman's Urban Agriculture Program Empowers Westside Residents

Sisters of the Soil, Spelman’s urban agriculture program, focuses on the environmental, social and economic and health benefits of urban agriculture to empower 100 women and girls on the Westside to take control of their food choices.

Sponsored by the Bonner Office of Civic Engagement, Spelman students are trained in the principles and practices of urban agriculture. As catalysts and connectors, the Spelman students help educate children and seniors about food and nutrition, identify options in a food desert/food swamp environment, and support organizations that promote health and wellbeing through community gardening.

Igniting an Urban Agricultural Revolution: Why This? Why Now?

Start of Quote“The Westside has the highest concentration of urban farming in the city. A lot of theseEnd of Quote
growers are women and they are excited about what it could mean to have Spelman students working with them.”  -- Dr. Ashante Reese, assistant professor of anthropology and Spelman Food Studies Program co-director.
Proper nutrition is essential for good health and well being; but in Atlanta’s Westside community, many
residents don’t have easy or affordable access to foods that support wellness. One way that community
organizations are addressing this issue is by encouraging an urban agricultural movement.

“Urban agriculture is the idea that people can produce food for themselves using vacant lots, parks, their
own back yards, porches or patios—even indoors,” said Charles Greenlea, program director for
HABESHA, a Pan-African group that cultivates leadership in youth and families through sustainable
agriculture and other programs.

Since Spring 2016, HABESHA has trained 24 Spelman women in the principles and practices of urban
agriculture. Starting in Fall 2018, Spelmanites who complete an 18-hour program that includes lecture
time, as well as lab time working hands-on in the College’s garden, will participate in intergenerational
teaching and learning with women and girls in schools and senior centers in the neighborhood
surrounding the campus.

Start of QuoteA lot of people think about gardening as an empowerment tool because it is about sustenance. End of QuoteTaking back the power to sustain a community is of primary importance to people who don’t think they have the power to control what they eat. --  Robert Hamilton, Spelman art and visual culture and food studies instructor

Using Agriculture to Extend STEM Offerings

“Through Sisters of the Soil you will see many black and brown women in spaces we have not seen them
before,” said Irvin.“We take heed to the storytellers in the community. So, we are excited
to have the elders work side-by-side with our Spelman students, who will teach school children about
urban agriculture with STEM-based activities.”

Sisters of the Soil will focus on the environmental, social, economic and health benefits of urban
agriculture. The program’s goals include working in concert with faculty and students in the College’s
Food Studies minor and hosting a community symposium on campus. The program’s long-term vision is
for Spelman to be known in Atlanta and beyond as an expert and change agent in the field of urban

Contact Us

350 Spelman Lane S.W.
Box 1543, Atlanta, GA 30314

Campus Location
Manley Student Center, Upper Level