Unity Garden at Chattahoochee Nature Center gives gift of health

Garden-fresh vegetables for needy grown for N.F. Community Charities

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You never know what you will learn if you get out of your comfort zone and see what other people are doing. For instance, I happened to take a trip over to the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s annual native plant sale and found a lot more than just plants.

For instance, did you know most produce in grocery stores is picked two weeks earlier? And that means those vegetables lose over ¾ of their nutritional value?

That was gospel from Unity Garden Coordinator Traci Nitti.

I stumbled onto the Unity Garden right next to the CNC plant sale. The Unity Garden is a 10,000-square-foot urban farm established in 2010 with a generous grant from Kaiser Permanente to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for donation to the North Fulton Community Charities’ food pantry.

Nitti can give you chapter and verse on the perks home-grown food has over the supermarkets’ fare.

Locally grown produce improves the quality and nutritional value of our food and reduces the negative impacts on our environment, she said. It has a smaller carbon footprint due to shorter transportation time on the road. And of course that means the produce is fresher and more nutritious.

Nitti and her volunteers can get as many as three harvests a season. Since the first harvest in 2010, the Unity Garden has produced more than 27 tons (54,000 pounds!) of healthy, locally grown food, as well as many bushels of fresh culinary herbs for families who often have trouble feeding their children balanced meals.

“We are adding cultural and ethnic plants to the garden next year as well,” Nitt said.

The Unity Garden is a learning experience to the thousands of Fulton County students who tour the Chattahoochee Nature Center every year. In addition to learning about Georgia’s native animals and flora and the balance of nature, they see the value of growing their own food.

She also uses the Unity Garden to teach visiting students ways to tend gardens without relying on toxic pesticides.

“Most bugs are part of the balance of nature. They provide pollination and help plants by eating the harmful insects,” she said. The little lady bug is one of those guardians for us. They feast on aphids and other ‘bad’ insects.”

One lady bug can eat 5,000 aphids in its lifetime and it won’t contaminate the vegetables you are trying to protect.

You can see the Unity Garden and catch the last weekend of the Nature Center’s annual Native Plant Sale this weekend.

For questions about the Unity Garden, contact Tricia Nitti at
t.nitti@chattnaturecenter.org.


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