Alpharetta to consider gift of Whole Foods ‘farm’

Educational plot would occupy 1.5 acres at park



ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Residents love their parks in Alpharetta, so it was no surprise when more than 50 people turned out recently for two meetings to consider adding an educational farm as part of its newest park.

The city is seeking feedback on a proposal to use land it recently purchased on Old Rucker Road to transform into an educational farm for public use. The farm would occupy about 1.5 acres of the 10-acre park.

Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said many residents asked what would happen with the rest of the park. Others wanted to know how to prevent Old Rucker Road from being used as a cut-through for traffic and whether the park would be fenced.

Insofar as design details, Drinkard said the city hasn’t mapped out how the remaining 8.5 acres would be used – providing the City Council approves the educational farm.

“It will be a passive park,” he said, adding that the design phase will include public input.

The City Council is set to vote Dec. 18 on whether to accept the educational farm as a gift from Whole Foods. The farm was installed about four years ago in a portion of the parking lot of the Harry’s Farmers’ Market on Upper Hembree Road. While the store, itself, closed and relocated as the Whole Foods at Avalon in October 2014, the company has maintained offices at the old site until recently.

Alpharetta Parks Director Morgan Rodgers said Whole Foods has offered to move the farm at their own cost to the new park location.

“We ran it up the flagpole with our citizens,” Rodgers said. “It seems everybody is on board with moving the farm.”

The farm features an outdoor classroom, a greenhouse, raised beds as well as the dirt.

“You can plant a rock in this dirt and it’ll grow because it’s just that fertile,” Rodgers said. “They’re going to relocate all of that, including all the equipment, the shovels, hoes, the tillers, a pickup truck and trailer, pretty much a farm in a box.”

Right now, the city has no plans to add to or alter the farm from its original setup, Rodgers said.

“Exactly what it’s going to look like in two years, I can’t tell you because it will depend on how well it’s received by the citizens,” he said. “But we have had just an outpouring of support and excitement from our citizens.”

The city is interested in finding partners to use and maintain the operation. It has already been in touch with Cambridge High School, which offers an agriculture program.

“They’re interested in being a partner, so we’re going to reach out to as many community partners as we can,” Rodgers said “We think this farm is going to grow organically once we get it on site.”

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