Neighborhoods in Atlanta are changing, as the city and surrounding region are on the edge of broader demographic shifts in the United States. The area’s population will double to more than 8 million by 2040, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. Many Atlanta neighborhoods are gentrifying, as residents move back to the city from the suburbs and millennials come to the city because they want to live close to where they work.
Haylene Green is witnessing these changes in her neighborhood, West End, where she runs a community garden.
Known as “The Garden Queen,” Green moved to the U.S. in 1961 and relocated to Atlanta in 1975 after a family visit. She declares herself a “nurse by passion, printer by trade, and farmer by DNA.”
“I could not do anything else. I would not know what else to do,” Green said.
But farming is not how she made a living. Green was an experienced printer. Setting up shop in a strip mall, she served the community as one of the first black printers in the West End.
Green had an interest in Atlanta’s greenery and vegetation, but quickly realized the city was a “dead zone” for farming. As a result, she vowed to study how to bring Jamaican plants to Atlanta and have them flourish.
Working out of her small backyard, Green has managed to inspire her neighbors to branch out and invest in the community garden. “Since I have started farming there has been several, maybe 50, new gardens in the area. Soon seniors will not have to bus far to get fresh food, we will hopefully be able to take it to them,” Green said.
Green is also working to teach seniors and young people in West End how to garden. She says her mission is especially important, as the neighborhood sees an influx of new residents and development, drawn by the new Atlanta Falcons stadium and the West Side BeltLine trail. “Hopefully they can make a business out of it and do what I do and pass it on to other generations,” she said.
La’Candis Brown is a rising Junior at Spelman College, where she studies political science and minors in writing. Hailing from Monroe, Louisiana, she is a country girl with a city heart. La'Candis loves to read supernatural novels and sleep with socks on.