At first look, the center appears to be a run-of-the-mill community garden. However, it is an environmental center that features a community garden.
“We help community gardens and we have one, but we are not just a community garden,” Public Programs Manager Andrea Zoppo said. “We also have that park-like aspect that you can come from sun up to sun down, and we have tons of classes for all ages.”
On site, the center houses 32 community plots. Each plot is rented for a year with few rules other than to use natural fertilizers. Each plot renter must also volunteer within the community.
The center was opened in 1996 by Decatur resident Sally Wylde. Zoppo said Wylde grew frustrated with children trampling her garden. She said Wylde developed the idea of the center by gardening with the children and her intent was to give them a sense of appreciation for the garden since they worked in it.
The location of the center was purchased and developed with different activities spread throughout the site.
“What is really unique about the center is everything is community-run,” Zoppo said. “The staff here is not very large so we do rely on the help we receive from the community.”
The center also contains a chicken coop and beehives. The coop and hives are maintained by families and Zoppo said those families receive the honey and eggs produced. The center’s coop will be featured on the Atlanta Urban Coop Tour in October.
The hives and coop are contained in the same area. Zoppo said this provides a symbiotic relationship between the two since the chickens eat the hive beetles that attack the bees’ hives.
Each week there is a community drop off to provide the community with fresh, local garden vegetables. In September, the center will feature organic vegetable plants.
“These plants are not the normal plants you buy in the grocery store,” Zoppo said. “They’re the ones that maybe your grandparents grew that are beginning to go extinct.”
The center also offers community compost. Members of the community can drop off their composts and volunteers will take them back and maintain them.
Besides the Oakview Road location, the center works in public schools in the city of Decatur, two public schools in the city of Atlanta and in community gardens throughout Decatur.
To learn more about the center or to find classes visit www.wyldecenter.org.