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May 31, 2021

Transforming Vacant Lots Into a Community at Trefoil Gardens

Trefoil Gardens started in two empty suburban lots that had been sitting vacant for three decades. With an appreciation for the potential to grow food in under-utilized spaces, Melanie Jones and Rob Miller reimaged this under-utilized land and launched a “yard share” style CSA. In this model, neighbors with yards make growing space available in exchange for fresh produce.  Today, the original gardens have spread to cover over 10 suburban lots on the outskirts of Woodstock, Georgia—transforming neighborhood lawns into a hub for local food and community. 

Melanie Jones and Rob Miller of Trefoil Gardens

“Our work in the community harkens back to Rob’s father’s Appalachian culture of collectively caring for gardens and fostering knowledge exchange,” says Melanie. The couple makes their products accessible to everyone by ensuring that families experiencing food insecurities can use their SNAP  benefits in the places where Trefoil Gardens sells produce. They also collect their unsold food and donate it to a local youth home. 

“As urban farmers in a rapidly changing community, we’re working hard to protect and promote diversity here in our town by advocating for food access for all,” says Melanie. “With help from American Farmland Trust and Tillamook Creamery’s Brighter Future Fund, Trefoil Gardens is building a propagation greenhouse.” 

American Farmland Trust, with the help of Tillamook Creamery, launched the Brighter Future Fund to support farmers in the face of pressing challenges like climate change and COVID-19.  

With the new greenhouse space, Trefoil Gardens will be able to keep up with their 20 gardens and requests from the community to supply plant seedlings. 

“Our place is not quite urban and not quite rural, but it has its own set of unique challenges that we sometimes have difficulty finding the funding to address,” says Rob. “A larger greenhouse will enable us to produce our own resources here on site. It will also allow us to be a source of plant starts for the people we serve and for several of our community partners. Receiving this grant has been integral to helping us achieve our goals sooner.” 

The yard share model fosters neighbor-to-neighbor conversations and environmental benefits. For the community, Trefoil Gardens provides fresh food, education, access to nature and new ways to interact. Melanie and Rob teach people how to grow and utilize food and medicine from their own yards. This knowledge became especially valuable as the country experienced sudden unemployment and food shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic.   Melanie’s dream food system is one in which everyone has a thriving neighborhood farmer who can make fresh food and medicine accessible to their community. “Thank you, American Farmland Trust and Tillamook Creamery,” she says. Learn more at www.trefoilgardens.com. 

Brighter Future Fund

Informed by farmers, built on experience, and inspired by you. AFT’s Brighter Future Fund carries forward AFT's commitment to addressing inequalities in our agricultural system by providing grants up to $5,000 to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or women farmers nationwide. Help us support another round of inspiring farmers by donating to the fund today! 100% of all funds raised will go directly to farmers to strengthen farm resilience, enhance farm viability, and improve access to land.