Kate Conner has always felt at home in the outdoors. Growing up in Maine, she had a big backyard and parents who were composting and gardening long before it was “cool.” They taught her to have an appreciation for her local greenspaces— and how to use her backyard to sustain her health. After moving to Atlanta, however, she realized the limitations of an urban environment. “In a city, you have to reimagine what agriculture looks like. Public greenspaces, and even the trees lining the streets, are your backyard,” she says. “Not everyone has that yard.”
Although farming is Georgia’s largest and oldest industry, agriculture feels distant from the minds of most people—especially in a major city like Atlanta. Conner wanted to change that perception. As executive director of the Food Well Alliance, a non-profit organization that provides resources to urban farms and community gardens across metro Atlanta, Conner works tirelessly to support local growers. “If you look around, there’s probably food growing within a half hour of your house,” she says. “Our job is to make sure that everyone can access it.” The organization currently aids almost 200 urban farms and community gardens and more than 100 community orchards. Food Well Alliance also collaborates with local governments to establish policies that promote equitable urban growing spaces and has helped launch innovative agriculture planning programs in the cities of East Point and Alpharetta.
Conner insists that her most important work is community building. “It’s mainly about nourishing connections between people,” she says. Conner also oversees the efforts of the 970 Jefferson building, a collective of 19 local nonprofits working to combat food insecurity in the former headquarters of the Atlanta Community Food Bank. In 2022, these organizations distributed nearly 2 million pounds of food and processed 725,000 pounds of locally grown produce to sell in the metro area.
“I want to help change mindsets around food and to help connect people to what they’re eating a little bit better,” she says. “Anything coming out of the soil improves our health. Food doesn’t always have to come from a grocery store.”