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Natural Awakenings Atlanta

RASHID NURI: The Imperative to Embrace Urban Agriculture

Feb 28, 2020 09:30AM ● By Noah Chen
In 1965, Rashid Nuri asked his high school to add fresh fruit machines next to the candy machines on campus. The school relented, and Nuri hasn’t stopped being a self-styled “food revolutionary” since. Expanding far beyond vending machines in scope and impact, his efforts earned him a keynote speaking engagement at this year’s Georgia Organics Conference.

Nuri reviewed several highlights of his career. While running Truly Living Well, an urban agriculture organization he founded, Nuri built the largest farm in the city of Atlanta. Twice.

After handing over the management of Truly Living Well, Nuri published Growing Out Loud, a book that is both a memoir and a tutorial on the mechanisms behind food production.

In addition to growing healthy food and rallying local politicians into supporting urban agriculture, Nuri works hard to pass on what he has learned to the newest generations of farmers and city dwellers.

“Whoever controls the food, controls you,” says Nuri as he explains what he sees as the most important principle of urban agriculture: food sovereignty.

Nuri has a vision of an America fed by local urban farms designed and staffed by community members and partially supported by the government. “What I would like to see is a Homestead Act for small farmers and urban agriculture,” he says, referencing the act, signed by Abraham Lincoln, that gave settlers and farmers 160 acres of land for settling in the West.

For these farms to be community-run, other changes would have to take place both on a public policy level and on a local level. This may be why, to Nuri, urban agriculture involves more than its name may imply. “Urban farming is putting seeds in the ground. Urban agriculture is concerned with housing, education, creation of jobs and health,” Nuri says.


Because of the scale of urban agriculture, Nuri stresses the importance of cooperating with local governments. He was happy to hear Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms say that she wants to see food within ten minutes of every residence.

With those words, the mayor hints at another principle at the heart of urban agriculture: justice. “The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it’s justice,” says Nuri. “We live in the richest country in the entire history of mankind on this planet Earth, and you have folks that are hungry now, without healthcare and homeless.” To Nuri, justice under urban agriculture doesn’t just look like easy accessibility to healthy food: “We need clean water going into people’s homes. We need to get people off the streets and take care of each other.”

Nuri is happy that Atlanta has made impressive strides towards food justice and sovereignty, as the level of diversity found in local farmers’ markets and organizations like Georgia Organics has been increasing in recent years. With the guiding principles of justice, sovereignty and community/government cooperation, Nuri is optimistic that America can provide the infrastructure for communities to fully embrace urban agriculture. In doing so, he says we will be taking a big step in righting many of the injustices in our society by building strong, more independent, healthier communities.

“The community is everything,” says Nuri. “There’s an old proverb: ‘Do you want to go fast? Go alone. Do you want to go far? Go together.’ That’s how we have to build the future.”

For more information about Nuri, visit TheNuriGroup.com. To learn about his work at Truly Living Well, go to TrulyLivingWell.com.
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