There is so much power in cultivating the land.
For Jamila Norman, a love for nature from a very early age planted the seed for her work today as the owner of Patchwork City Farms, a 1.2-acre independently owned farm located in Atlanta, GA.
What Led To Her Love For Farming
“I’ll say I had a love for nature my whole life,” she told AfroTech. “I had a love for the outdoors. I had a love for plants, and I knew I wanted to have a farm, right? But I thought I would, like, retire and have a farm. That was like a dream. And when I started just growing food, I was like I’m just gonna volunteer down the street at this church where this older Black lady was running the garden of a small church of like 30 people. And I just kept going back.”
Not only did Norman develop a greater respect for the land and growing her own food, but she quickly understood its importance.
“There is a legacy of growing food, of tending the land that is not just attached to slavery,” Norman said. “What I mean is that we still, within the Black community, saw the value of growing food, saw the value of tending the land, and having fresh food. So, in 2010, I jumped in and was just like, ‘Why don’t we start a farm? Like, in the city.’”
Tapping Into Her Farming Roots
As a mother, Norman especially wanted to show her children the beauty in growing food from start to finish. As a first-generation daughter to Caribbean parents, she wasn’t afraid to tap into something that is naturally already a part of who she is.
How Being An Engineer Has Helped With The Business of Farming
What’s more, Norman is also a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in environmental engineering, which she says goes hand in hand with her work as a farmer.
“There is so much math, so much planning… so much that you have to sort of really think about when you are building a farm because building a farm is a business,” she recalled. “You’re having to cultivate the space in a way that is not just about growing food. But, how do you make sure after you harvest this food, that it is stored well, that it is washed well, that it is at its best quality to get to market, to make sure you have enough that is constantly growing?”
She continued: “So there’s a lot of planning and thinking ahead. Engineering has definitely helped me sort of problem-solve and think ahead and really assess all of the things. I’ve had to become a carpenter, an electrician. I mean, it is any and every skill set that someone would need to like, just, run a small city. I’m thankful I had engineering as a background to be able to really sort of think and plan through how to set it up.”
Helping Others Along The Way
In addition to running her own farm, Norman is also helping others to tap into their farming roots through her TV series “Homegrown,” which is in its second season and now available for streaming on HBO Max.
“It’s important because, helping people, I think we are trying to demystify growing food and farming, and people just attach so much hard work and pain and trauma to it, but then, on the flip side, a lot of people also still have that curiosity and that memory of like, you know, ‘This is something I want to do,’” she continued. “And so I was getting a lot of people reaching out and trying to figure out like, ‘How can I do this?’ So we’re just really helping families and showing them how easy it is, with the right setup, to run a successful farm.”
Norman’s mission is to improve the world, one farm at a time, by implementing sustainable practices throughout her operations. Running her farm encompasses various aspects such as organic crop cultivation, extensive compost integration into the soil, and much more. By embracing these practices, Norman strives to create a positive impact on the environment and contribute to a better future for all.