Customers and vendors at the Athens Farmers Market at Bishop Park. Photo by Erin Wilson, from the Athens Farmers Market Facebook page (@AthensFarmersMarket).
Once the quarantine lifts, I imagine many of us will want to reconnect with our fellow Athenians, and those with limited opportunities to spend time outdoors right now (for example, people who live in apartments) will want to escape their homes-slash-prison-cells. When I made this roundup of food-related places to volunteer, I thought it would be published just in time for spring harvests and the start of farmers market season. In the weeks since then, all of the places listed below either temporarily suspended operations or switched their operation models. So consider this article a source of ideas for taking advantage of the lovely weather while reconnecting with your community.
Farms: Though I grow exactly zero plants at my house, I enjoy volunteering at local farms for several reasons: I like the outdoors, I want to learn more about organic agriculture, I want to meet new people, and I feel like I’ve completed a workout when the volunteer shift ends. (Shoveling mulch under a hot sun counts as exercise in my opinion.) If you sign up to volunteer at a local farm, I definitely recommend bringing a friend or two, since cleaning radishes and planting cauliflower are more fun when you’re with others. Here are some local organic gardens/farms that need volunteers.
UGArden: run by the University of Georgia and mostly staffed by UGA students, on South Milledge Avenue, see uga.givepulse.com
Williams Farm: run and staffed by Athens Land Trust (ALT), off North Avenue, see uga.givepulse.com
West Broad Market Garden: run and staffed by ALT, on West Broad Street, see athenslandtrust.org/join-us/volunteer
At left: Community members volunteer at Williams Farm. Photo from the Athens Land Trust 2017 Annual Report.
Farmers Markets: Having spent many Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons browsing stalls of local produce, fresh pastries, and homemade soap, I believe farmers markets (which I abbreviate as FM) are the definition of good vibes. Athens Farmers Market and West Broad Farmers Market, the main local FMs, rely on volunteers to set up and take down the sites and to assist in various tasks during the events.
Athens Farmers Market: run and staffed by locals, Saturday mornings at Bishop Park, Wednesday afternoons at Creature Comforts, see athensfarmersmarket.net/volunteer
West Broad Farmers Market: run and staffed by ALT, Saturday mornings on West Broad Street, see athenslandtrust.org/join-us/volunteer
Meal Donations: If you’d rather cook food than grow or sell it, Athens has many opportunities to donate your knife skills. I myself have volunteered dozens of hours at Campus Kitchen, a hunger relief program run by UGA students, and I know that many Athens Academy students prepare meals for Athens Area Homeless Shelter. Other homeless shelters that need meal preparation volunteers include Bigger Vision of Athens and Family Promise of Athens (formerly Interfaith Hospitality Network).
Campus Kitchen: run by the University of Georgia and mostly staffed by UGA students, operates out of Talmage Terrace off Alps Road, see uga.givepulse.com
Athens Area Homeless Shelter: run and staffed by locals, on Barber Street, see helpathenshomeless.org/volunteer
Bigger Vision of Athens: run and staffed by locals, on North Avenue, see biggervisionofathens.org/volunteer
Family Promise of Athens: run and staffed by local churches/congregations of faith, on Pulaski Street, see ihnathens.org/volunteer