ATLANTA — Throughout her 76 years, Haylene Green has followed many passions.
"I'm a nurse by passion, I'm a printer by trade, but I'm a farmer by DNA," Green said. "Planting and gardening and farming are in my blood."
A native of Port Antonio, Jamaica, Green came from five generations of farmers. Her own skill and passion for gardening and planting earning her the special nickname: The Garden Queen.
"Or Mama Haylene, or Queen Haylene," she said with a smile.
As Atlanta welcomes spring, Green said she is readying her newest community garden for the season.
It is called The Garden Queen - West End Community Urban Garden & Nursery and it's located in the Pittsburgh community of Southwest Atlanta along University Ave. SE. It is tucked behind a chain length fence with "easy access to the highway," Green explained.
The plot of land not only has easy neighborhood access, but it is lined with dozens of potted seedlings ready to be nurtured.
"This is a brand new garden, a nice flat, public space for the community to get involved," Green said, as she rocked her 'Garden Queen' t-shirt. "In about six months, we will have over 3,500 pots, and the mission and purpose of this is to let the public know, they don’t have to have acreage. You don't have to have acreage, to be able to grow food."
Green said she plans to share that mission with her neighbors, using the container garden to show how anyone with a basic pot and good drainage can successfully produce healthy food.
"It is very important to grow your own food especially when you're far away from the supermarket that carries fresh fruits and vegetables," Green said. "If you live in an apartment, if you have a deck, a little piece of backyard, a porch ... there is no reason why you can't grow some of your own food."
"I love to play in the dirt. I love to toil in the soil. And if you ever had a tomato or a bell pepper from your own garden, you would stick with it," she said.
For Green, it's not just about generating produce that can be consumed or sold (she's well-known in local farmers' markets for her hibiscus tea). Gardening is also Green's therapy.
"It's just joy to work in the garden," she explained. "To watch the plant grow, from the seed, to the table and beyond."
The West End Community Garden opened on April 4. Learn more about volunteer opportunities or the Garden Queen's new garden therapy program for seniors and youth here.