Last night (Thursday, June 2nd) the Clarke County School Board passed a budget for 2016/2017 that pulled funding from the Young Urban Farmer program. The $40,000 left unfunded previously went to paying Clarke County high school students who worked at the West Broad Garden as part of the Athens Land Trust’s Young Urban Farmer program. The budget passed 6-3 with Greg Davis (District 1), Ovita Thornton (District 9), and Carol Williams (District 7 & Chair of the Finance Committee) voting against the proposed budget.
This vote, and defunding, comes after controversial early plans were released showing the current West Broad Garden being paved over to make way for a parking lot. After considerable public input those plans were shelved and the Garden and Market were given a three year extension from CCSD to stay at their present location at the former West Broad Elementary School. There was also a flood of public input and support for the YUF program to continue to receive funding from CCSD, however it was not enough to sway a majority of the School Board. While other work and ombudsman programs were funded in the budget, the money to go towards paying and supporting the YUF participants was absent.
The award-winning program is described on the Athens Land Trust website as a program that, “has provided over 60 high school students with sustainable agriculture and entrepreneurship education, work experience and personal development. Throughout the program year, the students develop business plans, create sustainable agriculture-based products and sell them at the West Broad Farmers Market.
The budget was voted on at a special called meeting on Thursday, June 2 instead of at their regular June 9 meeting. If the vote had been held at the regular June 9 meeting public input would have been taken, as is policy for the School Board’s Regular Meeting. However, the meeting was moved to June 2, since many board members would be away at a conference on June 9, and public input was not allowed even though it was requested by members of the community and even though the June 2 meeting was advertised by CCSD as a ‘Regular Meeting’ in their announcement.
The Athens Land Trust has started a Go Fund Me page in an attempt to make up for the lost funding. You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/youngurbanfarmersby