Transform Westside Summit Spotlight: Jaron Smith, ASAProduce

On June 15, Westside Future Fund hosted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta Music Project at our Transform Westside Summit.

This week, our spotlight shined on attendee Jaron Smith of ASAProduce. Check out our Q&A with Jaron below to learn more about his plans to support the Westside community and how he sees the Summit helping him achieve his goals.

What brought you to the Transform Westside Summit? Was this your first time attending?

This was my second time attending the Transform Westside Summit. The first experience was such a positive one that I had to come back, and after seeing its value, I think I’ll be a regular.

What was your biggest takeaway from last Friday’s Summit with Mayor Bottoms?

My biggest takeaway from last Friday’s summit was Mayor Bottoms’ loyalty to Atlanta, particularly the Westside of Atlanta. I found out more about her history in Atlanta, and it is reassuring that her connection to Atlanta isn’t just about the position she holds but is also about family and the history of the Westside of Atlanta.

I would like to know more about the plans and direction of the Office of Resilience under Mayor Bottoms’ leadership, in particular how Atlanta plans to address its food deserts and how/if urban farming will be used to help alleviate this problem.

What is your affiliation with the Historic Westside of Atlanta? Are you a resident of the Westside?

I’ve always been in awe of the rich history and culture of the Historic Westside of Atlanta. I first learned about that community in middle school, and learning about it helped me understand the Civil Rights Movement on more of a micro level. I graduated [from] Morehouse College a few years ago, and, like a magnet, the Historic Westside of Atlanta keeps pulling me in.

Why is the revitalization on the Westside important to you?

Revitalization on the Westside is important to me because it gives us the resources and opportunities to tackle 21st-century issues while preserving as well as making history here in Atlanta.

What are you doing for the Historic Westside, and what is your role in improving life for residents on the Westside?

I am an urban farmer who seeks to eliminate food deserts by turning brown spaces into green spaces while teaching residents the importance of growing food locally. I have an aquaponics greenhouse that is being used as an interdisciplinary teaching prop to expose children to concepts not only in biology, environmental science, and chemistry but also engineering, environmental sustainability, economics, as well as other disciplines.

How do you think the Summit can help you in your role?

The Summit opens the doors for us to collaborate with others who see the importance of empowering the youth through teaching tangible science while providing one solution to the issue of food insecurity. I am grateful that this Summit exists, and I want to use it as a platform to promote what I am doing and to get others involved.

Tells us about your company ASAProduce.

Through collaboration with Next Generation, ASAProduce built an aquaponics greenhouse in Grove Park. We use this greenhouse not only for food production but also to teach children science by using aquaponics as a teaching prop. This first greenhouse is a prototype to show some of the possibilities with aquaponics, and we hope to get access to more vacant lots where we can grow produce and the imagination of children all over Atlanta.

What is your hope for the Historic Westside?

The Historic Westside of Atlanta led America through some of its most challenging times, the Civil Rights era. I envision the Historic Westside continuing to make history by solving social and environmental problems that we face in the 21st century and setting a good example for other cities to follow.

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