At just seven years old, Kendall Rae Johnson is Georgia’s youngest certified farmer. Born and raised in Atlanta, Kendall Rae fell in love with gardening when she was three years old thanks to her great-grandmother Laura "Kate" Williams, who showed her how to propagate collard greens from a simple bare root. Watching the stems grow into big leafy plants stuck with Kendall Rae, and soon the family began planting seeds of cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and more broken collard green stems on her great-grandmother’s porch patio. “Kendall Rae was fascinated by how tiny seeds or stems had grown into a beautiful garden with colorful vegetables ready to be eaten by the whole family,” says Kendall Rae’s mother Ursula.
The following year, Kendall Rae’s father, Quentin, built the little gardener her own raised bed for her 4th birthday. Kids from all over the neighborhood began coming by to visit Kendall Rae’s garden. She enjoyed showing her plants to friends and teaching them everything she was learning along the way. As interest in the garden grew, the Johnson family realized they could turn their small garden into something with the power to have a huge impact on the neighborhood, while also providing Kendall Rae a place to grow her passion for gardening and teach her new skills to others — a farm!
Today, aGROWKulture is the Johnson family’s urban farm in Southwest Atlanta. The farm includes sixty raised beds, a high tunnel, and an observation deck. The farm’s main purpose is agriculture education with a focus on conservation and sustainability. “The purpose for aGROWKulture is to promote a culture of growing positive interests in our youth. We have three instructors that come monthly to help Kendall Rae teach kids about different things,” says Ursula. “Kendall Rae teaches youth and community classes and workshops on how to grow your own foods, basic agriculture skills, basic building skills with her dad, basic beekeeping with her instructor, Mr. Bill the Bee Man, and animal companionship with Mr. Terrance. She also integrates art and storytelling with her godfather, John Doyle.” The Johnsons also help Kendall Rae to share her produce with the community, and sustain about eighteen monthly CSA subscribers with their harvest. “Our urban farm is dedicated to meeting new friends, making new things and inspiring other kids,” Kendall Rae explains.
In 2021, Ursula registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Kendall Rae’s behalf, making her the youngest certified farmer in the state of Georgia. Kendall Rae’s love of farming has empowered her to become an advocate and spokesperson for young people getting in the garden both across the state of Georgia and beyond. Kendall Rae has met with elected officials in Georgia, been featured on national television, and spoken at events all in support of youth gardening and farming programs.
This month is set to be a big one for the Johnson family. Kendall Rae is soon to become the published author of I’m Growing Places, a new autobiographical picture book set to release on April 21 of this year. The Johnsons are also hosting an inaugural “Dare to Care” Earth Day Parade and Fair on April 22 in South Fulton to bring together schools, farmers, sustainable organizations, youth, and adults in a day of celebration and learning.
“As parents, we always listen to the concepts and ideas given to us by Kendall and try to make things happen from there. She is truly a kid who loves adventures daily, and sometimes as parents, we have to sit back and listen to get an idea of where she’s coming from and then brainstorm on how to make these ideas come to life,” says Ursula. Kendall Rae’s next big idea is installing a rain garden on the aGROWKulture farm to absorb rainwater and runoff. “Whatever she decides to do, as parents, we will back her,” says Ursula. “We’re going to continue with our workshops and making sure that people know where their food comes from and how to grow it.”
“Just keep growing,” says Kendall Rae. “The earth relies on it!”