Tour 'Homegrown' Star Jamila Norman's Urban Atlanta Farm
Patchwork City Farms on 1.2 acres in Atlanta is the setting for the Magnolia Network series Homegrown and part of "Farmer J" Jamila Norman's growing empire.
Magnolia Network's Homegrown star Jamila Norman is a farming celebrity who has turned her love of organic growing into a business advising Atlanta area families on the best way to make edible gardens work in their spaces.
Whether they have a tiny Midtown backyard in the heart of the city or a burgeoning craft beer business in the mountains of Dahlonega north of Atlanta, Jamila’s unique skill set is engaging homeowners in the dirty, hands-on — but deeply satisfying — work of growing.
Hobby Farms + Scaling Up: Homegrown, Season 3
In her third season of Homegrown Jamila shows a variety of homeowners how to make their yards work for them, including the Abbott family in the “Hidden Potential” episode. Alongside their two adorably precocious young children, the Abbotts learn how to create a thriving vegetable garden on a sloped yard along with meandering forest paths for the childrens' exploration. In the “Natural Solutions” episode Jamila helps Angela. who lives with her French bulldog Oscar on the city’s southside, create a staycation vibe and environmentally-friendly clothesline for drying laundry in her customized backyard.
The third season of Homegrown is defined by some new narrative threads including a scaling up of projects and the incorporation of hobby farming. Season three dives into the world of chickens, goats, miniature cows and the pleasures of combining gardening with raising animals. “Most people think farms, they think of animals,” says Jamila, who's just picked a trio of orange, yellow and red carrots she holds like a beauty contestant's bouquet and sits on a weathered picnic table in the center of her Atlanta urban farm. “We really wanted to bring that element into the show and show people how that can be incorporated into what they are doing.”
Growing a Business: How It All Began
Growing is a passion project for Jamila or “Farmer J,” as she's known in Southern garden circles, who earned an engineering degree from the University of Georgia but began to moonlight as a farmer while working as an environmental engineer for the government. When she was downsized she saw it as “a sign from the universe” and took the leap to farming full time in 2010 even though she jokes that initially she was afraid of garden regulars like worms, bugs and bees.
An Urban Farm: Tour Patchwork City Farms
Her 1.2 acre organic Patchwork City Farms tucked into the Oakland City neighborhood of Atlanta and surrounded by modest wood frame and brick houses is where Jamila grows a variety of crops from kale to strawberries, collards, Hakurei turnips, beets, figs, persimmon and carrots. She has plans to add more fruit trees and berries and herbs to dry for use in teas. Anxious to ignite joy around growing, she offers farm visitors a taste of a huge anise hyssop plant growing in a container that she plans to incorporate into teas.
Like any farmer worth her salt, Jamila is in it to win it, battling Atlanta freezes, deer, the occasional pilfering of her produce (this is a farm in the center of a city, after all) and, inevitably, squirrels. Her remedy for ridding your garden of this fluffy-tailed bane of any gardener’s existence? Netting. “You can’t stop a squirrel,” she laughs of home remedies like marigolds, blood meal and cayenne pepper that might work in the short term but won’t save her crops from the squirrels' own “in it to win it" dedication to destruction.
How Jamila Is Redefining American Farming
A very different breed of farmer, Jamila — who admits it’s too cringey for her to watch herself on Homegrown - is as far from the Carhartt overalls and baseball cap agro-guy stereotype as they come. With her colorful headwraps, funky jumpsuits and on-trend jeans, she is a boho style icon who somehow manages to make harvesting Swiss chard and digging post holes look hip. She’s just as likely to find her high-waisted Good American jeans at Nordstrom or pick up her garden-chic at the local Goodwill, though she’s also a big fan of Anthropologie and the occasional Target score.
Though she looks decades younger than 44, Jamila is a mother to three sons, 19, 21 and 23, and has a busy life in Atlanta with an extended family close by and a network of creatives including chefs focused on underserved communities like Maricela Vega, artists and growers who often pop up on Homegrown. Cooking at home with friends (potato leek soup, and a vegetarian lentil Bolognese are favorites in her culinary repertoire and “I make a mean kale salad” says Jamila) and dancing the night away are some of her favorite things to do outside growing. Jamila says if she wasn’t a farmer, she might have been a dancer. As evidence of her love of all styles of dancing: modern, jazz, ballet, Homegrown viewers can often see her break into some impromptu moves “in the field.” She’s also passionate about travel even though she initially had a hard time making time for it away from the responsibilities of the farm. Jamila sets aside two weeks every year for travel to places like Costa Rica, Tanzania and Zanzibar and is hoping to make Oaxaca, Mexico and Thailand her next stops.
When Activism and Growing Intersect
The fraught history of Black people and the land in the South has made Jamila and many of her fellow Black farmers anxious to educate their community about the benefits of healthy eating and the advantages of Black growers working together to carve out a piece of the agricultural pie all their own. She is one of the founding members of the South West Atlanta Growers Cooperative (SWAG Co-op), dedicated to uniting Black urban farmers and their communities in growing healthy food using environmentally beneficial tactics. When she first moved to her Oakland City neighborhood she encountered a food desert with very few healthy options. But she did find other urban farmers working to make things better for their community. “There are still a lot of challenges with growing; there’s still a lot of money and funding and stuff you need to build the infrastructure to make sure that you can grow and make it accessible” she says, though she also wants to point out the joy in growing and the tight-knit urban farming community in Atlanta that makes her all the hard work worth it.
Planting Roots: How Heritage Plays a Part
Jamila’s love of growing was forged early in childhood with a Jamaican mother and Trinidadian father and family roots in growing. Even today, Jamila is dedicated to heritage breeds many of which speak to her Southern and Caribbean roots. At Patchwork City Farms she is growing often-forgotten heritage crops like pawpaw and has plans to integrate Caribbean plants like the leafy-green callaloo (often called Caribbean spinach) a staple in Jamaican cuisine and hibiscus, used in tea, into her growing scheme in a tribute to her family’s roots. In Jamaica, Jamila laughs, “tea cures everything.”
“Tea in the morning, tea at night. If you’re not feeling good? Drink some tea.”
A Life Well-Lived: Farm Beauty and Style
A woman with boundless energy and commitment to activism (Patchwork City Farms donates food to 20 local families and elderly community members), growing and entrepreneurship, don’t be surprised if you find her homegrown tea or beauty products on store shelves in the future.
Jamila’s flawless skin is a tribute to good genes, she admits, but also an all-natural beauty routine. She makes her own soaps using ingredients from the farm and grows roses and chamomile to use in her natural face oils and rosewater. Old school beauty standards like witch hazel are also in heavy rotation. Jamila has the glowing skin and boundless energy that a combination of eating fresh food (“I don’t eat a lot of processed foods”) and a life dedicated to movement, fresh air and doing something good for her community and the planet can bring.
Where to Find Jamila and her Homegrown Goodness
If you’re in Atlanta, you can find Jamila selling her produce at the Green Market at Piedmont Park and the Oakhurst Farmer’s Market, or stop in at farm-to-table standards like Holeman and Finch or Wrecking Bar Brewpub and other restaurants that source from Patchwork City Farms.
Homegrown Season 3 is available now on Magnolia Network with new episodes airing every Saturday at 1pm EST. And new episodes are available to stream each week on HBO Max and Discovery+