Commissioner Cochran-Johnson Announces Development of a Community Youth Farm

April 13, 2021

Allison M. Slocum
District Manager

Commissioner Cochran-Johnson Announces Development of a Community Youth Farm
Groundbreaking set for 11 a.m. on April 19

DECATUR, GA.– During an April 6 DeKalb County Board of Commissioners meeting, District 7 Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson unveiled a comprehensive plan for the development of a $1.4 million state-of-the-art youth farm.

The Education, Market, Botanicals, Agriculture, and Recreational Center (E.M.B.A.R.C.) Community Youth Farm will be located in Lithonia at the former 50-acre Bransby Outdoor YMCA at Rock Chapel site.

“After a year of planning and research, I am proud to announce that the E.M.B.A.R.C. Community Youth Farm is finally ready to break ground on what will be the first of four phases,” said Commissioner Cochran-Johnson. “It is my intent to create a safe space for children that promotes healthy living, urban farming, education, leadership, and entrepreneurship. The various components of the youth farm will make it a transformative project that is guaranteed to be a tourist attraction.”

Phase I funding consists of contributions, including $98,500 from Commissioner Cochran-Johnson’s District 7 discretionary funds, a $225,500 allocation from the county’s Hotel-Motel Tax Fund and over a $600,000 commitment from the county. The buildout of the E.M.B.A.R.C. Community Youth Farm is currently estimated to cost $1.4 million dollars.

A detailed draft master site plan was designed by 13 Georgia Institute of Technology graduate students under the direction of Herman H. Howard, nationally-acclaimed architect. The comprehensive plan incorporated the natural topography of the land and existing resources to develop a model farm with mixed uses to encourage optimal community engagement.

“It has been a pleasure working on this project with Commissioner Cochran-Johnson and DeKalb County,” said Howard, an instructor at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “Each graduate student has had an integral role in creating and designing the farm for functionality and sustainability, and the project has given them firsthand professional experience.”

Several organizations have teamed up to support this effort, including the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners, DeKalb County Youth Services, DeKalb County UGA Cooperative Extension, Partners In Action for Healthy Living, and the DeKalb County Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Department.

Once fully operational, the youth farm will share a park naturalist with Hidden Acres Nature Preserve, a position funded by Commissioner Cochran-Johnson in 2019.

In addition to growing fruits and vegetables, the landscape incorporates aquaponics, hydroponics, edible environments, and areas designated for youth entrepreneurship, leadership and team building. Containing multiple trails, the youth farm will encompass such activities as zip lining, rock climbing, and kayaking.

The youth farm also will include the following:

  • State-of-the-art greenhouse
  • Country store
  • Hen house
  • Organic compost station
  • Interactive bee and honey station
  • Structured youth entrepreneurship training
  • Junior Achievement model of shareholder participation
  • Environmental and sustainable stewardship education

The E.M.B.A.R.C. Community Youth Farm will be entirely ADA-compliant and home to DeKalb’s largest wheelchair accessible swimming pool as well as a 275-seat amphitheater.

“This is an exciting project and we look forward to its full development,” said Chuck Ellis, director of DeKalb County Recreation, Parks and Cultural Affairs Department. “The youth farm will allow our park naturalist to conduct tours and fully engage children in the environment. We look forward to working alongside Commissioner Cochran-Johnson to create a model that can be replicated in urban environments across the United States.”

Phase I new build construction and renovations of existing structures of the E.M.B.A.R.C. Community Youth Farm are estimated to be complete by October 2021.

In celebration of Earth Day, an official groundbreaking is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Monday, April 19, at 1185 Rock Chapel Road, Lithonia, GA 30058. DCTV will live stream the event at:

To learn more about the E.M.B.A.R.C. Community Youth Farm and stay abreast of each phase of the project, visit and follow all social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube @embarcyouthfarm.

To schedule an interview with Commissioner Cochran-Johnson or architect Herman H. Howard, email or call 470-889-4213.