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Mission, Values, Sustainability, History

About Wylde Center

The mission of Wylde Center is to support resilient communities by connecting people to nature through environmental education and public greenspace.

Wylde Center accomplishes this through educational programs, events and greenspaces that actively engage youth, families and individuals in their environment, health and community, and that develop skills in environmental science, sustainable urban living, organic gardening, health, and nutrition.

Wylde Center was founded in 1997 out of a need to provide opportunities to experience nature in an urban environment. As a result of the community’s involvement and commitment, the organization has evolved into a large and active nonprofit organization operating five greenspaces (Oakhurst Garden, Sugar Creek Garden, Hawk Hollow, Edgewood Community Learning Garden, and the Mulberry Fields Garden) in four different Decatur and Atlanta neighborhoods, open year round for the community, for events and for Wylde Center’s educational programs.

Additionally, Wylde Center provides one of the largest youth environmental and science education programs in metro-Atlanta, including the Decatur Farm to School program, Atlanta Farm to School, Healthy Living by Healthy Growing at the Decatur Housing Authority, and science program and field trips linked to Common Core standards.

Wylde Center aligns our work with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

While the Wylde Center has always had a sustainability-focused mission, we are renewing our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals - as a guide and a medium for local collective action.  Our staff and board have chosen the focus areas below:

Our Values

  • We believe that we should honor the land by remaining conscious of how we impact the environment in which we live. By embracing sustainable living and organic practices we strive to be good environmental stewards.
  • We believe in encouraging a healthy lifestyle by nurturing the mind, body and soul.
  • We believe that education is the key to creating a change in human behavior and our approach to how we impact the environment.
  • We embrace life-long learning and feel that proactive outreach is critical to creating social change.
  • We believe that we must embrace community engagement and be receptive to the needs of the community. Our organization exists due to cooperation between the people that live, work, and play within our community.
  • We believe in equal access and inclusion for people of all economic, ethnic, religious, generational, lifestyle, and ability groups.

Our History

A Grass Roots Success Story!

In 1996, Sally Wylde and Louise Jackson, both residents of Decatur's Oakhurst neighborhood, had a life-changing conversation. Neither of them had any idea that one little nuisance would transform their community. What they knew was that every afternoon, children leaving the nearby elementary school cut through Mrs. Jackson's yard and trampled her beloved garden.

A single decision, however, made all the difference. Instead of involving the police, Sally and Mrs. Jackson partnered with a group of neighbors to invite the children to become caretakers of the garden. Working together, they restored Mrs. Jackson's garden and added a beautiful, hand-painted fence. The children watched with delight and amazement as their plantings took root and flourished, and something ordinary turned into something special -- a process they had never noticed or understood before.

With their newfound enthusiasm and knowledge, the group moved on to create a garden in the median strip of the street in front of Mrs. Jackson's house. The children took tremendous pride in their work, which was honored at a ceremony with the city's mayor, who presented each child with a certificate of appreciation. Faster than kudzu, word spread about how much fun it was to dig and plant, and suddenly, more children were lining up to work in Mrs. Jackson's garden.

The following year, a nearby, undeveloped half-acre lot became available. The property, which had been used as a commercial basil farm, was at risk for development in the rapidly gentrifying Oakhurst community of Decatur. Instead, Sally and her husband, Britt Dean, acquired it, and the Oakhurst Community Garden Project was born. Through her enthusiasm, creative spirit, and a mission to create a space where children could come for hands-on environmental education, Sally encouraged a decade's worth of youth who are our next generation of environmental stewards.

Sally kissing a goat

In Sally Wylde's own words

In 1996 when a professor at Candler School of Theology asked his students: “What should an urban church do with its acre of undeveloped land in the city to best serve the Lord? ” the answer seemed patently clear to me. The church should create a community garden. What a surprise to realize this theoretical exercise would be put to the test almost immediately in my own neighborhood.

The idea of the Oakhurst Garden started in Louise Jackson’s front yard when we taught our first group of elementary school children to care for Ms. Jackson’s garden. The garden soon moved to its present site when we realized we needed much more room. It became the official Oakhurst Community Garden Project in 1998 when we rented out plots to families wanting to grow their own organic vegetables and flowers. The wonder is how this half-acre of land also grew us as a community. 

It never ceases to amaze me how the right person for a specific garden job seems to appear as if by magic. Dedicated volunteers design curriculum, build raised beds, create play areas, teach environmental workshops, initiate fundraising events, maintain habitats- all these activities have been inspired by the spirit of this place. 

This sanctuary places us in nature reminding us that we are nature just as the hawk hovering above the unsuspecting mockingbird or the honey bee drinking from the damp ground. As a small child I watched my cantankerous grandmother become reverent during early morning walks through her garden. Her one rule was that no one could speak at this time. She wanted to hear what the garden had to say- the birds, the insects, the flower and trees, the earth itself. I am grateful to her and all the companions I have met in the Oakhurst Garden. Thank you for creating a green place for our own children and grandchildren to hear and care for the earth itself.