As a child, Hylton and her family would pick, can and preserve fruits and vegetables from their home garden. The process became a Christmas tradition for their family, including the picking, canning, labeling and decorating of the jars. Ultimately, this tradition would stem into a career for Hylton.
“I never felt like it was so much work,” Hylton said. “It was a feeling of excitement.”
Today, Hylton serves as the community agriculture program director for Athens Land Trust, a nonprofit focused on affordable housing, land conservation, community agriculture and neighborhood revitalization serving Athens and 10 neighboring counties.
Her responsibilities include overseeing nine programs that address economic, educational, community development and sustainable agriculture.
Hylton’s main goals are to encourage economic stimulation for farmers and entrepreneurs and to inform consumers about the food they eat. She fulfills these goals through vendor development courses, community education seminars, youth development programs and more.
The West Broad Farmer’s Market Garden serves as one of her largest projects, providing a market for local farmers and vendors to sell goods and an outlet for the Athens community to purchase certified naturally grown, organic food at subsidized rates.
“Christina is the reason that I’m still selling,” said William Mulholland, one of the vendors in the farmer’s market. “She helped me to rekindle passion for what I do.”
When it comes to the affordability of purchasing organic foods, Hylton believes her market offers the perfect solution.
The market accepts government assistance programs including EBT, SNAP, and WIC as forms of payment, and the Land Trust also promotes a “double dollars” incentive for EBT users, which equates to purchasing an item for half of the original price. Additionally, Hylton travels to the East Athens Clinic to host presentations and supply vouchers for the farmer’s market to women who are pregnant or have children.
Christina and her husband, Decton Hylton, came to Athens after urban living left them yearning for a farm and apiary like they once had in Jamaica.
“I really missed living off the land and Jamaica afforded that opportunity,” she said.
After studying urban planning at Rutgers University and working on the campus organic farm, Hylton moved to a five-acre farm in St. Mary’s, Jamaica, with her husband and 500 colonies of bees.
Both Hylton and her husband worked for the International School of Jamaica and stayed on the island for 13 years. Together they promoted education and preservation of the natural environment through a youth empowerment program, computer proficiency courses, health programs and the re-opening of a community center.
After Jamaica, Hylton resided in Brooklyn, N.Y., where she taught high school students about urban agriculture advocacy and scientific research. Later, she served as the science department head for her school.
Hylton has a passion for benefitting the community through education and awareness. This passion is amplified in her workplace and it’s even more apparent to coworkers who see her as a visionary.
“[Christina] connects people with the common ground of food and nutrition,” said ALT Garden Assistant Stephanie Bergamo.
Bergamo also described her as a “real people person and a real plant/farm person.”
The two share a special bond through their admiration for the beauty of nature.
“Christina and I can be in the garden together and say ‘Aren’t they incredible?’ I can’t do that with other people,” said Bergamo.
In Athens, Hylton enjoys working on her farm and maintaining her apiary with her family.
She looks forward to this year’s opening of the West Broad Market Garden scheduled for May 3 and encourages members of the community to buy organic goods and produce from the market.
If you’re not able to attend the West Broad Farmer’s Market, Hylton still has advice on healthy shopping.
“Hit the fresh isles,” she said, “It’s not necessarily changing your lifestyle completely, but maybe adding small steps to behavior change.”