Nuestras Raices (Our Roots) began as a organisation that managed community gardens in Holyoke. Now it encompasses a range of projects, many of which are based on a 4 acre farm on the Connecticut River in Holyoke. 40% of the population in Holyoke is Puerto Rican, many of whom were born in Puerto Rico, growing up on farms or working on farms in America.
Nuestras Raices has three main aims:
Celebrate Puerto Rican culture
Support local business
Environmental Justice Nuestras Raices runs business courses and leases plots to participants who develop successful business plans. They also manage community garden plots, though the business plots are significantly larger. The businesses operating on the Nuestras Raices farm include food crops, cut flowers, Paso Fino horse stable and a youth run petting zoo.
You will see Casitas like this one in most of the community gardens around town. They were constructed as tool sheds, but resemble Puerto Rican cottages. The gardens and farm provide an opportunity for teenagers and older people to work and learn together. Teens are involved in decision making processes and are paid to work on the farm, among other things running the petting zoo.
There is a lot of Puerto Rican food grown in the Massachusetts climate of Holyoke. I was interested to know if there were issues of land contamination. The paper industry was responsible for much of the industrial waste that polluted the Connecticut River. These days, the river is contaminated by raw sewage which overflows into the river during storms. Holyoke youth are involved in environmental stewardship programs addressing some of these issues.
The Farm Store sells coconut soda. Delicious. I wonder where I can get it in Australia?