Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Food Project, Boston City Farm

From Lincoln we jumped on trains and buses and headed for Dorchester. We couldn't miss their excellent painted office at West Cottage and Dudley streets.

We met up with Bob, who showed us around the 3 urban lots that The Food Project grows their produce on. The neighbourhood bore a striking resemblance to the artistic interpretation featured in their office.

Their West Cottage site features a composting system built by the university. It spins, it aerates, it spills out the bottom.

One of the most exciting things about visiting North American gardens was seeing produce that isn't commonly grown in Melbourne. These tomatillos are pre-packaged beauties.

I'd been wondering what Callaloo was after seeing it in a Jamaican restaurant. It's this beautiful green vegetable you see before you.

The Food Project's urban agriculture has had an astounding effect on the neighbourhood, with many people beginning to grow in their own urban lots. This resident looks out on his corn field from his back porch. We passed lot after lot of cornstalks. I wonder how they deal with cross-pollination with so much growing in just a few blocks.

One of the great things about these kinds of projects is the carry on effect they have on the neighbourhood. As we were walking back to the office, a man came up to Bob and asked about some of the people he had known at the Food Project. He was looking for landscaping work and needed a reference. He spoke so highly of his Food Project experience that we almost could have believed that Bob had set the whole thing up. (which he hadn't)

As Cammy from the Lincoln farm explained, supplying fruits for the Farmer's market can be difficult as the Food Project grows mostly vegetables. However, they've taken over management of a heritage orchard at the historic Shirley-Eustic House in Roxbury.

The Food Project was staffed by the most generous, committed, unpretentious people. They really went out of their way to pass their knowledge on to the Australians who rocked up on their doorstep.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Boston Community Gardens

In Boston, we stayed with a friend who lived along the Southwest Greenway. The bike path into downtown Boston passes community gardens of all shapes and sizes, playgrounds and seats for repose. The Southwest Greenway has an interesting history. It runs along the Orange Subway line, which was due to become a 12-lane highway in the 1970s. The community managed to stop this project and instead of highway, created a greenway.
A courtyard wall in Jamaica Plain with highly creative re-use of containers for growing plants.
There's even a plastic bag doing a fine job of containing soil and green material.
And Ashley harvests the first radish of the season from her community garden plot.

The Food Project, Lincoln, MA

The Food Project is a sustainable agriculture program that focuses on youth leadership and empowerment.

They have city farms in inner-urban Boston along with rural farms in the surrounding countryside in Massachusetts. We took the commuter train out to Lincoln to see what they do.

The Food Project operates a Summer Youth Program, in which young people spend time working on both the city and rural farms. The produce grown is sold at a farmer's market in Boston and distributed through CSA boxes from their Lincoln farm. There's a lot to like about the way the Food Project runs their program. For starters, the young people are paid for the summer, so they are not forced to choose between being involved in the program or finding a summer job. There is a strong focus on diversity, recruiting youth from urban, suburban and rural areas and from a variety of cultural backgrounds. They sign a strict work contract. If they are late, they lose a certain amount of money - which they can regain by being on time every day for 2 weeks.

The summer program youth rotate between both the Lincoln and Dorchester sites, either working the farms for produce for the CSA boxes or to sell at the Farmer's market in downtown Boston. The Food Project spends substantial time on both Agricultural workshops and Social workshops on topics such as 'Diversity'. This is the dual focus on youth leadership and sustainable agriculture in action!
The Food Project also run an Academic Year Program with the D.I.R.T crew (Dynamic, Intelligent, Responsible Teenagers) and Internships. These interns are braiding garlic in one of the greenhouses at the Lincoln Farm.
A local beekeeper looks after the beehives, which are an important part of the food web/fertilization process.