Each summer, when teens in The Food Project start their first day at work, they’re usually a little overwhelmed with the grueling physical labor.
“It’s a bit of a shock to the system,” said Danielle Andrews, farm manager for The Food Project in Boston.
Occasionally, some of the 120 teenagers in Greater Boston and the suburbs will have some experience tending to their allotment garden. But, as Andrews explains, it’s very different from hard-working farming – it’s how 14-17 year olds spend their days.
Together they grow and harvest vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits on approximately 70 acres of urban and suburban farmland using natural cultivation methods without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
The Food Project was started in 1991 by a Lincoln farmer and a Roxbury minister. Since those early days, it has grown into a nationally recognized non-profit organization.
Its staff, board of directors and legions of volunteers are all driven by its mission: to create a community of young people and adults from diverse backgrounds who will work together to create a sustainable food system.
With six farms in Lynn, Lincoln, Wenham and Boston’s Dudley neighborhood, The Food Project’s goal is to produce healthy food for all city and suburban residents and help realize the right to freedom. food and to increase access to fresh and healthy food for all. , explained Yasser Aponte, manager of community programs for Greater Boston.
The Food Project grows 200,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables on the 70 acres of farmland it maintains.
Half of that is distributed to people struggling with food insecurity through farmers markets and business connections in Boston’s Dudley neighborhood and the town of Lynn, where several generations of families are working to overcome food inequalities, said Aponte.
The Food Project strives to establish a model where fresh food can be sold in a way that is affordable and accessible to both farmers and customers.
Join the Crews
It all starts with young volunteer farmers.
The food project has several levels for teens: the Seed Crew, or the first level where younger teens grow and distribute thousands of pounds of produce. The teenagers also attend workshops on sustainable agriculture, access to food and social justice.
The next level is the Dirt Crew, where teenagers deepen their knowledge and skills building raised gardens in Lynn, Dorchester and Roxbury. The crew also leads volunteers on farms and supports community events.
In the Root Crew, teens develop the skills of their work to create and lead workshops that address the causes and impacts of inequities in access to food, lead volunteer groups on urban and suburban farms, grow crops in greenhouses and mobilize their peers. This team directs the harvest and helps manage the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and farmers markets in which The Food Project is involved.
The Food Project also offers scholarships to high school graduates who have completed at least one session on a crew.
“These young people are looking to make an impact in their community,” said Aponte. They conduct outreach and build relationships with community organizations and other nonprofits and churches.
Another way The Food Project fulfills its mission is through the Dudley Greenhouse, which was created with a brownfield remediation grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrews and Aponte said.
At 10,000 square feet, the greenhouse is “a substantial size for a small neighborhood,” Andrews said.
The indoor farm, located in a close-knit neighborhood, is managed by The Food Project and residents and overseen by an advisory committee, Aponte said.
The greenhouse allows local farmers and residents to have growing space and also provides space for resources and educational workshops.
Novice gardeners collaborate with experienced growers and learn from them. The community also has access to seedlings, quality compost and gardening tools.
In addition to common vegetables, specialty crops for neighborhood residents are harvested in the greenhouse, such as cousa squash.
“We’re lucky to be in a neighborhood rich in producers,” Andrews said. “People care [the greenhouse and the farmland] and pay attention to them.
A LASTING IMPACT
Since its inception, The Food Project has:
● Constructed over 1,500 raised gardens in resident yards and community spaces.
● Graduated over 1,800 youth from Seed Crew, Root Crew and Dirt Crew.
● Grown over 5,000,000 pounds of produce on 60 acres of urban and suburban land.
● Provided nearly 100,000 hours of service to more than 15 local hunger relief organizations.
● Welcomed over 44,500 service and growth volunteers to its farms.
Information provided by The Food Project
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