ECG and MAPC Launch Everett’s First Citywide Food Plan

On Saturday, June 16th, Everett residents gathered at the new Earthworks community garden to launch the City’s first-ever Food Plan. Everett Community Growers presented the results of a year-long Community Food Assessment, through which food stores were surveyed and residents were interviewed to understand their perspectives on how to improve the City’s food retail environment. The assessment also looked at school food, workforce and business opportunities in the food sector, and urban agriculture.

The event included an exhibit of photos taken as part of the Community Food Assessment by residents who acted as community photojournalists. One photo was also chosen to be blown up for a wheat paste billboard:

DSC_5682 (1).jpg

Everett Community Growers also announced funding for youth jobs at the farm from Exelon Generation. Kathleen O’Brien, Coordinator of Everett Community Growers, said, “Exelon Generation’s support will allow us to fully realize our program to train a stellar youth team at the farm, and more deeply focus on offering positive, hands-on experiences through connecting with and learning about food, the environment, and our community.” The youth jobs at the farm were a key program recommendation to be released in Everett’s food plan.

Other program and policy recommendations of the food plan will be released to the public in July, and Everett Community Growers plans to pursue the creation of a Food Policy Council in Everett to lead the implementation of all recommendations included in the Food Plan. Stay tuned for more information!

Thank you to the City of Everett and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council for their funding and support as project partners. Partial funding also came from the New England Grassroots Environment Fund and the Everett Cultural Council.

Advertisements

Second Community Meeting for Earthworks Project

Picture1

A group of community gardeners from both the Florence Street Community Garden and the Tremont Street Community Garden gathered on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 to discuss the second iteration of a design for a proposed public art and urban agriculture project. Hosted by MAPC’s Arts & Culture Team and Everett Community Growers, with support from the City of Everett, residents discussed a plan for a garden area featuring a central sculptural seating element with concentric circles of paths and garden mounds radiating out from that point. The design concept represents a ripple on the surface of water, caused by a drop of water. In this vision, community gardeners are all drops of water, creating a ripple effect to encourage more people to get involved in the community.

Picture2MAPC Artist in Residence Carolyn Lewenberg shared a vision of this art project, explaining that the design will not only spark visual interest, but will also provide two main functions: to grow food and build community. She explained that the first step in the project would be to create the visually eye-catching aspects: a central sculpture and neat brick paths would pique people’s interest in what is being built on the bike path. Signage at the sculpture and paths would orient people to the work days if anyone is interested in getting involved. The plan is to build the bench and paths in March, and the garden beds would be created during Saturday work days from March 24 until the end of April. All community members are invited to join the work parties, and we hope this will be a great community building experience.

Picture3.jpgThe garden mounds will be made from burying Christmas trees and branches in compost and topsoil. This method of garden construction is called “Hugelkultur” and is a great way to use tree debris to create a self-fertilizing system that requires little water once established. The community discussed planting these hugelmounds with crops that are harder to grow in small garden plots. The group agreed that each of the three garden mounds would be planted differently: one will have corn, one will be a pumpkin patch, and one will be a mix of annual flowers to attract pollinators and raspberries and blackberries. Spreading herbs may be planted at the base of the garden mounds. Community Gardener Jorge committed to being the primary farmer for the corn, and the point people for the blackberry/raspberry/ flower bed and the pumpkin patch have yet to be identified. Let us know if you are interested! We realize that the success of this project lies in the commitment of community members who will regularly visit, pull weeds, and water the plants.

The revised design also creates a space for gathering, which was emphasized at the first design review conversation in December. Community Gardeners asked for space to have workshops, concerts, garden parties and a place for kids to play while adults work in the garden. The sculptural water drop bench is the center of that gathering space, so people can have a place to sit and relax. Cushions for the bench and more seating would be available in a shed, similar to the ones at the Community Farm and the other Gardens. In the proposed design, the shed provides a structure on which we could grow grapes, and having a grape arbor over the shed will also serve to keep it cool in the summer.

Picture4.jpgThe meeting, held at La Comunidad, INC, drew a diverse and intergenerational group of individuals and families. Materials were translated into Spanish, and residents were not only invited to help build the garden, they were also invited to capture the process through images and reflections. The group recognized that community gardening contributes to physical and mental health and social wellbeing, and that documenting health outcomes of this project may demonstrate success to the City and other communities who we may be interested in supporting more projects like this in the future.

Everett Community Growers, a key partner in the project and the local membership organization working to improve health outcomes and increase civic and community engagement through urban agriculture and other food justice initiatives is also working with The City of Everett and MAPC’s public health team on a Community Food Assessment. As part of the Community Food Assessment, they are capturing portraits and food stories from community members. As part of this project, we plan to incorporate these portraits and stories on tiles that would be integrated into the sculpture.

Key partners in the Earthworks project also include the UMass Boston (UMB) School for the Environment and the Trotter Institute. This project is made possible with a technical assistance grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and with in-kind support from the City of Everett and Everett Community Growers.

Everett Community Growers Meet to Envision a Sculptural Garden along Northern Strand Community Trail

On a snowy afternoon in Everett, MA, more than a dozen community members gathered to discuss a proposed public art and urban agriculture project. Hosted by MAPC’s Arts & Culture Team and ECG, with support from the City of Everett, residents shared their hopes and vision for the upcoming project along the Northern Strand Community Trail. With a working title of “Everett Earthworks” (to be officially named by the community) this sculptural garden would serve as artwork, recreational green space, and space for food production.

writing on poster

The site design features circular garden beds and paths that represent ripples created by a water drop hitting the surface of water. A vertical element in the center of the garden represents the water drop, and it will feature portraits of community members and their food stories. The metaphor is that when people share their stories and grow food together, it will create a ripple effect, and more people will become involved in community gardening. *Which is what we all want!*

The “ripples” are curved garden mounds made from burying Christmas trees and branches in compost and topsoil. This method of garden construction is called “Hugelkultur” and is a great way to use tree debris to create a self-fertilizing system that requires little water once established. The community discussed planting these hugelmounds with crops that are harder to grow in small garden plots: cut flowers to attract pollinators, pumpkins, squashes, corn, herbs, and berries, for instance.

looking at designThe meeting, held in both Spanish and English, drew families and participants of all ages. MAPC’s Artist in Residence, Carolyn Lewenberg, introduced the preliminary concept and designs to the group and discussed the larger vision for the project. Participants were asked to provide feedback on the design, current use and accessibility of the site. Community growers discussed how the proposed garden could connect with other community gardens in Everett. The group shared thoughts about soil quality, watering plans, storage, meals they’d like to cook with their new produce, the challenges of currently neglected space, and the benefits that a new green space would provide.

Along the walls, Lewenberg displayed designs, as well as key questions about community benefits and impacts upon which participants shared their perspectives. One such question read: “What kinds of activities do you think would bring people together in this space?” Ideas that were generated included musical events, planting events, gatherings to pull weeds and harvest, path cleanups, lunches with food grown in the gardens, workshops, and kid’s events. Other questions generated important feedback with regards to equity, resilience, community ownership, and creating opportunities for families to be engaged.

Organizers plan to take the design feedback into consideration and present a revised design in January. Organizers are also planning community garden raising events in March and April, and will regroup after the growing season in October to ask similar questions to compare residents’ initial thoughts on the project, and assess progress made.

The Everett Earthworks project is intended to advance the City of Everett’s 2017 Open Space and Recreation Plan update, as well as a Community Food Assessment currently underway through Everett Community Growers, the City of Everett, and MAPC. Key partners in the Earthworks project also include the UMass Boston (UMB) School for the Environment and the Trotter Institute. This project is made possible with a technical assistance grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and with in-kind support from the City of Everett and Everett Community Growers.

Contact us for more information or to become involved in the new project! Reach us at everettcommunitygrowers@gmail.com.