An Urban Farm, A Vision for Food and Community

What’s a food system? We were asked in a small circle, a group of about 20 volunteers, getting warmed up for a morning of urban farming. “From seed to mouth,” I uttered with some confidence in my answer. The question was one I heard before, I volunteered at The Food Project’s West Cottage Farm this past spring. The correct term was “Seed to Spoon”, but I came close. This was the starting point for a brief conversation about food and what exactly we know about our food system. The group was led by several young adults from the community, surrounding this patch of vibrant earth, tucked away in a Dorchester neighborhood.

The Food Project has several farms, some larger than the one we visited today in Lincoln and Lynn, Massachusetts. The idea is to have local youth lead teams of eager volunteer gardeners in the pursuit of a more sustainable, local food system. The seeds for this revolution aren’t new – they’re just better than the path we’re on, so disconnected from where our food comes from and who is reaping all the benefits; here’s a hint, it’s not the farmers and it’s not the average person at the local grocery store. Then there’s the problem of getting the healthy stuff. The Food Project offers a solution. Urban communities with no access to fresh produce are able to visit farmer’s markets supplied by farms just like the one we worked at today. Everybody wins.

Not only the people who buy the produce but the volunteers. As I was pulling up weeds, a simple but major part of our work, I heard the familiar prosody of Portuguese being spoken. It was Jess, the Urban Grower overseeing the farm, striking up a conversation with an older gentleman on an early morning walk through the neighborhood. Jess’ family is from Sao Miguel, Azores. Her Portuguese gets better each time she visits the farm, she mentions as our morning tasks are finished. I selfishly consider coming back to the farm just to improve my Portuguese and maybe do some farming too.

At the end of our time together, the volunteers gathered to share their reflections on the morning - one word that captured it all. My word was commonality. We all have a stake in this Dorchester farm, in the process of reconnecting to the food we eat. We all gain something when those that are hungry can eat healthy, locally grown food.

I’d like to thank Shelley, our team leader; Jess our Urban Grower/site coordinator; Aisha, a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow who educated me on some important policy issues; and all my fellow colleagues at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology who represented the future of psychology well today.

To get involved, you can register to volunteer by visiting this link: http://thefoodproject.org/volunteer