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Posts Tagged ‘community’

For the longest time, it looked like nothing at all, this art installation of 10,000 sunflowers where route 195 once polluted the soil.

Adam E. Anderson, the brains behind the community-building project, writes on his website, “Ten Thousand Suns is a summer-long botanical performance in which over 10,000 sunflower seeds have been planted and being nurtured over the course of the summer months, on land that until recently sat under a highway, with high compaction, low-organic material, and embedded with toxicity.  …

“Rather than using high maintenance and energy intensive large swaths of turf grass, the installation uses the bio-accumulating (removes toxins) and habitat creating properties of Helioanthus (aka, Sunflower) planted in rows in a series of large circles, leaving paths in-between for intimate exploration.

“The project will create a spontaneous and unique cultural identity for the citizens of Providence and its visitors during the summer months.”

With little rain all summer, the project looked like a hopeless cause for many weeks. Until it didn’t.

In celebration of the cheery results, I want to share a few lines of a poem about a goldfinch loving a sunflower. Because who wouldn’t love a sunflower?

From poet Ross Gay‘s “Wedding Poem”

Friends I am here modestly to report
seeing in an orchard
in my town
a goldfinch kissing
a sunflower
again and again
dangling upside down
by its tiny claws
steadying itself by snapping open
like an old-timey fan
its wings
again and again
until swooning, it tumbled off
and swooped back to the very same perch …

Read more about the project at Adam Anderson’s site, here, and on Facebook, here. Click on my photos to check the dates.

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Photo: Leigh Vincola, ecoRI News
David Kuma, left, is learning to farm under the tutelage of Ben Torpey.

In this story from Leigh Vincola, an ecoRI News contributor, several good things are happening simultaneously.

“David Kuma set out to grow more of his own food as he learned about industrial agriculture and all of its poisons. His father, a biologist, always had a garden growing up, so an innate knowledge of plants followed his curiosity.

“Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised partially in rural Illinois and then in Attleboro, Mass., Kuma understands urban, rural and suburban lifestyles and how plants can fit into each.

“Today, Kuma is one of three participants in the Southside Community Land Trust’s (SCLT) farm apprentice program …  Acknowledging that it has been historically difficult for minority populations to enter into commercial growing, the program’s mission is to provide organic farming experience and education to those who are interested.

“Kuma is partnered with Ben Torpey at Scratch Farm, a small-scale, chemical-free operation at Urban Edge Farm. Urban Edge is a state-owned, 50-acre piece of land managed by SCLT, where seven separate farms grow and share resources. The farm was established to give new farmers access to land and a community to learn from. As part of his paid apprenticeship, Kuma spends a full day on the farm two days a week and is learning a lot quickly. …

“From transplanting and cover crops to solarizing and low-till cultivation, Kuma is learning what it takes to run a small-scale farm naturally. His eyes have been opened to the importance of soil health.

“ ‘There’s a lot more to it than putting seeds in the ground,’ he said.

“For Torpey, having an apprentice is rewarding.

“ ‘Dave comes with a intuitive sense of plant biology and his curiosity reminds me that what we’re doing is fun,’ Torpey said. ‘It encourages me to experiment with new things.’ ” More here.

Don’t they both look happy? Nature can do that to you.

Photo: Scratch Farm

 

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Good things continue to happen in the West End of Providence, thanks in large part to the vision and community responsiveness of West Elmwood Housing Development Corporation (WEHDC) under the direction of Sharon Conard-Wells.

Tuesday, WEHDC held a reception to celebrate past accomplishments and the new mixed-income housing development they are about to build. The mayor came. Community members came. Many of Rhode Island’s movers and shakers came. I came.

It was impressive to see how WEHDC’s projects have flourished when you consider that 10 years ago, the nonprofit was tackling the cleanup of a nearby industrial site and hoping to turned the blighted Rau Fastener factory into beautiful mixed-income housing — keeping their fingers crossed that the market would respond.

The market sure did respond, and now WEHDC is starting the second phase. At the same time, it continues community work of many kinds. Antoine started out doing lead abatement and now works with young people in the neighborhood. Adeline works with the community farm and the Sankofa World Market. Rosa and Debra do housing counseling and lending. Rachel manages WEHDC’s many partnerships and is always looking for more.

The energy and optimism are tangible, and it was good to see the recognition the nonprofit is getting from people in a position to ensure that the good work keeps going. The current wish list includes new laptops and web design work (in case you know anyone interested in offering help that is sure to be used wisely). Check out WEHDC here.

Photo: Sankofa Initiative

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Looking through a pile of magazines recently, I found a 2011 newspaper article I had cut out about Hardwick, Vermont. It’s about reinventing the local culture around food and food-related businesses.

Dirk Van Susteren wrote at the Boston Globe, “If there were a ‘Locavore Capital of America’ one would expect it to be in sunny California or perhaps somewhere in the heartland … But, surprisingly, in rocky northern New England, just 45 miles from the Canadian border, is a place that could contend for that honor: Hardwick, a former quarrying town that until recently knew more pain than promise.

“In recent years Hardwick, population 3,200, located along a tumbling stretch of the Lamoille River, has seen a half-dozen innovative agricultural enterprises crop up, many with mission statements including such words as ‘community-based,’ ‘sustainable,’ and ‘organic.’

“The town, always a bit scruffy, and with a high jobless rate, might be on a green trajectory. And people are taking notice.

“Among the new operations here or in nearby towns: Jasper Hill Farm, which makes artisanal cheeses and provides aging, distribution, and marketing services to local cheesemakers; High Mowing Seed Co., an organic seed business, whose owner likes traveling around the country to tell the Hardwick farm and food story; Highfields Center for Composting, a soil-making business that collects its raw materials from restaurants, farms, and schools; Pete’s Greens, a CSA (community-support ed agriculture) farm that grows organic vegetables in gardens and greenhouses; and, finally, Vermont Soy, a tofu and soymilk producer.

“The area also has dozens of small-scale producers, from orchardists to maple sugarmakers. Their products sell at farm stands, at the summer farmers’ market, and at Buffalo Mountain Food Co-op and Cafe, a landmark in its 36th year. …

“Monty Fischer, the executive director of the Center for an Agricultural Economy, the nonprofit organization that helped spur these farm efforts, has kept count. ‘People from 40 states and 40 countries have come to ask about our agricultural cluster,’ he reports, from his downtown office.”

Read about the 2011 federal grant for the Vermont Food Venture Center, an incubator facility, the organic North Hardwick Dairy, where sunflowers are grown as a value-added crop, mead maker Caledonia Spirits, and more here.

And if anyone has been up there recently, I sure would love to know if the food culture is still going strong.

Photo: Wikipedia
North Main St., Hardwick, Vermont

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I love listening to Worcester-based WICN (jazz radio). Bonnie Johnson had an especially good show yesterday, opening with Cynthia Scott and 3rd, 4th & 5th graders of PS32 in Brooklyn, NY, singing “Dream for One Bright World.”

“There is a new day dawning
“The time is now
“The world is ready for a change …

“Let’s teach out children to care
“To help one another
“And mend broken hearts
“So many children in the world
“Have never had a chance
“Their time has come …

(More lyrics here.)

You can listen to WICN online at wicn.org. Bonnie Johnson’s program is described at Colors of Jazz. “Bonnie Johnson is host of Colors of Jazz on Sunday afternoon from noon-4 pm. If you asked the Worcester native how she found jazz, she would tell you that jazz found her. As an undergraduate student at Howard University in Washington, DC, Ms. Johnson became a fan of the Quiet Storm featured on the college station WHUR-FM. …

“Ms. Johnson appreciates the diversity and the evolution of music. As a self-taught electric bassist, she has enjoyed many years of playing various types of music with her daughter and close friends in a family band. Growing up, she sang in the St. Cecilia Girl Choir at All Saints Worcester. …

“Ms. Johnson holds B.A. in Liberal Studies and M.S. in Communications and Information Management degrees from Bay Path College. She believes the future of jazz is in our children, stating, ‘Music and the arts is one area that gives young people an outlet and release of creative energy. While there are many children exposed to music through lessons and attending live performances, there are too many more that are not.’ One of Johnson’s primary goals as host at WICN is to reach youth in creative ways through community engagement.”

That’s something to think about on Martin Luther King’s birthday — and maybe to act on, too.

Bonnie Johnson, host of WICN radio’s Colors of Jazz 

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Following up on yesterday’s post, which highlighted simple pleasures like spending time in the library, I give you this report by Morgan Ribera at Bustle.

“Apparently, libraries provide patrons with a happiness that money can’t buy. Or at least nothing less than almost two grand in cash. According to a recent study commissioned by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, the act of going to the library induces joy equivalent to that brought on by a £1,359 ($1,878) pay raise.

“The study was conducted in an attempt to measure which activities have the most positive impact on an individual’s well-being. Visiting a library scored among the top joy-generating activities, alongside dancing and swimming, giving us yet another reason to hang-out at our local library. …

“And this U.K. study adds even more to the proof already stacking up on the value of libraries, a value that was evidenced extensively in a Pew Research Study released [in March]. The rather pleasing results of this eye-opening Pew study showed that habitual library goers maintain stronger community ties, are more likely to socialize with friends and neighbors, and exhibit higher levels of technological engagement.”

More at Bustle, here.
Photo: Bill Lapp

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Ron Finley is a man of humble ambitions. He aims to save the planet, beginning with urban gardeners. I heard an interview with him on America’s Test Kitchen as I was driving home today.

From his website: “Let’s grow this seed of urban guerrilla gardening into a school of nourishment and change. Help spread his dream of edible gardens, one city at a time. …

“In part of this effort, Ron is planning to build an urban garden in South Central LA that will serve as an example of a well-balanced, fruit-and-veggie oasis – called ‘HQ.’ Inspired by the idea of turning unused space such as parkways and vacant lots into fruitful endeavors, this garden and gathering place will be a community hub, where people learn about nutrition and join together to plant, work and unwind. HQ will create a myriad of jobs for local residents, and this plot of land will be a self-sufficient ecosystem.”

It all started, according to Ron, when he “wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell.” He began to plant food near his house, on a strip by a road.

“The City of Los Angeles owns the ‘parkways,’ the neglected dirt areas next to roads where Ron was planting. He was cited for gardening without a permit.”

After Ron “started a petition with fellow green activists, demanding the right to garden and grow food in his neighborhood … the city backed off.” More here.

When asked on America’s Test Kitchen if his gardens were not just about obesity and healthful eating but also about making neighborhoods more livable, Ron said he wanted to do that for the whole planet.

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