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Posts Tagged ‘massachusetts’

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Photo: William Raynard/Essex County Sheriff’s Department
From left, Sheriff Kevin Coppinger and department director of food services Kathy Lawrence meet with program director Kate Benashski, Carlos Zagada, and Josiel Cabrera from Haven From Hunger on the farm at the Essex County Pre-Release Center in Lawrence.

Most of my posts about people helping people must seem like a drop in the bucket to readers: the problems of this world are so enormous. But I like to think about what can be accomplished by, say, one person whose better nature is released by a program like the one for ex-offenders described here. And I like to think of the way many such efforts can accumulate to improve the world.

Morgan Hughes writes at the Boston Globe, “Drive around the back of the Essex County Pre-release and Re-Entry center in Lawrence, and you’ll find 6 acres of pumpkins, corn, tomatoes, peppers, and gourds.

“Inmates at the center run the farm, which yields about 50,000 pounds of produce each season to feed others who are incarcerated and the wider community. Located just behind Interstate 495, the farm is fertile ground for personal growth.

“ ‘We’re giving jobs to the inmates, we use the crops, but it’s also an opportunity to give back to the community,’ Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger said.

“At the moment, the farm has about seven inmates who volunteer to plant, maintain, and harvest the produce. They feed not only the roughly 200 inmates at the pre-release center, but those at the Middleton House of Correction and Women in Transition, a women’s pre-release center in Salisbury.

“The facility purchases meals from a third-party food vendor, but the kitchen incorporates the fresh produce into the menu whenever possible.

“ ‘They live there, so they can really see the fruits of their labor,’ Coppinger said.

“About 30,000 pounds go to food pantries and homeless shelters in the Merrimack Valley and throughout the North Shore, said Kathy Lawrence, director of food services for the sheriff’s department. …

“She said, ‘What we can do sometimes is either incorporate [our produce] into the menu and serve it in addition to what’s being prepared, or we can substitute in ratatouille instead of giving them frozen green beans.’

“But even when the harvest is over and the ground begins to freeze, these hyperlocal vegetables are used throughout the year, Lawrence said. Bell and Italian peppers are frozen to use in casserole dishes. The butternut squash is also kept in the freezer and saved for special holiday meals.

“Heather Bonanno-Baker is manager of both Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen and the farm at the pre-release center. She took over duties from her father, who helped inmates run the farm for at least 15 years.

“She said she teaches inmates how to plant and water the crops, manage pests, and harvest at the end of the season. She shows them what a vegetable looks like when it’s ready to be picked, and how to wash it before it goes to a kitchen.

“ ‘I’m big into teaching the public about agriculture, growing your own food, and where it comes from,’ Bonanno-Baker said. …

“When Lawrence collected some feedback from the farm workers, she said some common themes were ‘a sense of pride in what they’ve grown’ and feeling rewarded to be able to give back to the community. One told her: ‘Hard work leads to positive results.’

“Lawrence teaches ServSafe to inmates working in the kitchen, a certification in food safety necessary for many jobs in the food industry. Coppinger said working on the farm provides another skill they could use to find a job when they are released.

“ ‘From the minute you arrive at intake in Middleton, to when you are about to be released at the pre-release center is trying to get them in better shape to get out of here and not come back,’ he said.

‘I always like to say, “Thanks for coming, but don’t come back.” ‘

More at the Boston Globe, here.

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Photos: Lowell Sun/Rick Sobey
Gardener Thomas Sarantakis harvests a watermelon at Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden in Lowell, Massachusetts. The garden was recently highlighted in a podcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Many of us are fascinated by news from distant parts of the world. At Suzanne‘s Mom’s Blog, as you know, stories of far-away events and customs get featured quite a lot.

Today in a twist, I’m highlighting something the London-based British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) wrote about near-to-me Lowell, Massachusetts.

Rick Sobey at the Lowell Sun wrote a story about the story in late August.

“The community garden is blossoming in Back Central. Giant kale as tall as the 5-foot, 8-inch gardener, in addition to monster zucchini and an enormous pumpkin.

” ‘Wow, they’re, like, Jurassic,’ Alexis Pancrazi says of the kale at Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden.

“Pancrazi speaks to gardeners, immigrants and others to learn about the community gardens’ impact across the city. She recently released her findings in a 27-minute podcast segment as part of BBC World Service’s ‘Neighbourhood’ series. The title of the radio segment broadcast last week was ‘How a Garden Grows.’

” ‘We’ve been working with her for over a year on that piece, so we were really excited it finally aired,’ said Lydia Sisson, co-director of Mill City Grows. … ‘We hope this will bring more attention to the power that community gardens have.’

“The segment shines a light on Mill City Grows’ first community garden, the Rotary Club garden founded in 2012. … The segment discusses how community gardens across the country are blossoming in the place of empty lots and blight.

“In Lowell, the community gardens are helping improve urban access to fresh produce, Pancrazi says.

” ‘It’s so much more than just the food,’ says Mill City Grows Co-Director Francey Slater. ‘It’s the sense of belonging to a community. It’s the people that you meet. That sense of ownership you develop — transforming a piece of your neighborhood that had been blighted and ugly and vacant and dilapidated, into something that’s really rich and lush and welcoming. … There’s something so celebratory about that.’ …

“The series is a collaboration between the BBC World Service and the Sundance Institute. It’s available for streaming here.”

More from the Lowell Sun here.

Hat tip: Meredith on Facebook.

Flowers at the Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden in Lowell.

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My new photography resolution, which I hope to stick to through the winter, is to capture shadows whenever the sun is out. Apart from the fact that I really like sunlight and shadow, I know I can find examples even in months when the photographic attractions of flowers and sailboats are not in evidence.

Today’s photo collection includes Massachusetts fall color, decorations for Halloween (I particularly liked that there were three witches, as in Shakespeare), curiosities from the MIT Museum (I loved Arthur Ganson‘s walking wishbone — and all his kinetic sculptures), and a graffiti warning in a Central Square alley.

“Come away, O human child!
“To the waters and the wild
“With a faery, hand in hand,
“For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.”

Read the rest of the W.B. Yeats poem here.

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September is already more than half over. How did that happen? Before it’s time for photos of Jack o’ Lanterns, here are a few pictures of September in Massachusetts. Most were taken by me, but the lovely praying mantis photo is my husband’s.

The star clematis has gone berserk all over town this September. So pretty. The herb garden is behind my church, as are the church sexton’s lovingly tended bonsai trees. Mist is rising over the community garden in the early morning.  I shot the ear of corn in the garden of the Old Manse. The great-looking fungus was along the conservation trail by the river. I do find fungus extraordinarily intricate and beautiful. If you’re on Instagram, follow @chasonw for some great examples.

The elephant looks real but is a statue at a home in my neighborhood. Not a street I usually walk down, so I was really taken by surprise when I passed it recently. The offbeat ceramics are in the window of the Lacoste/Keane Gallery, and the glass jellyfish are in a shop called Artisans Way.

I wind up this array with an end-of-summer farmers market, where a tiny boy with a tiny guitar was emulating a musician and a little girl was making friends with a goat.

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Photo: John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Margaret Baba Diri, a Ugandan legislator who lost her sight, visits the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton to gather ideas for helping the blind in her own country.

Here is a woman from Africa who refused to let her disability keep her from helping the people of her country.

Emily Williams writes at the Boston Globe, “Margaret Baba Diri is scrolling through her iPhone, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. The screen is dark, and she holds it at her chest, her finger swiping through the pages as an automated voice calls out the names of her apps until she lands on the one she wants.

“She is practicing ‘flicking,’ a technique she learned during an eight-week training program this spring at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton.

“A member of the Ugandan Parliament for more than 20 years, Baba Diri, 64, came to the center to improve her skills and move closer to her goal of opening a center for the blind and visually impaired in Uganda.

“She hopes to model many aspects of the Carroll Center’s program, she said, especially the close relationship instructors build with students. ‘We’re not here for competition,’ she said. ‘We are all growing at our own pace.’ …

“Over time, Baba Diri has developed many ways to compensate for her lack of sight and work independently. She reads braille and, with the use of a special machine, can record, edit, and print notes in braille.

“Over the past several weeks, through the center’s independent living program, Baba Diri practiced a range of everyday tasks, such as crossing streets, washing clothes, and cooking meals. …

“As she learns, she is taking careful note of how those skills are taught and envisioning how she’ll construct her own programs. …

“Baba Diri lost her sight in 1990 from glaucoma. She had been teaching biology and chemistry at a secondary school for 14 years, and when she lost her sight, she also lost her ability to teach.

“ ‘I thought it was the end of my life,’ she said.

“But a friend reminded her that the loss of her sight didn’t diminish her intellect. She could learn braille, practice mobility training, and find a new career.”

Learn more about this indomitable woman at the Globe, here.

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Thinking of a line from Edna St. Vincent Millay: “O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!”

We’ve had some beautiful days lately, some wild, stormy ones, and some that were so hot and humid, I just sat around like a bump on a log. In fact, I was so hot I was ready to post one of the March snowstorm photos to cool us all off, but I’d promised Deb to pick a day in August.

I took most of the pictures myself, but I’m going to start off with two that Suzanne took in Bohuslän on Sweden’s west coast. The place looks to me like the skin of the earth, like the hide of an elephant. Note the children climbing in the giant hole left by a rock in the last Ice Age.

The bunny photo was taken in Massachusetts. He’s pretending that he doesn’t see me. Simple Pleasures is a charming little shop in Providence.

Next are three photos from the farmers market. This market has a couple wonderful farmstands and a lot of stands selling crafts or baked goods. The little boy was watching two folk musicians who perform using a washtub. They come every summer and play for tips. The boy looked to me like he wanted to be invited to join in.

The other photos are from morning walks and include lotus buds and wildflowers like Bouncing Bet and Ragged Sailor.

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I know it’s possible to take good pictures on cloudy days, but for me, the play of sunlight and shadow is irresistible. And this time of year, Midsommar in Swedish, has so much sunshine.

Today’s photos feature my usual Massachusetts and Rhode Island haunts. A couple pictures may be slow to load as I am learning to use an iPhone and the size I chose is too big for a blog. I’ll get better at this.

The Mountain Laurel above is from one of my favorite walks — through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into wooded conservation land. The sunflowers by my fence were a gift from one of the ESL teachers I assist in Providence.

I got a big kick out of the deciduous holly tapping on the window. It was overcome with curiosity about what I was reading so intently at the kitchen table. (Answer: War and Peace.)

The next photo shows a child’s playhouse in Concord. I have never seen any child there and can only imagine how I would have felt to have such a place to play in as a kid. I would have thought I was in heaven.

Next comes an actual home in New Shoreham, one that is not much bigger than the playhouse. Decades before anyone spoke of “tiny houses,” a member of a church I was attending lived in this very small house year-round. It was known as the Doll House, although today the damaged sign says only, “Doll.”

Next to Doll, is a tiny restaurant called the Three Sisters with outdoor seating only and antiques on the fence. (Order sandwich combinations with names like Hippie Sister, Sailor Sister, and Twisted Sister.) There is also a small junk yard (antique yard?) that is fun to investigate while you wait for your food.

In the first sky photo, I was trying to capture the lower clouds, which looked like sheep, but I don’t think they are that noticeable given the whole view.

Finally, a Rhode Island sunset. Ahhhh.

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