Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! This is the year of the water tiger, bringing sustenance and power to us all with a focus on community, family, and spirit. We hope you all get to celebrate!
This month’s newsletter features updates, opportunities, and new partner organizations. Keep an eye out for ways you can help to contribute to the good things happening in CT’s cities, thanks to the young folks working the land and analyzing the systems we all live within.
Our meeting this month was exciting and productive. We got to meet a new partner, learn about how programs are building college credits for the young folks who participate, and about curriculum building efforts under way in one partner location (although that work is still very young and the staff member taking it on wasn’t able to join us for the meeting). Our new partner program, the Huneebee Project of New Haven, is working on expanding their presence around the city and in other cities (particularly Bridgeport) with their youth-tended beehives. GROW Windham is building up their connections across their city by installing hydroponics systems in area high schools and other sites. GVI is working with Two Coyotes Outdoor School to lead sessions in self-reliance and wilderness skills. All of this while ICR continues to gather and share info on how things are going. Read more below:
Common Ground High School:
On Saturday, February 19, Common Ground High School will host a maple sugaring virtual workshop (pre-registration required). Join CG staff Flannery Raabe to learn about the bounty our tree friends offer us every spring, the first harvest of the year! Join for stories, activities + demos that explore the science + history of making Maple Syrup! This is a VIRTUAL, pay what you can workshop for families with kids ages 5-10. This workshop will be offered in English. Pre-register here.
(Image description: a flyer inviting people to sign up for the Maple Sugaring Virtual Workshop on Saturday, February 19, from 3:30-4:45 pm. A banner indicates that registration is required, and that the workshop will be lead by Common Ground’s Flannery Raabe)
Featured in NBC’s episode 4 of their series Recovery, the crew at Ebony Horsewomen have been sharing the power of equine therapy in building up mental health. The episode, titled “How Horses can Heal” can be seen here. As always, while the cold may halt veggies in our outdoor growing spaces, the horses continue to do the work they are so very good at. To schedule an appointment for equine therapy or equine-assisted therapy, please reach out through their website at www.ebonyhorsewomen.org
(Image description: a group of several people gather in front of a tan barn-shaped shed, featuring the Ebony Horsewomen logo as a banner over the door. The people are smiling at the camera. Some pose to allow others behind them to be seen. A yellow dog sits at the feet of the person standing farthest to the left of the image.)
FRESH New London
After an exciting and productive session making Fire Cider with community members on 1/26, the FRESH team welcomed their winter crew back “home” on 1/28. The new young crew members got to know one another, a little more about themselves, and all about FRESH. Then, to prepare for the upcoming growing season, they ordered seeds for the community garden. What a way to launch a new crew!
On Thursday, January 27th, the Grow Hartford program furthered their efforts to engage with neighbors by hosting a movie and discussion night on zoom. They watched and discussed “They’re Trying to Kill Us”, wich is executive produced by NBA All-Star Chris Paul and 7x Grammy winner Billie Eilish. This documentary highlights the voices of renowned music artists , entertainers, health professionals, and activists on the issue of food oppression on low-income communities of color and how hip hop can play a role in raising health consciousness. No word yet on how the event went.
(Image description: a yellow flyer features the cover image from the movie “They’re Trying to Kill Us”, focusing on the face of a Black person in a black baseball cap standing in front of a wire fence. Below the image, details for signing up for the movie and discussion night appear in black text against a yellow background, as if in the light cast by a dual-reel movie projector, shown in black to the left of the text. The top of the flyer features the words “Grow Hartford Presents” in black text.)
The Willimantic team has been busy this winter. As mentioned above, they are installing hydroponics set ups in area high schools and other, smaller installations to expand the conversation in their community about urban agriculture to include protein production like fish (more on this concept soon!). In addition to this work, Vania, the youth crew leader, has taken on the task of building a community of practice with a shared curriculum to center the experiences and leadership of youth organizers in the multi-layered fight for justice across CT. The youth crew is taking on the task of creating a “growing almanac” to help new growers set out on their crop-management journey, and they have recently launched a Stepping Stones Project, connecting CORE youth with disabled adult neighbors through a partner community agency. These stepping stones will be installed at community growing spaces and will be featured in an exhibit to highlight the beauty and resilience of working together.
The young leaders in Bridgeport’s GVI are engaging in sessions outside with Two Coyotes Wilderness School, learning about survival skills and self-reliance while they make their way in our wild surroundings. This program helps not only to introduce new skills, but also to build confidence and comfort in teens who have been struggling to navigate a world none of us are familiar with thanks to public health considerations. In addition to this endeavor, GVI has been digging into new partnerships, building and sharing expertise across the state. Recently, they have renewed their connections with Chef Raquel of A Pinch of Salt, Shanelle from Grow Hartford, and Vania from GROW Windham to ensure that ties run deep and wide across CT.
(Image description: wooden shelves hold a full display of seedlings, labeled with white tags. In the foreground, a whiteboard shows illegible text. In the background, empty picnic tables and the shed with an open door rest in the sunshine.)
Our newest partner, located in New Haven and seeking to expand into Bridgeport, begins to expand our thinking about what “urban agriculture” means. The Huneebee Project teaches young participants apiary arts and skills, training each graduate how to launch and tend a successful hive in urban gardening space. This is the first year that they will be able to pay the adults working to make this project happen, as in previous years, they focused their time and attention on ensuring that young participants got paid. Now, their product line of goods (bee themed or bee-made) is booming, their quest for new spaces needing bee hives is expanding, and their connections are deepening. So excited to have this crew around!
(Image description: a pair of white hands holds a frame full of honey comb aloft. The comb is covered with bees. Behind the frame, there are individuals in bee-keepers’ outfits watching at a respectful distance.)
Institute for Community Research
Things at ICR are moving along, as always. Negotiations for the NRCS Racial Justice and Equity grant are wrapping up, while funds are being sought to supplement this program’s transportation, interpretation services, and event funds available. At this point, we aren’t sure when we will be able to launch our Climate Smart Ag Practices education sessions, so in preparation for getting those started, we are seeking input on what practices Alliance partners want to learn more about. Please send your suggestions and/or requests to Kat!
Keney Park Sustainability Project
During the quiet dark season, KPSP does NOT lay idle. Their recent forestry classes focused on job skills in alignment with good forestry practices. Young people from across Hartford gathered to learn about furniture making, wood working, and sustainable forestry skills.
New Britain ROOTS
Getting young folks outside has been a key feature in several programs of late, and ROOTS is among good company. Their participation in New Britain school district’s Super Saturday sessions have worked to get young folks outside to encounter different ways of learning while respecting public health considerations. To learn more about New Britain School District’s Super Saturdays (and ROOT’s work in partnership), please check here.
Nonprofit Accountability Group (NAG)
NAG’s newsletters are still THE go-to for information on what’s going on in Hartford. This month, they are focusing on Black History Month, especially on the impacts of Black leadership across the spectrum. In particular, they are hosting an event beginning on March 12, in partnership with the CT Conference of Municipalities. This two-day conference teaches specifically people of color the steps and skills needed to run for office. Please register here.
(Image description: white flyer with purple bottom and text reads “Representation Matters: Are you ready to run for state office?”. The link to register can be found in the paragraph above.)
Nourish My Soul
The Granby folks have been keeping themselves busy in their own kitchens, exploring the chemistry of baking, the traditional comfort foods of their ancestries, and the amazing skills an qualities we all develop when we work in the kitchen. In particular, you might enjoy their Online University class on No-Waste French Toast, the perfect comfort food for chilly mornings (video found here).
The Solar Youth team recently published their Fall Report. Their Green Jobs program saw record enrollment and offered returning student leaders the opportunity to take technology classes at District Arts Education, one of Solar Youth’s community partners. This opportunity explores different means by which young folks in our programs can use their time with us to earn college credits. See Solar Youth’s Fall Report here.
Summer of Solutions
The primary focus of SoS Hartford has been and continues to be meeting the needs of Hartford neighbors where they are. The Mutual Aid efforts SoS has been spearheading have gotten food, coats, rental assistance, and diapers to families across the city in their time of need. The pink pantry and pink fridge have been stocked as frequently as possible, but more help is always needed.
As mentioned last month, we are fighting hard to get our meetings scheduled at a time when young folks can participate as often as possible. Please let Kat know when your program youth are available monthly so we can identify the best time for the most folks. Before we get started on this new partnership with our area Conservation District Offices, let’s make sure that we are doing what we can to make the needs of our young partners in change our goals!
And to help you get through this month of chill and gray, a picture from our 2015 School Your Food Convening:
Young folks from Grow Hartford and GROW Windham share the stage at Hartford Public Library’s Community Room while they share their interactions with the school food systems across CT. Adults pictured include representatives from CT Food Bank, the Norwich School Nutrition Department, Sydexo, and an area farmer, as well as representatives of the Americorps VISTA program that launched this work.