Welcome to the month of May, everyone! The CT Youth Food Program Alliance is in high gear getting ready for planting, activity, and learning season. As the days (and soil) warms, we all get antsy to go get our seeds into the ground. Thankfully, access to learning about Climate Smart Agricultural Practices (CSAPs) will help us to improve our knowledge base and, therefore, the knowledge exchanged in our community, to grow as much food as safely as possible. Diminishing our crop losses to downpours and droughts would be greatly appreciated! Due to our partnership with the CT Conservation District Offices, learning more about CSAPs will get a whole lot easier this year. Thank you, CT Conservation Districts!
Common Ground High School
On April 30th, the largest team ever took to the streets of New Haven as part of the CGHS team to raise funds for the school as a part of the Rock to Rock Earth Race, an annual fundraising event for earth-focused nonprofits in New Haven.
Ebony Horsewomen, Inc.
While the Junior Mounted Patrol continues their long history of monitoring the grounds and acting as ambassadors for their program around Keney Park, the rest of EHI is working to heal, AND to share with their community the work of Levi Robinson, the DC-based artist who recently completed a series of portraits of the Heroines of Hartford. These portraits of Hartford women who have served their communities through “acts of kindness, leadership, and advocacy” will be unveiled at a special event on May 12th from 1-4 pm. If interested in attending, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
(Image description: a red background features text, in white, reading “Heroines of Hartford Unveiling Ceremony; Thursday, May 12th, 1-4 pm at EHI Equestrian and Therapeutic Center, 337 Vine St., Hartford, CT.” In the lower left corner of the image, a small round portrait of a Black man in a tan suit is captioned “with master of ceremony Abdul-Rahmaan I. Muhammad”, with instructions to RSVP to email@example.com. The sponsors of the event are listed on the flier, including The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the City of Hartford. /end description)
FRESH New London
The April 30th plant sale/fundraiser for FRESH was a success. Hosted at the long-standing garden space on Mercer St, the plant sale allowed community members to support their home-town food source by building their own ability to grow food at home. Young participants from the spring cohort worked to connect with neighbors, market garden greenery, and build the coffers for their agriculture and action group. In addition to this month’s plant sale, another will be held on May 28th. Don’t worry if you missed the 4/30 edition, because the 5/28 is just around the corner!
This year’s youth program focuses intentionally on urban farming and begins on May 14th. In collaboration with Laurel Little Edutainment, this year’s summer program at Grow Hartford is sure to focus on self-sufficiency through growing and foraging foods, medicines, and self-care items safely and sustainably. Learning about history, culture, and policy alongside nutrition and ecological needs has always been a hallmark of Grow Hartford’s work. This year I am sure the trend will continue.
(Image description: a flier is topped with a photo of a group of diverse young folks, many wearing masks, several holding up plant matter and smiling for the photo. The bottom of the flier looks like a leaf, with black text over the front stating “attention Hartford youth: become an urban farmer/grow your own fruits and veggies, make value-added products, reconnect with nature. Facilitated by Lauren Little Edutainment Every Saturday May 14-July 2, 12:30 -2:30 pm, Huntington St. Community Garden. /end description)
In partnership with several other youth organizations from around the state, the staff of GROW Windham are dedicated to ensuring that the approaches they take to youth skills- and opportunity-building are accessible to everyone. GW staff are collecting the wisdom and challenges partner organizations offer to build a guide for new programs and staff at schools. This guide will encourage adults to approach youth work with integrity, honesty, and respect for young people, as well as giving them some activity plans and program goals they can work with. GW’s community events continue to be well attended, allowing staff to learn more about the issues their community is facing. Much like in Hartford, the impacts of gentrification are making life and food access more difficult for Willimantic residents. Given Willimantic’s powerful history of organizing around programing and support for unhoused individuals, this area will be one to watch moving forward.
They got the lease! The Reservoir Community Farm is leased through the next 15 years ( it’s a 5 year lease with two possible extensions, with some clauses in place that could allow the City to make changes), thanks in large measure to the activism of the community who demanded that their fresh food and connection-building space not be taken away from them. Now that this major concern is addressed, GVI is stepping deep into their summer program work. Young leaders are taking on a PhotoVoice-style project, documenting their school meals to advocate for equity and justice in their cafeterias. Inspired by and working collaboratively with Grow Hartford, GVI youth will take their concerns about food access to their school districts’ nutrition departments to advocate for changes that will benefit all Bridgeport students. Stay tuned for good things from this endeavor!
The newest cohort of Bee Keepers In Residence have been busy already. They recently installed their first hive on a parcel the program has rented from the City, a first for the organization. To make this hive a keystone in the community, program participants are building relationships with neighbors and local businesses. In stride with this expanded view of their work, youth with Huneebee are seeking to expand their apiaries to play host to native bees and pollinators, rather than only honey bees. This shift is crucial as it opens conversations about the impacts of Colonialism on local landscapes, foodways, and lifestyles. Finally, Huneebee is excited to include art workshops into their garden spaces, increasing community opportunities to shape their surroundings and beautify the city. Forward, deeper, and wider; the work continues!
(Image description: five individuals in beekeeping gear gather around as one individual holds a frame in their hands. Hive boxes are on the ground between the individuals, standing in front of a yellow shed. Residential homes line the street behind them. /end description)
Institute for Community Research
ICR is investigating new opportunities to engage communities in research through the Community Research Alliance (CRA), a network of small nonprofits and research bodies (like colleges and universities). Projects involve program evaluation, data collection methods that center community voice, and exploring research into specific issues local nonprofits strive to address. In addition, ICR is revitalizing our internship program, inviting students from these colleges and universities to apply to work with ICR staff and learn more about the importance of putting research projects into the hands of our neighbors. In the midst of these opportunities, we are exploring leadership and organizational structure with the goal of making ICR more closely resemble the projects we offer: led by community, with an eye toward building justice and equity.
Keney Park Sustainability Project
The growing season is under way at KPSP. The honeybee hives have been visited and cared for by Aasaaka Foundation, making sure that the pollinators kept so busy by KPSP’s gardens and forests, are all doing well after the winter. As a part of the UCONN Beginning Farmers’ tours, KPSP is also a stop on the composting tours list. This allows interested CT residents to learn more about the way KPSP deals with their plant matter waste at the farm scale, bigger than a home composter would need. Every chance to get neighbors onto the KPSP property to learn more about and connect more deeply with the land, the happier the staff and leadership of KPSP are!
New Britain ROOTs
The April 21 soil health and safety workshop at New Britain Museum of American Art, held in collaboration with the Conservation District Offices, was a success. People from all around brought samples of their garden soil to be tested for free for heavy metals, micronutrients, and overall pH to establish a plan for growing food in their spaces. After their success with this workshop, young people from New Britain High School invested time in building raised beds in honor of Earth Day. Keeping opportunities for residents to grow their own food at their fingertips is key to assuring food access for as many people as possible.
(Image description: young people are scattered around on a cement surface, building raised garden beds out of unstained wood. Behind them, the school looms large and the arbor and greenhouse figure prominently on the left of the picture. /end description)
Nonprofit Accountability Group
NAG has been moving deeper into climate change work, hosting and attending events, meetings, and webinars throughout the month to increase public knowledge of the impacts and adaptations we can all make to a changing climate. Their support of the North End Little Pantries (NELP) has become the bulk of NAG’s food systems work for the moment. NELP offers food and ingredients to residents of the North End of Hartford for free through a “little pantries” approach, small kiosks posted at roadsides and busy intersections for items to be dispersed through for free. NELP has a community meal and free store event planned for May 21. Please see their FB page for details.
Nourish My Soul
This the month for farm leases, it would seem! NMS is proud and excited to announce that they have entered into a lease agreement with the East Granby Land Trust to access a community space as well as several acres of farmland where they intend to build a community garden. In addition, they are sub-letting a large portion of the land to an urban farmer for his use to grow foodstuffs for market in Hartford. Collaboration gets the goods!
(Image description: two fair-skinned femme folks wearing masks face the camera while they exchange a piece of paper and a mason jar of soil. This handoff implies the lease exchange for land between the East Granby Land Trust and Nourish My Soul. /end description)
Several interns recently had the spotlight as they shared some of their activity plans with young participants in Solar Youth programs. These interns focused on making the values of Solar Youth tangible, finding ways to help their young friends recognize their own dreams and the kindness they witness, experience, and enact in the world. These activities help to make the work of these programs recognizable in the everyday world, something many of our partner programs aim for consistently.
Summer of Solutions
The SoS crew is active again, clearing up the garden for spring planting on Zion St in Hartford, encouraging community to stock the Pink Pantry so neighbors have food, and selling hanging flower baskets for Mother’s Day. Please feel free to donate materials at the Zion St site or via cashapp at $sos860.
The Envirothon event, hosted by CT’s Conservation Districts, is scheduled for May 19th from 7:30-2:30. Thanks to the funding we received from NRCS, the Alliance can offer mileage funding as well as lunches and materials kits for Alliance program participants who wish to attend. This event features young competitors working displays on environmental health and care. Please let Kat know if you are interested in attending!
Kamora’s Cultural Corner is hosting a Thinking and Doing Day on Saturday, May 7 from 9-2 pm. This event will focus on the set up of the Heritage Garden at the Sterling Street Sanctuary as well as formulating plans for food distribution throughout the city of Hartford. Kamora has been known as a key connector in the Hartford community for years, and folks with extra food know this about her. Restaurants, grocery stores, and gardeners know that their extra food can get to folks in need through her, but Kamora aims to make this task everyone’s opportunity to connect, learn together, and share the bounty. Join this event to share your thoughts even if you aren’t in the Hartford area, as this work needs to happen everywhere! Register for this event here.
Finally, site visits and interviews are starting up again. Kat will be reaching out with the invitation to meet and talk about your programs, your goals, and your dreams for what this work can be and do. In addition, goals for the network will be discussed to ensure that the direction we are moving in aligns with your goals and vision, to identify changes we need to make, and to clarify who is still not included in our work. Please watch for emails and calls to schedule these visits which should be roughly and hour in length. Thank you all for all you do!
(Image description: the sun shines through leafy branches along a tree-lined dirt driveway. At the top of the driveway we see a metal field gate. /end description)