The end of this long, hot, dry summer is in sight. Summer programs have ended and academic year programs are gearing up. As young participants turn their attention to the systems they work to drive toward justice, staff are taking stock of what worked this summer, what could have gone better, and how to give their participants every opportunity to stun their communities with their wisdom, power, and prowess. As is usual in CT at this time of year, events are at the top of most agendas. Harvest festivals are coming! Professional development for staff and youth are unfolding in the next couple of months, too. All good things to get our youth and our communities into the best possible positions to face whatever may come.
Common Ground High School
While continuing their good work with mobile markets designed to bring fresh produce across New Haven, CGHS staff also welcomed back students for the 2022-2023 school year. Preparation is also under way for the annual FEAST event. This fundraising event couples fresh, locally-grown produce with fresh, locally-made talent in the form of chefs and caterers who whip Common Ground’s garden production into beautiful and delectable dishes. To spread the good as far as possible, they plan for a Feast from the fields on Sept 17th and a Feast for Fams on Sept 18th. All in the name of expanding access to fresh, locally produced foods for New Haven residents.
Now that camps are done, the horses at EHI are easing into their regular schedules. Staff, however, are gearing up for the Black Boots Awards to celebrate Black horse-related businesses and individuals. One nominee, Fred Wright, is an alum of EHI and manages his own farrier company, one of the few in CT. Nominations for the Black Boots Awards closed on August 30th.
While welcoming in new staff members, the GROW Windham program has been busy marketing their produce (including their famous Frog Fire hot sauce at $12 a bottle. Believe me, it sells out quick and is worth the cost!) and preparing for their Sept 10th Bicentennial Festival, all while working on their crowdfunding efforts to continue employing youth through the academic year. If you are in a position to contribute, please consider supporting GROW Windham at https://windhamfood.square.site/grow-windham Keep the good growing!
Despite the close of another successful summer session at GVI, events at the farm show no sign of slowing down. On Saturday, 9/3, GVI hosted the launch event for Farm to Chef week at the Reservoir Community Farm. Using fresh produce grown right at the farm, local chefs like Chefs Pierre and Raquel with others created beautiful meals for their neighbors to enjoy. This event connects neighbors to one another, to the farm, and to the highly delicious and nutritious foods grown directly in Bridgeport (or nearby). Now young leaders are leaping into their personal projects aimed at making their city stronger, their community closer, and their food system more just.
As the bees finalize their stores for the winter, the work at Huneebee Project shifts from honey harvesting to participant advancement within the program. After a season that saw new hives installed across New Haven and the project’s first in Bridgeport, yet another participant is moving into the junior bee instructor position. Congratulations to the project, the new junior bee instructor, and the bees!
Institute for Community Research
The Youth Action Hub continues their work on developing a safe and accessible virtual drop-in center for young people experiencing unstable housing. The Active City project, focused on communicating sports opportunities and programs to youth, guardians, and neighborhoods in Hartford is winding down and a map of programs will soon be available. Information from community conversations between older adults and teens in New Britain is being analyzed, both to improve the conversation guide and to identify shared needs and opportunities for the upcoming state food policy plan. The Community Research Alliance has begun their community conversations about mental health needs and services in Hartford and aims to learn more about what Hartford residents see, want, and need for their mental health and wellness. Please reach out if you would like to learn any more about any of these projects!
Keney Park Sustainability Project
Not only are the popup markets still running hard at KPSP, but the student volunteers from local colleges and universities continue to show up and learn. KPSP volunteers get to find out about what they can do to better connect with the earth through the care of growing spaces, mindfulness and wellness classes, and by learning more about the community in which these opportunities exist. By focusing not only on integrative agriculture but also physical, mental, and spiritual wellness in addition to future-focused career opportunities, KPSP moves this work from the earth and water into hearts on a daily basis.
New Britain ROOTS
Summer’s work is never done at ROOTS. This year, they partnered with local professional cleaning company Microcare LLC to share sanitizing hand wipes with customers at farmers markets so that New Britain shoppers could enjoy their produce shopping experience with less worry about viruses on their hands. Partnerships like this help everyone as they advertise the good work a for-profit local business is up to in a way that improves experiences for folks looking to take better care of themselves, while connecting it all through the warm smiles and good work of local young folks seeking to make food more accessible for their neighbors. The partnerships don’t end there, as the local Stop & Shop is selling “blooming for good” bouquets, a portion of the cost of which goes to ROOTS to support their programming. Sunshine, whether on the ground or in a vase on the kitchen table, makes the day a little bit brighter. Finally, one of the graduating members of ROOTS has been honored with the Erickson Scholarship through the American Savings Foundation. This type of scholarship provides a direct and long-lasting benefit for folks in our programs. Are there any scholarship programs in your community that looks for nominations of potential recipients from local nonprofits? It could be an important element of someone’s success!
Nonprofit Accountability Group
As always, NAG is running full-steam on a multitude of fronts. First, in partnership with the Sierra Club, they coordinated a tweet storm to ask The Hartford and Travelers insurance companies to stop insuring and investing in oil and gas projects in the Arctic, lifting messages from the Gwich’in steering committee. This committee represents multiple First Nations in the areas currently called Alaska and Canada, opposed to the efforts to drill in this region for oil and/or gas. This effort has been under way since the previous federal administration vowed to auction off leases in the area. The current administration has vowed to halt all leases, but the threat of drilling remains with each election. The Gwich’in committee aims to stop all leases permanently, and this effort by Sierra Club, supported by NAG, aims to do just that by removing the financial benefits to corporations. In addition, NAG’s Mutual Aid partnerships and Food Justice partnerships are spawning frequent meetings and actions across Hartford to keep people fed and their voices centered in conversations around food access and security.
Nourish My Soul
The summer camps at NMS were well attended and reviewed. Fall programs, from pre-school to high school-focused, are ready to launch early in September. All of this as NMS plans their inaugural Salsa Party for the Farm (to be held on 9/10) and continues the hard work of revitalizing the soil on their formerly-neglected parcel. The work is never done, but frequent visits by neighbors like raccoons help to show that it’s all coming together properly. If nothing is eating your garden, then it isn’t part of the ecosystem!
This summer, the Solar Youth campers initiated pop-up food pantries at four locations in order to get fresh foods to their neighbors in New Haven. Their summer camp doubled in size and their exit surveys indicate that both participants and parents were very pleased with the experience. In partnership with the Boys& Girls Club of New Haven, this year’s summer camp focused on providing fun experiences for youth to re-engage with nature and each other. With four field trips including Beardsley Zoo and Lighthouse Point Park, Solar Youth participants got to focus on themselves, our planet, and the future for both.
Summer of Solutions Hartford
This summer’s drought hit the experimental container garden installations through SoS hard. In their quest to offer apartment-friendly growing spaces, the SoS crew utilized milk crates and semi-permeable membranes to create potato blocks. Thanks to the heat and lack of rain, along with the increased surface area this method creates for the growing medium, the potato harvest wasn’t as robust as anticipated. One sample crate only grew one perfectly round red potato. While this method has some challenges, working with folks in the know (like @milkcrategardens, the folks SoS looked to for guidance on this experiment) can lead to functional alternatives. Perhaps a lighter-colored liner with less permeability and an olla-style waterer might make this work more effectively next year?
The process of unpacking feedback after the July 17th event continues. Changes are being made at ICR, especially through efforts to hire at least one new staff member. As these changes take place (and, unfortunately, they will be slow due to the need for funding to ensure a living wage and benefits), we will be piloting new means of sharing information for the monthly meetings (which will still take place!) and these newsletters. Keep an eye out for a form asking staff to report on what participants want to see, have been seeing, and demand for their future.
In addition, the fall event agenda is taking shape, but would benefit from more youth input. Keep an eye out for communications intended to explore program and community issues you are dealing with as well as the agenda for the November Event (featuring voting for questions to pose during the event and requests for names/contact information on professionals or simple suggestions on fields your program participants want to learn more about).
Finally, the upcoming professional development opportunities are on the near horizon. Conservation District directors are developing soil health workshops for staff and young leaders in your programs to be offered in October. The Alliance is paying hourly for staff and young leaders as well as for mileage to get to these trainings, so the announcements about dates, times, and locations will get to you ASAP in order to allow you the most time possible to plan.
Thank you all for all you do!