July 2022 Newsletter

It’s summertime and the gardens are growing. Youth urban ag programs around the state are knee-deep into their busiest season. So how can the Alliance support them? By throwing a party, of course! For the first time in years, thanks to global public health concerns, we are having our summer event this month. Programs from all around the state will gather to share what they do best, learn from one another, get introduced to Climate Smart Agricultural Practices, and build a model of the food system through their eyes. Then, of course, the day focuses on fun, beauty, and laughter. Thank goodness for summertime in this region of the continent!

Program Updates

Common Ground High School

Summer camps and farm stands are in high gear in New Haven. While the veggies are the primary focus on campus, flowers, herbs, and even duck eggs make their appearance at the farm stand and can be purchased on Wednesdays. Even with all of the farm and market work this time of year bring, CGHS is already planning their harvest celebration for September. Follow their activities on their busy social media page here.

(Image description: a blue frog with a golden ear sticks its head out of the water at Common Ground High School’s pond on campus. According to the post this image comes from, some frogs are born with less yellow pigment in their skin, making them appear blue. Photo credit: Aurora. /end description)

Ebony Horsewomen, Inc.

EHI’s summer day camp is wrapping up its second week. Youth have been learning about horses, taking care of their needs, working in the garden, and enjoying the occasional horseback ride, carriage ride, and quick lesson on saddle work in the ring. This camp runs through the second week of August, so the days are long for now at EHI.

Grow Hartford and Lauren Little Edutainment

The Urban Farming Program is getting ready to wrap up for the summer. The most recent session featured a visit from Hartford’s mayor, Luke Bronin. The goal is to help Mr. Bronin understand the power of urban farming and the will of Hartford residents to do what needs doing to help their city flourish. Working at the Hartford Free Center, Grow Hartford and Lauren Little Edutainment have focused on teaching young residents about their power to grow their own food, to save seeds and develop landrace crops, and to formulate herbal items to take care of themselves and their overall wellness. Thanks to donations from UCONN, the program this year has been able to expand their growing space through built beds and grow bags, but is still seeking soil and compost to make those spaces as strong as they can be. If you can donate soil or compost or know of someone who can, please reach out to Shanelle at shanelle@hartfordfood.org

GROW Windham

As the summer program gears up, Mackenzie, the youth director, is working hard to pass on the knowledge and history she has gained from GROW Windham to the new youth director. This overlap between their time in this position will allow for more than a smooth transition as Mackenzie moves on to graduate school, but also lets the youth who’ve gotten used to being led by one of their own (Mackenzie worked her way through the GROW Windham curriculum over the course of her “high school” years) get accustomed to a new face. We welcome this new youth director and this new bumper-crop of summer program youth for Willimantic: 20 young people! Very exciting things happening in “the Shire” this year!

(Image description: on the far side of a gravel driveway, a lush garden awaits. The large hoop house in the far-left corner is dwarfed by greenery. The colorful sign on the right side of the garden entrance introduces visitors to the garden’s layout. Raised beds outside of the fence grow vegetables for community members to take freely. /end description)

GVI

With youth back at the farm for summer program, GVI is busy bringing in quality opportunities to connect to the land, each other, and oneself. This Saturday, they welcome Peace of Royalty to the farm to offer community yoga classes; a chance for the busy life of a city to fall away while participants gently move their bodies in this cultivated green space. Mindfulness, awareness, and care for the self are key pieces of GVI’s work this summer, as is speaking the names of friends in spaces of power and opportunity. Our recent site visit at GVI with state conservationist Tom Morgart highlighted the wisdom of this focus; Rich, one of the partners in Bridgeport’s Park City Harvest, was present for the introductions and the connections between conservation opportunities and both GVI and Park City Harvest flourished. Wisdom in action looks an awful lot like justice, if we let it.

Huneebee Project

The Rosette St installation is coming along beautifully. The split hive is thriving! The split colony was brought to GVI, where it is setting capped queen cells and getting ready to establish itself as a permanent fixture in the community farm. With everything going on at this site (which is only one of many across the city), it’s astounding that Huneebee Project staff and participants were able to sit in on a City-hosted meeting with Representative Rosa DeLauro and USDA Undersecretary for Rural Development Xochitl Torres Small to discuss recent changes in federal funding for food access. While aspects of these changes are good and necessary, other elements of the food system in need of attention were not discussed, which led to deep conversations about how meetings like this are structured and why. All of this as the program wrapped up its last meeting with another New Haven program, Emerge. As is true for all Alliance programs, Huneebee is busy, busy, busy!

Institute for Community Research

Working in partnership with Active City Hartford, ICR researchers are investigating athletic opportunities for teens in Hartford. The goal of this project is to develop easier access for Hartford families to activities that encourage physical motion for youth. While many such programs exist, many families don’t know about them or cannot find them when they need them. ICR is working with area churches, clubs, and organizations to build an easy-access map of activities for youth to enroll in. In addition, new opportunities to share research as a method of community organizing are unfolding. Staff are developing presentations and activities for students in local universities to learn how to use PhotoVoice effectively to organize for social change.

Keney Park Sustainability Project

In their continuing effort to bring their neighbors to the jewel of Hartford, KPSP is focusing their support on the Urban Ecology Wellness Center; offering popups weekly on Friday afternoons. These popups increase access for neighbors to free produce and mindfulness exercises in the setting of one of American’s most beautiful parks. North-east neighborhood residents of Hartford are encouraged to stop in on Fridays between 4-7 pm.

(Image description: a flyer featuring white text on a background image of packaged produce such as green beans, paste tomatoes, and raspberries. The white text reads: Urban Ecology Wellness Center presents UEWC Pop-up; join us for an afternoon of engaging wellness and ecology learning and activities! In a green text box on the right side of the page, text reads: when: Friday, July 8th. Time: 4pm-7pm. Where: Keney Park, Woodland Entrance, corner of 549 Woodland Street and Greenfield Street, Hartford, CT 06112. In partnership with: various funders’ logos are displayed at the bottom of the flyer. /end description)

New Britain ROOTS

As their summer program progresses, ROOTS realizes that some of their accessible raised beds, built to be useful for individuals with back/hip problems or wheelchair users, were still awaiting a home. If you or someone you know in New Britain could use an accessible raised bed, please reach out to ROOTS at this link.

Nonprofit Accountability Group

NAG has been deeply engaged in making this summer meaningful. To make summer camp an experience Hartford youth can access, NAG is offering spaces in their summer youth program (applications due by July 13th, so hurry!). This free experience will offer opportunities for youth to learn about STEM, hiking, camping, and outdoor exploration. If you or anyone you know qualifies and is interested, please fill out the application linked here. Each participant receives a $100 stipend for each outing.

Nourish My Soul

The new farm is coming together. NMS’s summer camp, featuring cooking and nutrition education, farming, and storytelling for youth is as successful as it had been before the pandemic. With the new acreage under NMS’s care, new activities are possible. The crew is waiting for the alignment of three factors: a bright moon, ripened sumac berries, and blossomed primrose to host a beautiful community event: sumac lemonade in the field of glowing primrose. Under moonlight, this opportunistic flower glows with a brilliance all its own. Sumac berries, which ripen at about the same time as primrose bloom, make a cold infusion that tastes like lemonade, without any lemons! This event is sure to become a community favorite.

Solar Youth

While recruiting for summer camp, some Solar Youth participants were caught outside the building they had just left while shots rang out. Participants are safe now, but the impact of that moment won’t leave them. In partnership with Everytown Research and Policy, Solar Youth seeks to inform New Haven and everyone of the impact of “boredom”, of easy access to firearms, and of our own power to keep ourselves and our communities as safe as possible. Reach out to one another. Make sure that your loved ones know that they are loved. Make sure that you remember how important you are. And, if you are able, donate to a youth program today to provide a safe landing, skills, and a potential future for a young person. We are all we’ve got.

Summer of Solutions Hartford

While the garden at Zion St continues to flourish and the Pink Pantry continues to offer free food for neighbors, the SoS crew reminds everyone that any space can be used to grow food. With their milkcrate gardens, reusable shopping grow bags, and potato buckets, SoS challenges anyone to present them with a space where growing food and medicine can’t happen.

(Image description: a yellow plastic bucket hold soil covered with straw from which a single potato stem grows proudly. Behind the bucket, a mirror leans against the side of the house. This mirror helps to redirect sunlight into the bucket to improve the plant’s growth. /end description)

Alliance updates

The summer event is fast approaching! This July 19th from 10-4 at the Wickham Pavilion in Wickham Park, Manchester, CT, the CT Youth Food Program Alliance is hosting its first summer event since the world came to a halt due to public health concerns. This year, the focus is on fun! While the agenda (connected here) features a heavy morning, the afternoon is entirely dedicated to games, unstructured time, and visiting the beautiful ornamental gardens around the park. During the morning hours, Alliance program youth will introduce their programs to those gathered, talk about what they do well, and where they come from. Afterwards, we will all dig into the ways we can reduce our contributions to climate change and make our gardens stronger in the face of the changes this climate will bring. Finally, just after lunch, we will all compete to contribute what we can to a diagram of the food system through youth experiences by creating a causal loop diagram. This figure will help to show how each of the factors in the food system we work on impacts the others, how directing our efforts can drive powerful change, and how each step can be one in the right direction. Lunch will be provided. Please see the flyer here and RSVP (and let me know what accommodations your participants require) here by July 11th!

Hope to see you on the 19th!

June Newsletter

The growing season is well under way! As the school year ends, programs everywhere are stepping into high gear to provide rich summer experiences for young folks in CT cities. The Alliance is swimming with the tide, planning our first summer gathering since the pandemic changed life all around us. In addition, we are welcoming new partners and expanding our network in deep, rich ways. Thank you all for being here! If you know of an urban ag program that will be challenged by our work but is open to learning more about the systems around us, please share this one-pager with them!

Program Updates

Common Ground High School

In partnership with the New Haven Food System Policy Division and the USDA, Common Ground High School is now a major composting site for the City of New Haven. The new system can handle roughly 45,000 tons of compost per year! This new system is a part of the effort to make composting available to all, not just those who can afford a home pick-up and delivery service. Read more about the dedication ceremony here.

Ebony Horsewomen

On June 12 at 6 pm, Ebony Horsewomen launched its film “Horse of a Different Color” on Youtube. This long-awaited film looks at the history of structural racism in the City of Hartford. With summer camps just on the horizon, efforts like this keep adults engaged in the difficult conversations Alliance programs have always kept young folks digging into. Always more work to do!

(Image description: a grayscale image of neatly dressed Black men walking down the street on the opposite side of a sidewalk from white police officers in uniform. While the Black man whose face is visible gazes ahead intently, the white officer, carrying a billy club, glances ahead and his partner at his side glares intently at the Black man. A marquee sign rimmed in red with yellow lightbulbs reads “A poignant look at Hartford’s history”, a white box with black text below the marquee reads “March with the Black Caucus {indecipherable} North End”, and the title of the film, “Horse of a Different Color” sits at the bottom of the image in black and white paint streaks. /End description)

Grow Hartford

The Grow Hartford program has been working to launch new gardening sites around the city. This effort has led to conversations about edible landscapes, environmental preservation/rehabilitation, and even seed saving. With the summer kicking into high gear, community conversations are easing back on the priority list. The May 30th conversation focused on digging into the connections between school food and prison food, yet another pipeline between our schools and the criminal system.

GROW Windham

After yet another successful seedling sale and Third Thursday event in downtown Willimantic, the GROW Windham team is both gearing up to meet the summer program with its usual excitement and working hard to get ready to let one of their own launch off to graduate school. The current youth program coordinator is stepping aside in August to make room for the next great advance for the GROW Windham youth, as each new staff member brings new awareness, history, and joy to the program. In the meantime, everyone is celebrating each day the Mackenzie is around before she heads off to a bright future! To see more about the position opening up, please check here.

GVI

The Green Village Initiative is preparing for a new round of summer interns with a new feature to offer collaborations with: a bee hive! In collaboration with the Huneebee Collective, GVI is playing host to a beehive and a new, full time beekeeper in residence. In addition to adding a whole bunch of bees, they also added a new youth program coordinator and are revitalizing their curriculum to meet the needs of this year’s interns.

(Image description: a flyer featuring the title “Butterflies of Connecticut” on a green header. Beneath are 20 different types of butterflies labeled by their common names. /end description)

Huneebee Project

As you may have guessed, the hive recently places at GVI’s Reservoir Community Farm was placed and will be supervised by the Huneebee Project. The new beekeeper in residence at the farm will be trained by HP as well. They also recently hosted a native bee walk with local expert Tracy Zarrillo from the Agricultural Experiment Station. This walk focused on native bee species, their habitat, health, and the work that they do. Shortly after their bee walk, the first strawberry of the season ripened. Serendipity? Nope. Hard work from a happy bee!

Institute for Community Research

The Youth Action Hub is still hoping to learn from young folks who’ve experienced unstable housing situations to better inform their “virtual drop-in center”, a discord server where young folks can drop in, find resources to stay safe, and offer some of their wisdom to others facing similar situations. In addition, the Community Research Alliance, another ICR program, is seeking pilot project proposals for a $20,000 grant coupling community work with research. To learn more about either of these opportunities, reach out to Danielle.green@icrweb.org

Keney Park Sustainability Project

The drive to get everyone growing their own foodstuffs is strong at KPSP, as always. This year, they launched the growing season with a giveaway. Local friends could enter to pick up herb growing boxes, composters, rain barrels, or seedlings. The giveaway ended quickly, as everything was picked up with no delay! This is how you know the work you are doing is making a difference: everyone wants to grow and limit their waste!

(Image description: a natural wooden box sits on a wooden porch floor outside. Within the wooden box, chives grow and flower. Behind the box in the distance, trees grow close together, backed by a blue sky. /end description)

New Britain ROOTS

In addition to their upcoming fundraiser featuring pizza and beer at a New Britain brewery, the ROOTS team has been remarkably busy. They have continued their workshops at the New Britain Museum of American Art and are now hiring for a new position; a coordinator of food access. To learn more about this position, see here.

Nonprofit Accountability Group

NAG has been, as always, in high gear. Their newsletter has focused on efforts across Hartford to get not only regular food to Hartford families, but also baby formula and diapers. Given the recent shortage of baby formula across the country, it is no surprise that Hartford families (and tiny new people) have been feeling the pinch. Leaning on their partnership with Unity4All (the parent org of Food4U), NAG has been encouraging people to stop by Unity4All’s Formula4Families diaper and formula donation drives to drop off necessities. To learn more, please sign up for NAG membership here.

Nourish My Soul

The NMS family has been getting acquainted with their new farm, laying out beds and identifying ways to get water on-site. Recent meetings with the State Conservationist will hopefully help to solidify those efforts and continue to push Granby closer to NMS’s goals. In order to fill out their new farm, they are asking for any donations of thyme, unusual mints, and other herbs. If you can support or just to see what they are up to, check out their FB page here.

Solar Youth

With summer camps gearing up, the team at Solar Youth has not been able to offer an update.

Summer of Solutions

The SoS Hartford team has been working hard at asking for what they need. Water deliveries, site clean up (especially tire removal) and work by a certified arborist are all high needs, but the needs of a community member come first. They are seeking assistance to get a young family the food and electrical funding they need to stay safe and well. If you or anyone you know can help, please reach out to Son Owens at sonsharae110@gmail.com

(Image description: a flyer on a white background with purple text reads “support mutual aid in Hartford, CT. Summer of Solution is raising COVIS relief funds for local families in need. Our goal is $3000. Donate through cashapp $sos860 or donate dry goods, pantry items, produce, baby formula, and diapers. Contact Sonsharae summerofsolutions860@gmail.com. The Summer of Solutions logo sits in the bottom right corner of the page. /end description)

Alliance Updates

Our summer event is on! For the first time since COVID changed the world, we are looking forward to getting young folks together on July 19th from 10-2 at Wickham Park. We look forward to hearing about what your programs are aiming to do this summer, how you’re going to do it, and what it will mean to your community when you succeed! This event will also allow us the chance to share information about the professional development opportunities we are hosting in November around climate smart agricultural practices. The changes we can make to our work that will make our farms and gardens stronger as it reduces our impacts on climate change, all while keeping our neighbors and ourselves fed. Meet other youth from around the state doing work similar to yours, identify new methods for addressing the needs showing up in your programs and communities, and learn new ways of doing things from experts in the field. The event will feature lunch and is happening at Wickham Park to allow youth to check out other types of gardens. This event has been a highlight of Alliance work for years. Can’t wait to see what this one holds!

(Image description: a wooden moon bridge in a Japanese style garden is reflected in the water below. A small concrete pagoda stands closer to the photographer than the bridge. Green trees surround the back of the image. /end d

May 2022 newsletter

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!

Program Updates

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 info@ebonyhorsewomen.us

(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 info@ebonyhorsewomen.us. 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!

Grow Hartford

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)

GROW Windham

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.

GVI

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!

Huneebee Project

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)

Solar Youth

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.

Alliance Updates

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)

April 2022 Newsletter

Happy spring, everyone, and welcome to Autism Acceptance Month! We at the Alliance hope that you are fed, housed, warm, and able to pursue your dreams as the light returns.

This month’s meeting featured deep conversations about real issues facing our communities, our programs, and us as individuals. As our Climate Smart Ag Practices in CT Cities project unfolds, opportunities and barriers crop into our view that might have slipped by before we had some space to consider them. As the warm weather pulls into Connecticut and the growing season begins, our time gets pulled up into other tasks like planting and growing. Thankfully, these meetings keep the other items in our attention so that we can act, either alone or together, to address them effectively. I am so grateful to be a part of this network.

Program Updates

Common Ground High School

On March 30, Common Ground will host a workshop to help others do what they do: teach in the garden! Intended for teachers and other seeking to teach K-8 youth in the garden, this workshop features a “pay what you will” format. This format for workshops is gaining popularity among food and herbalist circles. All of this while the CGHS team works to raise funds for their Rock-to-Rock earth day team. The Rock to Rock bike race across New Haven has served as the premier fundraising event for food and nature-based organizations in the city for years now, bringing thousands of riders and watchers to New Haven each time. Stop by the CGHS website or socials to sponsor!

(Image description: a green flier featuring red sunflower blooms across the top left of the page boasts the text “teaching in your school garden: Wednesday, March 30, 3:30 – 4:30 pm at Common Ground. Connecting your school garden or outdoor classroom to curriculum” The rain date for this event is Thursday, March 31, and the cost is “pay what you can”. Scattered around the flier are images of smiling children, hands filled with seeds, people looking closely into one another’s hands, and children pouring something onto the ground from blue buckets. /end description)

Ebony Horsewomen

Registration is now open for summer sessions at EHI. Stop by their website or social media pages to learn more and, while you’re there, check out their video series on building strong, effective relationships with horses, the backbone of EHI’s work. Patricia Kelly, the Executive Director of EHI, speaks with wisdom and grace about creating powerful, therapeutic bonds with horses that have proven crucial to healing the impacts of trauma in children and teens. See more at the EHI Youtube page here or at their Instagram page here.

FRESH New London

Springtime work days are under way at FRESH. Gathering at selected gardens across the city means that the program has to coordinate working youth ahead of time. They have been doing this by asking folks to sign up for one site per workday. FRESH manages and/or supervises gardens all across New London, so keeping that many beds in good growing order requires a coordinated effort. This and recruitment for the spring program have kept FRESH staff busy.

Grow Hartford

This youth program has been leading movie night conversations well, tackling difficult topics and opening discussions people rarely get to have. Their most current movie night and community conversation tackles dietary racism as it shows up in school food. Recruitment for the summer employment program, managed in partnership with Lauren Little Edutainment (a powerful urban farm educational organization in Hartford), is well under way, featuring weekly visits from Shanelle (the Grow Hartford youth program coordinator) to local high schools Weaver and Buckley. Work on the Health is Wealth hubs continues, and has built connections with Trinity College, particularly through a documentary about how the covid pandemic has made the impacts of racism on our society obvious in new ways. Youth leadership, urban farming, and mutual aid continues to come together in this program.

 (Image description: Lauren Little, a young Black farmer and entrepreneur with short natural hair, wears a red cloth mask and plaid flannel shirt with green pants and holds a hammer in their left hand to tap a spigot into a maple tree for sap collection. This photo comes from the Lauren Little Edutainment March Maple Tapping Meetup announcement. /end description)

GROW Windham

In addition to their work to build a community of practice with other youth food justice programs across the state through curriculum development and sharing, the GROW Windham program has kept themselves busy with the 46th annual Gardeners’ Gathering conference. This opportunity to connect with local and regional farm- and food-related businesses, organizations, and individuals offers plenty of new thoughts, opportunities, and approaches to urban farming and food justice.

GVI

The youth fellowship program is deep in recruitment phase, with one exciting new member already signed up and two more ready to join. These new leaders offer a great deal of possibility for the program and coordinator, as they already display easily recognizable leadership qualities that the program is developed specifically to enhance. In addition to these new members joining GVI’s work, staff have been connecting with others around the state through GROW Windham’s community of practice development and Grow Hartford’s campaign work. In addition, the program has been connecting deeply with the community around the fight to renew their lease on the first modern farm in Bridgeport. While the City, the landowner and lease holder, reconsiders their previous offer, the community continues to show up, demand their access to fresh food, and remind the City of their will when it comes to GVI. Thankfully, the work this org has done has won them many advocates among their neighbors, so this work will doubtless bear fruit.

Huneebee Project

The need for bees across New Haven and southern CT is driving some powerful action through the Huneebee Project. The Bee Keeper In Residence (BKIR) program for the summer is recruiting new members, and finding that the paperwork needed for young people to accept the jobs offered to them is a mighty hurdle to jump. A success for this program has been their installation of new hives at Quinnipiac University and (soon) at Southern CT State University. Both of these sites in New Haven are funded by the CT Department of Agriculture, as is the effort to install hives, a BKIR, and a tool shed in Bridgeport. More news on this once a site is located and engaged. Please stop by and support their annual fundraiser (which ends on Monday, 4/4) here.

Institute for Community Research

Our new Executive Director is settling into her role with an eye toward change, growth, and strength, as is our new Board President. There are many projects being discussed and picked apart to see if they fit at ICR. Our youth homelessness work through the Youth Action Hub (YAH) continues to strive to make housing accessible for young folks across the country. In other areas, the partnership with HFS, ROOTS, and GVI is leading to intergenerational community conversations between teens and seniors. The project these conversations are a part of is intended to gather information about the experiences of the food system teens and seniors have in common, clarify needs, and assist our neighbors to express these needs for the formulation of the food policy advisory council’s statewide food system plan. In addition, our NRCS funded Climate Smart Agricultural Practices (CSAPs) project is beginning to gain steam. The first CSAPs educational session is being offered in New Britain at the Museum of American Art on April 21, focused on soil health and testing. Register here, and let Kat know if any youth or staff would like to attend, as they can receive transportation support and stipends for this event.

Keney Park Sustainability Project

Breathing in the last clear breaths of down time, KPSP is supporting other local efforts while they finalize their plans for this spring’s planting and programs.

New Britain ROOTS

On March 27th, the New Britain Museum of American Art hosted the first Gardening 101 workshop with Corey Thomas & Joey Listro of New Britain ROOTS. The first of six free workshops, Gardening 101 is a crash course for beginning gardeners. The Art, Health & Wellness Workshop Series with New Britain ROOTS is part of the Greater New Britain Community Seed Library program. Each workshop will explore different gardening topics, including this Gardening 101, seed-saving, propagating, introducing children to the wonder of gardening, and more. Through this series, community members will learn the skills they need to grow their own food while sustaining the community seed library as a community resource. ROOTS received the Catalyst Grant from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain to launch four community seed libraries located at the Berlin, New Britain, Plainville, and Southington public libraries. The Greater New Britain Community Seed Library is a free program committed to empowering community members to feed one another by offering seeds and education. Through the time-honored tradition of seed saving, libraries will encourage participants to celebrate biodiversity and nurture locally adapted plant varieties, all while fostering community resilience and a culture of sharing.

Image description: a projected powerpoint image featuring the text “what to plant?” with a list of crops gardeners might like to grow this season is shown at the front of an audience gathered in a room. A young person wearing a mask and holding note cards stands at the front of the room, facing the audience.

Nonprofit Accountability Group

NAG has been working hard to get groceries into families’ hands. Given the increase in SNAP funding (which is about to end) these families have experienced due to the pandemic, the need for food is slightly reduced, but the need for other basic goods continues. To address this shift in need, NAG has moved from supplying grocery cards to “big box” cards, allowing for neighbors to use the funds in ways that meet their needs. In particular, Walmart cards can be used to obtain groceries, socks, or most anything in between. The effort to identify pathways to secure housing continue, with the renewed call to identify and connect with landlords with good reputations, available housing, and open minds. To contribute to fund- or information-raising efforts at NAG, please head here.

Nourish My Soul

This has been an exciting spring for NMS. They signed a lease on a new indoor program space, have engaged new farmers to utilize the acres of land made available to them, and have leased growing space between the school and town park, increasing their focus on farm to school growing. Their online University has been very active, pulling in new “students” from around the globe. Their success in this approach has encouraged them to ponder launching a similar platform focused on improving adults’ ability to work with youth. This seems like a good way for the community of practice work at GROW Windham to share their work! To learn more about their online University, check it out here.

Solar Youth

Much like KPSP, the Solar Youth crew is weathering the winter as well as any of us can manage. Other than recent discussions with Senator Gary Winfield (listen here), ED Candace Wright and the crew have been laying low to marshal their energy for the coming spring.

Summer of Solutions

The SoS crew has been working hard, publishing fundraisers and seeking donations in kind (such as shelf stable food, toiletries, etc). The upcoming garden bed rental season (opening April 20) is on the horizon, with internships close behind. See their fundraising requests here.

Alliance Updates

Exciting things unfolding for the Alliance! We have the opportunity to attend the Soil Health workshop at the New Britain Museum of American Art on Earth day, April 21 (register here) (please reach out to Kat for transportation and stipend support for this event). In addition, Jane Brawerman, the Executive Director of the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District, has offered an introduction to CSAPs workshop for interested youth and staff, pending sign-ups. To sign up for this workshop, please connect with Kat.

One of the premier events of the year for CT Conservation Districts, our partners in the NRCS project, is the Envirothon competition. This event takes place in May in Tolland, and will be open for youth from the Alliance to tour, see the displays, and ask questions of professionals in conservation science as well as the young competitors on site. To learn more about Envirothon, read here. As always, for support for youth and staff to attend, please reach out to Kat.

Finally, it is time to begin planning for our summer event. Each summer (barring a global pandemic), the Alliance creates opportunities for the young folks we work with to get together, learn from one another, and share their joys, trials, and hopes. Plus we feed them. Would you and your programs’ participants like to guide planning for the event this year? Kat will do all of the phone calling, running, reservation-making, and paying for things, but we need to make this event about what matters to our participants. Transportation, food, and hopefully interpretation services will be covered, but what shall our agenda look like? Reach out to Kat to plan a site visit for event idea generation and planning.

Image description: a garden with a slate stone walkway through the middle and strawberry patch nearest the camera shows bare soil around the base of plants, a practice that leads to water loss, increased weeds, and often poor outcomes. Bird fencing is stretched over wooden posts and beds are labeled with small white garden signs. Tomato cages filled with green plants stre

March 2022 Newsletter

The Spring Equinox is coming soon! Worms are getting ready to nourish our soil, seedlings are reaching for the sun in our homes (or greenhouses), and the birds are coming back, bit by bit. While the human world is struggling, mother nature continues with her plans, unaffected in many ways. May we all catch that rhythm.

The February monthly meeting highlighted partner programs’ needs to connect with other causes in our community. In particular, the need for the Alliance to find ways to support work on housing injustices, fighting evictions, and stopping community gentrification are key to ensuring that our neighbors have access to the foods they want and need in useful, effective ways.

As spring approaches, we have to figure out ways our work can contribute to improving access to good food for everyone, including our unstably housed friends, family, and neighbors. People deserve to eat and have stable, secure housing. How can we support these needs as a collective? A few partner program staff members have agreed to meet outside of Alliance meeting times to begin to find ways to make our work smarter, not harder. Would you join us? Reach out to Kathy.engle-dulac@icrweb.org to share your availability!

Program Updates

Common Ground High School

In the cool days just before the wild work of springtime, Common Ground is deeply engaged in their students’ work. March 1 was the end of the lottery drive for applicants to attend the school, and just the day before that, February 28, Yale University honored six Common Ground students for their environmental and sustainability work. On Saturday, March 6, much of the city of New Haven will celebrate the launch of fundraising efforts for the annual Rock to Rock bicycle journey, funds from which will be donated to the high school. In all, this is a very busy time for Common Ground!

Ebony Horsewomen

A new plan at Ebony Horsewomen features plans for a conference and education center at EHI grounds in Keney Park: the upcoming Mary Fields Museum and Training Space. This exciting new endeavor will house meeting, training, and education spaces as well as banquet facilities. Mary Fields, whom the center is named to honor, was the first African American Star Route US postal service mail carrier. She was born to an enslaved family and lived in Montana with the Ursuline Sisters, an order which established an “Indian boarding school” and mission. You may have heard of her as Stagecoach Mary. Her strength and tenacity, along with her dedication to serve her community, earned her more respect than most women enjoyed in her day. The new museum will focus on African American experiences, history, and impact during the period of Westward Expansion, as well as African American influence and contributions in history, economics, and society after the American Civil War. More to come as progress on the project continues.

(Image Description: Mary Field, a robust, dark skinned woman, dressed in long dress and pinafore with a hat, stands outside a white building with a bank of windows. She is shown holding a full white sack, likely of flour or some other grocery item, in her left arm, while her right hand is clasped over her abdomen. She looks at the camera, eyes narrowed against the sun. End description.)

FRESH New London

The New London crew are heading into spring with lots on their to-do lists. The home delivery of grow boxes (raised planting beds) program is open for registration again, as is the CSA program. The grow boxes program sells a limited number of home-delivered boxes (with or without soil, determined by price) and offers consultation throughout the year to maximize buyers’ success. The CSA program offers small and large shares filled with New London-grown produce at either a set rate or on a sliding scale. Limited numbers of each available through April 1. FRESH’s colorful flyers are printed in both Spanish and English to reach all of their community.

Grow Hartford

Young folks in the Grow Hartford youth program have been focused and are thriving in many ways. Their youth ambassador program participant from Farmington has made good progress on their efforts to get an Halal station in the school cafeteria, proving that cultural responsiveness to dietary needs is far from impossible in school settings. Young participants have also been facilitating community conversations around the shape, size, and effectiveness of the school to prison pipeline as they see it, talking with former incarcerated people about their experiences and sharing what they live, know, and can do to make lives better today and moving forward. In addition, the Health is Wealth stations are continuing to pop up and help meet the needs of our neighbors. Connecting with mutual aid efforts allows for not only information sharing, but also expanding the work this program is doing to meet basic needs on the ground.

GROW Windham

The partnership with Levo International is allowing Windham Youth CORE folks to expand their connections with community through setups of hydroponic stations throughout Windham. GROW Windham has been focusing on meeting community needs through this time of year next year, and is hosting season extension workshops on April 2 and 9. Part of their focus in these workshops is not only exchanging knowledge about how to grow in early spring and late fall, but also determining is a space is right for growing, what it needs, and getting those tools and materials into the hands of people trying to feed themselves from their ground. Finally, the Community Food Network has received funding from the USDA to evaluate and establish new programs to meet the food needs of Windham and New London communities. They are gathering surveys from people across their region of focus to determine what needs they can realistically meet, in partnership with folks across their town and New London. Stay tuned to learn more!

(Image description: two young people pull materials from a large plastic bag to populate a hydroponic system, lit with pink grow lights. End description.)

GVI

Green Village Initiative has been hard at work seeking specifically to preserve their farm lease. The Reservoir Community Farm was the only urban farm in the city of Bridgeport, built on land leased from the City. Recently, the GVI crew has been hard at work to mobilize their community to advocate for renewing the lease to the GVI organization so that the farm could continue to meet their community’s need for fresh, local foods. The City Hall meeting to determine the fate of this lease was on February 22. No word on how it went, yet. However, regardless of the outcome, the work continues apace. Last week, GVI hosted an event to increase access to vending at farmers markets for new businesses hosted by Chef Raquel of A Pinch of Salt (those who attended the GVI CRAFT day event will remember Chef Raquel’s fabulous presentation and ridiculously good lunch). This week, they are hosting a seed starting event with Farmer Cat. Check their website for more details.

(Image description: blue background on a flyer featuring “Seeding Workshop with Farmer Cat” in black text. An image of new seedlings poking through the soil is centered, with images of seeds in smaller frames at the bottom of the page. Light blue bubbles feature text sharing the address (135 Clarence St., Tuesday 3/8 at 5:30. Help start seeds for GVI’s programs and take home pots for your own garden! ” on the left, another sharing the text “please wear a mask and dress warm so the windows can stay open!” on the right). End description.

Huneebee Project

This organization is moving up in the world, and bringing as many young folks with them as they can manage. They have moved into new office space, and are conducting as much outreach as they can manage to recruit for their upcoming beekeeper in residence training cohort. Each beekeeper in residence takes care of a hive near their home, ensuring the health and wellness of the bees and their surroundings (it’s all connected, after all!). Beekeepers in residence are paid for their time and the expertise they gain throughout the trainings. Their young staff member, Savannah, has taken the lead on heading development and social event building for the project. Savannah also joined us for our monthly meeting this month. It was fantastic to have a young person join us, and hopefully next month she won’t be alone!

Institute for Community Research

ICR is facing some exciting times, just like the rest of the world. Our Executive Director, Peg Weeks, is stepping down in her role to spend more time with her family. In response, Dr. Jianghong Li (MD and PhD) is stepping into Dr. Weeks’ ED role, making room for Peg to act as senior scientist when she returns to ICR after some family time. This change means that many administrative elements of ICR are changing, with conversations about cooperative leadership styles, expanding community connections, and new approaches to development happening frequently. In line with those conversations, the food projects at ICR have been and continue to shift to accommodate new structures and, hopefully soon, new staff! While our Climate Smart Agriculture Practices project with area Conservation District Offices are being planned, new conversations with culinary collaboratives, urban farmers, and food entrepreneurs, as well as people focused on addressing and mitigating climate change AND fighting evictions and addressing housing injustices grow and expand. To continue to foster the interconnectedness of all our projects here, ICR is asking folks in the food projects if they would be willing and able to connect with our Youth Action Hub, a collective of young researchers delving into the problems unstably housed young people face in CT. They have already contributed to efforts to make 211 more useful to young people and now they are looking to understand how a virtual drop in center (on Discord) could help young folks find the services they need. If you are able to help on this, please reach out to Heather at heather.mosher@icrweb.org In addition, housing issues have come to threaten some of our Alliance members. If you are able to join a conversation so we can explore what we can do to address this, please reach out to Kathy.engle-dulac@icrweb.org and we will schedule meeting times. All of our basic needs are connected, and as humans, we all deserve to have those needs met.

(Image description: a painting depicting multi-colored hands reaching up to touch a basketball. On its surface there is an image reminiscent of the North American continent {Turtle Island} in soft purple, and a white dove flies by on the right-hand side of the ball’s surface. End description.)

Keney Park Sustainability Project

KPSP is in the deepest part of their down season. Herb, the Executive Director, is taking some time to refuel. Updates from KPSP will be featured in next month’s newsletter!

New Britain ROOTS

ROOTS has hired a new garden caretaker. Robert brings a wealth of knowledge in urban agriculture, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and seed saving. Welcome, Robert!

Nonprofit Accountability Group

NAG has been running hard to keep up with community needs. Of particular interest to Alliance programs may be NAG’s Fresh and Monthly (FAM) grocery program. As it wraps up its first year, the FAM programs are currently helping nine families get groceries, and have “graduated” two families, spending just shy of $5500 to get food onto families’ tables. NAG shares more about their mutual aid efforts here.

Nourish My Soul

In an effort to break the economic choke-hold on the food system, Nourish My Soul has been focusing on healthy eating through an intuitive lens: learning to listen to our bodies’ cues and eat what it needs when it needs it, rather than what others tell us it needs at the times they prescribe it. This form of self-care is gaining popularity through “Healthy at Any Size” and other body-positivity circles. By focusing on physical needs (including water!), this approach keeps the attention on the individual, recognizing that the size and shape of one’s body is good however it presents itself!

 (Image description: a brown flyer features words in white and peach. The title, Intuitive Eating Checklist, tops the page, followed by questions to ask oneself. These questions are: when was the last time I ate? Am I eating enough calories? Did I get enough sleep/rest? Am I under stress? Did I drink enough water? Am I eating with my menstrual cycle? Am I using food to escape an uncomfortable emotion? What is it that I desire in this moment? What do I appreciate about my body? The bottom of the page features the org name, Nourish My Soul, in gray. End description.)

Solar Youth

On February 11, Solar Youth participated in a listening session for New Haven residents. The CT Against Gun Violence Education Fund and the City of New Haven sought community perspectives and experiences as they develop their plans for an Office of Gun Violence Prevention in the City. Each participating resident received a gift card to compensate them for their time. This approach helps to increase the chances that policies and other decisions made in the formation of this new office will come closer to meeting the needs of people living in New Haven, ideally. Gun violence and food access may not seem like deeply entwined concerns, but there are multiple overlapping factors between these two issues; enough that they occur in many of the same places, impacting the same people, and having similar effects on the quality of life people can enjoy. Thank you for showing up, Solar Youth!

Summer of Solutions

In this calm-before-the-planting-storm season, Summer of Solutions continues to work to get food and basic needs to their community. Throughout February, they worked to increase donations as a part of celebrating Black History Month. Hopefully they were successful!

Alliance Updates

Negotiations are *still* under way with the NRCS and Grants Management at the USDA for the funds to cover our Climate Smart Agriculture education sessions. As soon as those funds are released, we will look to open access to workshops with the Conservation Districts around CT so that each program can learn what it can to decrease their contributions to climate change and maximize their community’s resilience in the face of a changing climate. As a reminder, these funds will cover the costs of these workshops, pay each youth and staff member to participate, and covers three events for youth to engage with: the Conservation Districts’ Envirothon event, a career day event in the fall, and our Alliance Summer Gathering. As always, this summer event will bring young folks from across the state together to share their experiences working to make the food system more just and equitable.

The interest in the work you are doing out there is enormous! The State Conservationist, Thomas Morgart, is eager to meet with as many programs as possible, tour their sites, and learn more about what you are doing and how he can funnel federal funds to help.  Directors of the state’s Conservation District Offices are eager to meet and work with you all, and I have shared with them the list of concerns you are hoping to learn more about; everything from irrigation to pest and disease identification and management through the Climate Smart lens. Forward progress, in time. We are not alone!

Assessing Interest:

As you know, ICR is a research institute. We dedicate our time to learning what our neighbors want to do something about, helping them understand how to effectively gather information about that topic, and use the information they gather from their lived experiences and those of their neighbors to frame their drive toward action. You may have noticed that my language in recent meetings and these newsletters is featuring more and more reference to climate change. In a time when the news is filled with doom and legitimate gloom, when all we can do seems like so little, doing something where we are means everything. Climate change is a huge issue with millions of drivers, but growing food in our communities, localizing the food system in ways the meet our and our neighbors’ needs, is one thing we can and should do. I have learned that from you all. Now, I hope you might share your perspectives on climate change beyond growing good, local, culturally appropriate food with me. Research is one of the few ways I am able to “chop wood and carry water”, as the saying goes. I hope you will allow me to chop this wood and carry this water with you all. As progress continues on this effort, I will keep you in the loop, if you are interested.

Between food access and housing access, we are fighting injustice on crucial, massive fronts by doing what we can where we are. You all are amazing every day, even when you might feel otherwise. I hope you can find ways to be good to you today, tomorrow, and in perpetuity. Believe me, you ALL have more than earned it!

(Image description: a sunflower in a green field on a sunny day. End description)

February 2022 Newsletter

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.

January Meeting

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)

Ebony Horsewomen

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!

Grow Hartford

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.)

GROW Windham

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.

GVI

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.)

Huneebee Project

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).

Solar Youth

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.

Alliance Meetings

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.

Young Farmers and Climate Smart Agriculture Practices in CT Cities: Press Release

The USDA shared their press release announcing our partnership in the Racial Justice and Equity grant with our program partnering with area Conservation District Offices. We are the only CT-specific partner named, so we have some weight to carry! This is an exciting opportunity for us to show the country what good work by young folks in CT cities looks like so that they can do this kind of good work, too. Good work, everyone, and let’s get to it!

See the USDA press release here.

“MLK Youthspace: Art as Wellness” Workshop coming up

Shared in whole from Disha Patel, our partner at Common Ground High School:

Created by and for middle and high school young adults, this virtual space is open to young people interested in connecting with their peers to learn and talk about mental wellness in families of color. Hosted with leadership from Students for Educational Justice, this Zoom meeting will have a political education segment on mental health, removing police presence in schools, and the legacy of Dr. King. Choose either a spoken word workshop hosted by The Word and teaching artists Tahj Galberth and Aaron Jafferis, or a visual arts workshop facilitated by teaching artist Jadie Meprivert.

Pre-registration and permission from a parent or guardian are required by Friday, January 14th. Peabody staff will follow up with parent or guardian to complete the permission form once the pre-registration is complete.

Register here!