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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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)
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.
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.
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)
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!