On Tuesday, September 18, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Commissioner of Agriculture Greg Watson joined representatives from The Food Project (TFP), the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), and Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) to tour urban agriculture initiatives in Boston's Dudley Street neighborhood. The group visited The Food Project's urban farm on West Cottage Street, the Dudley Greenhouse on Brook Avenue, and several community gardens on Brook Avenue. Along the way, Governor Patrick chatted with neighborhood growers about their gardens, what they are growing, and why gardening is important to them. "It was exciting to see how much of an agriculture supporter our governor is," remarked TFP Director of Community Programs Brandy Brooks, “and how knowledgeable and interested he is [in urban agriculture].
After their tour, the group settled down for a home-cooked meal in the Dudley Greenhouse. TFP interns Ian Chin and Anna McColgan used vegetables harvested fresh from TFP's farms in the Dudley neighborhood to prepare a hearty meal of pulled chicken with barbeque sauce, beet greens, and eggplant; roasted potatoes and zucchini with basil and pimento aioli; salad with charred tomato vinaigrette; and spiced, stewed figs rolled in walnuts. While they ate, Ian, Anna, and DSNI youth Marva chatted with the governor about their experiences working with organizations in the Dudley Street area.
The area that the governor and commissioner of agriculture explored is quickly transforming into what partners in the community are calling the "Dudley Real Food Hub." A real food hub is an area where resources are concentrated to support the health of children and families through better access to healthy food. Ideally, Dudley Street itself will transform into a sort of "real food row" where residents and visitors will see a myriad of evidence of people growing, selling, preparing, sharing, and celebrating real food. Already, in the stretch explored during last Tuesday's tour, there is an urban farm, a community greenhouse, several community garden plots, two large private gardens, and 21 raised bed gardens. "It is amazing to think that this intensity of urban agriculture [exists] on one little street in Dorchester," says Brooks.
For The Food Project and other urban agriculture organizations, the governor's visit was an important chance to remind policymakers that agriculture does not happen only in rural and suburban communities. While it is often easy to focus on the agricultural products and resources of Massachusetts' rural communities, urban areas can also be vibrant centers of production. According to Brooks, "The people here are not just service recipients; these are communities that can also produce [food] for themselves and other people."
For an inside look at Governor Patrick's visit to the Dudley Hub, check out this video aired by BNN News: