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  • An Open Letter to Michelle Obama

    Dear Michelle Obama,

    Congratulations on choosing to plant a food garden on the White House grounds.  Now imagine that mini-farm on the White House grounds being tended by youth from Washington DC!  Give young people the opportunity to contribute purposefully to their community by growing food for the hungry and caring for the land. The Food Project has been doing this for almost 20 years in the Boston area. What a great way to inspire other youth across the USA to literally see that the fruits of their labor can create change in their own communities.

    Hire a teenage farmer and challenge all of us to engage in a new way of thinking, acting, and being. Teens from across the district, together as a team, will plant the seeds of cooperation, community and pride as they grow, harvest and distribute the bounty of their shared labor. We believe in the ability to inform a new generation of leaders by placing teens in responsible roles, with deeply meaningful work.

    The Food Project has been guided by the belief that community is created by providing common ground - in toiling, harvesting and sharing of the bounty.   We celebrate collaboration, cooperation and the value of a hard day’s work. A White House Garden tended by teens from across the city’s social, racial and economic neighborhoods can inspire a youth movement across the land.

    When youth experience the value of labor and service while building a diverse and effective community they discover and develop their talents, make friends and test themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. Inviting youth to serve and to take risks offers a chance to see oneself and the world differently and encourages the same in each volunteer, neighbor, and friend.

    Thank you.

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    Now What? Seven Priorities for the Food Movement in the Age of Obama and Why Young People Will Lead the Way

    by Anim Steel

    “Is a sustainable food strategy on Obama’s menu?” asked Derrick Jackson in a December 30, 2008 Boston Globe column.  Don’t depend on it, he concluded, despite some pretty encouraging signs from the Obama camp.  The new president will face serious “blowback” from the agribusiness industry, he noted.  That’s a lobby that Michael Pollan described as the second most powerful in DC.

    So if Obama doesn’t lead the way, who will?  And even if he proves to be a champion of sustainable food policy, what will bridge the enormous gap between vision and reality? What will force revolutionary change all the way from Capitol Hill to the corner store?

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    Leading Food Advocates To Visit Farmworker Community Dubbed “Ground Zero for Modern Slavery"

    Immokalee, FL – On Wednesday, March 4th, a dozen prominent authors, sustainable food advocates, and small farmers participated in a day-long delegation to Immokalee, Florida witnessing firsthand the miserable living and working conditions of migrant farmworkers. Delegates spent the day with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a nationally recognized farmworker organization at the forefront of fighting to improve farmworkers’ sub-poverty wages; combating forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry; and demanding that corporate food retailers use their market power to ensure more humane labor standards from their Florida tomato suppliers.

    Who was there?  Anim Steel, Director of National Programs, The Food Project

    Frances Moore Lappé, Author, Diet for a Small Planet; Raj Patel, Author, Stuffed and Starved; Josh Viertel, President, Slow Food USA; Bill Ayres, Executive Director, World Hunger Year; Ben Burkett, President, National Family Farm Coalition; Mike Moon, Family Farm Defenders;
    Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director, Food First/Institute for Development Policy;
    LaDonna Redmond, President & CEO, Institute for Community Resource Development;
    Tom Philpott, Food Editor and Columnist, Grist.org; Jim Goodman, Organic Farmer;

    Farmworkers who pick tomatoes for the corporate food industry are among the country’s least paid, least protected workers. They earn about 45 cents for every 32-lb. bucket of tomatoes they pick – a rate that has not changed significantly in 30 years – working from dusk to dawn without the right to overtime pay. They receive no benefits and are excluded from the right to organize. In the most extreme cases, captive workers are held against their will by their employers through threats or violence – including beatings, shootings, and pistol-whippings.

    There have been seven federal prosecutions by the Department of Justice for forced labor in the Florida agricultural industry in the past ten years, involving well over one thousand farmworkers.

    This is the first-ever delegation of sustainable food advocates to Immokalee. The delegation is hosted by Just Harvest USA, a national organization that aims to build a more just and sustainable food system with a focus on establishing fair wages, humane working conditions, and fundamental rights for farmworkers. They achieve this through broad public education about the conditions in which our food is produced and mobilizing support for farmworker-led and other grassroots campaigns.

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    What do those farmers do in the winter?

    onion seedlings
    onion seedlings
    By Kate Mrozicki, Farm CSA Manager

    Yes, we farmers do work some in the winter.  Now it is care for the inanimate object on the farm, not the vegetables, that occupies our time. Coming home from a day of wrenches and repairs I found an old essay by E. B. White that summed up how I was feeling: “farming is about twenty per cent agriculture and eighty per cent mending something that has got busted. Farming is a sort of glorified repair job.“ That is certainly how it seems at this time of year when our hands are more likely to be smeared with tractor grease than creased with soil. Fix-it projects vie for our attention before the season begins- the water hydrant that dribbles when it should gush, the door that swings at an awkward angle, the green house heater that stubbornly refuses to fire up, the tractor tire that goes flat as soon as it awakens from its winter slumber. Fluids need changing and filters need cleaning. We are becoming quite fond of our liquid wrench, sledgehammers and ratchets. Sometimes the problems require a much softer touch. That heater malfunction turned out to be more of a zoning than a mechanical issue. Generations of birds had squeezed through the narrow grate meant to keep them out and taken up residence in the chimney, eventually cutting our heater off from the oxygen supply required for combustion. A tall ladder and a long stick were all it took to evict the tenants and their nests, allowing the heater to rumble to life again. Luckily, just as we were beginning to feel more like mechanics than farmers, seeding time arrived and now the neon green of emergent onions brightens our lives. Once again we have living things to care for, vegetables to cultivate, dinner to grow.

     

    by Kate Mrozicki, Farm CSA Manager

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    Urban Education Workshops

    Neighborhood Tours

    The Urban Education and Outreach (UEO) interns are responsible for providing community members and visiting groups tours of our urban farmland and about the history of the Dudley neighborhood where we work. Along with workshops, these neighborhood tours serve as an opportunity for interns to practice public speaking and learn about a variety of topics and issues.


    Through our public education programs we remediate lead-contamined gardens and mentor backyard gardeners in providing safe, delicious, and healthy food for their families.

    List of Youth Organizations

    This is a listing of farming and gardening organizations that include youth programming as some part of their mission; many have it as their main objective.

     

    Added Value
    Brooklyn, NY
    www.added-value.org
    Added Value has youth working 17 hours a week to improve the neighborhood by creating and operating a socially responsible urban farming enterprise. They have founded the Red Hook Farmers’ Market and a Community Advisory Council to support their efforts in neighborhood improvement and youth development.

    Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE)
    Roxbury, MA
    www.ace-ej.org/
    ACE works support lower-income communities and people of color to work towards environmental justice and a healthy environment for all people. They support youth working on environmental justice initiatives through an internship program and curriculum.

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    Soil Testing and Remediation

    To assess the amount of lead in a gardener’s soil, we soil test in their gardens. To date, we have completed soil tests on 113 gardens within the Dudley Street community and 12 from the Bowdoin and Draper Street neighborhoods. 82% of these gardens tested have lead concentrations above the MA-DEP reportable limit of 400 ppm. The results of these soil tests are maintained in a database of gardens, started in 2000. Soil testing is a process of collecting soil from the garden and then bringing the soil to a lab at Wellesley College where we can scan it for lead content. After testing the soil we return the results to the gardener and help them analyze them. Often parts of a garden are significantly more contaminated than other sections. Along the drip line of a house is a common place for high lead contamination. In these cases, we advise gardeners to grow in the less contaminated areas, and if they are to grow near the drip line they should try and grow plants such as tomatoes or squash that do not accumulate lead in the same way that leafy greens would.

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    CSA Produce List

    We used to maintain a list of produce available by month. However, we've found that due to changes in conditions from season to season, this lead to more confusion and disappointment than it was worth.

    Rest assured that our farmers will continue to provide the best produce they can for your shares!

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    The Food Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

    Tax ID: 04-3262532

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