When Honorio Correia passed away on December 29 at the age of 89, The Food Project lost one of its treasured partners. When TFP first moved to the Dudley neighborhood, Honario served as a key liaison between the organization and community members, and especially the population of Cape Verdean growers in Dudley. “He was a very community-minded individual, with a deep passion for growing and sharing food,” said Danielle Andrews, Dudley Farm Manager.
Honorio was born in Cape Verde in 1930. He moved to Portugal in 1974 and to Boston in 1981. He was a longtime grower in the Dudley neighborhood, with a big garden right across the road from the Dudley Greenhouse. In August, if you stood in the middle of the garden, you would be so surrounded by corn and beans that you wouldn’t even be able to see the street. There were no rows, so to the untrained eye, it could look like chaos. But in fact, it was organized by the Three Sisters method of growing corn, beans, and squash together, remembered Cassandria Campbell, who worked as a Food Project youth from 1999 to 2003. “It was just very smart urban growing,” she said. “The amount of food he was able to produce was amazing.”
From the very beginning of TFP’s work in Dudley, Honorio was a huge asset. He organized growers in the community section of the West Cottage farm, helped with the Dudley Market, was involved in the planning process for the Dudley greenhouse, and worked with the former Food Project Urban Education and Outreach program staff to pass agricultural knowledge onto the new generation.
“He loved to brainstorm about new people we could connect to,” Danielle said. “He also really helped us to think about how to grow more shell beans and to think differently about the timing of the plantings.”
Dan Brabander, a geochemist at Wellesley College who did work in the neighborhood, collaborated with Honorio on and off since 2002. He remembers seeing how food production was such an important facet of life for Honorio. “A really nice image I have of him and his family is them sitting on the porch or in the driveway and husking beans,” Dan said. “It’s not just the growing part, it’s the communal piece of taking that harvest and transforming it into something that can be shared.”
In 2006, Dan and his colleagues published a paper that found that 88% of the 103 urban gardens they tested in Roxbury and Dorchester contained lead above the limit that the EPA deems to be safe. The contamination mostly stemmed from lead paint and the combustion of leaded gasoline. Dudley’s problems with lead were worsened because of the widespread arson that took place in the area in the 1980s.
Honorio was key in passing this information around the neighborhood. TFP’s Build-A-Garden effort came out of the realization that the base soil in the area was not safe to garden in.“The education piece is big,” Dan said. “Having partners like Honario, it meant more coming from him saying this is what you have to do to garden safely.”
When Cassandria was a teenager working at The Food Project, she was inspired by Honorio’s dedication to his community — a lesson she has carried with her as she founded her own catering company, Fresh Food Generation, with another Food Project alum.
“Honorio, to me, represents someone who lived a good life,” she said. “When I think about the life I want to life, it’s taking care of the other people in my community. It’s leading by example.”