2nd annual Ambassador Program will train 20 residents in urban food-growing techniques in exchange for
volunteer service in urban gardens.

SOMERVILLE – The City of Somerville and Green City Growers, a Somerville-based urban agriculture company, are seeking applicants for the 2014 Urban Agriculture Ambassador program, a community-based food education initiative. The program, which started as a pilot in 2013, will train 20 residents in urban growing techniques in exchange for 30 hours of volunteer service in garden projects across the City.

The mission of this innovative partnership and curriculum is to empower knowledge sharing within the community about growing food in the urban environment, increase access to healthy food and nutrition education, and provide opportunities for local economic activity and neighborhood-based leadership and social interaction. Taking place on four consecutive Saturdays in March and April (March 29, and April 5, 12, and 19), the course will cover topics including building raised beds, planting and harvesting, troubleshooting pests, and an introduction to bee- and chicken-keeping. Local experts will be brought in for presentations throughout the month-long course and several hands-on field visits will be coordinated during the summer and fall.

In exchange for the training, the residents will be asked to volunteer for at least 30 hours at a Somerville garden project. Last year, eight sites were identified as “hosts” and volunteers were then matched to projects according to preferences, skills and location. The organizations who participated in the 2013 pilot included The Growing Center; Groundwork Somerville; The Walnut Street Center; East Somerville Community School; The Healey School; Shape Up Somerville; The Welcome Project; and The Council on Aging. The program is also seeking organizations and garden projects for its 2014 season.

Interested community groups should contact Adrianne Schaefer-Borrego, the Program Coordinator for more information at urbanagambassadors@gmail.com.

This program showcases the significant focus by the Mayor’s Office and partner community groups on food systems and creative growing techniques. In 2012, Somerville was the first city to pass a zoning ordinance allowing urban growing, as well as bee- and chicken-keeping. The Growing Center, Groundwork Somerville, and Green City Growers are just some of the many organizations and businesses dedicated to supporting a local food system and economy.

The program is open to all Somerville residents and the deadline for submitting applications is March 10. Applications are available at all three branches of the Somerville Library, or by emailing urbanagambassadors@gmail.com.

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