SOMERVILLE – On Monday, June 9, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone and Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner Greg Watson will join Groundwork Somerville, the Somerville Public Schools. Shape Up Somerville and the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) Garden Institute to cut the ribbon on two exciting new urban agriculture initiatives in the City of Somerville, creating a “Food Production and Distribution Triangle” connecting the newly created Somerville Innovation Farm, a hydroponics based learning farm at the Edgerly School, the South Street Farm, and the mobile farmers market, which services food desserts and low income residents.
The Triangle is a “learn, grow, sell” model for Somerville students: students learn about STEM through hydroponic growing, grow fruits and vegetables with the help of the Groundwork Somerville Green Team at the South Street Farm, and sell the produce at Somerville’s mobile farmers market in one of its three locations: Mystic Housing; Clarendon Hill Housing; and the Council on Aging.
The project comes on the heels of an announcement by Governor Deval Patrick’s Administration in Feburary launching one of the nation’s first state-funded urban farming initiatives. Somerville received $36,877 to support the construction of a new raised bed and greenhouse at South Street Farm, as well as the installation of a new hydroponics growing system at the Edgerly School.
“Growing up in Somerville, urban agriculture was simply neighbors sharing some of their prized tomatoes or freshly grown basil. Supporting urban agriculture today is a return to those roots,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Shape Up Somerville has grown from a childhood obesity intervention study to a community-wide strategy to support and encourage opportunities for active living and healthy eating, and through our innovative urban agriculture initiative and the first-of-its-kind ordinance in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, we are educating even our youngest residents about the importance of understanding and connecting with the source of your foods. This is an exciting and important expansion into our public schools and beyond.”
“It is beneficial to all students and families that our students learn as much as possible about growing, preparing, and of course eating healthy, fresh food,” said Superintendent of Schools, Tony Pierantozzi. “Through the partnerships in this initiative we are advancing the knowledge of our students, and therefore all members of our community about healthy food choices. We are excited to build on the successful school garden program with Groundwork Somerville, and continue Somerville’s progressive policies on urban agriculture and urban farming.”
“The expansion of South Street Farm is an example of a successful partnership across Somerville’s public, private and nonprofit sectors,” said Chris Mancini, Excecutive Director of Groundwork Somerville. “It would have been impossible without the enthusiastic participation of everyone involved, and the funding from the Urban Ag grants. The results are two thriving urban oasis providing food for the community, education for students and jobs for youth. Groundwork is proud to be stewards South Street Farm and to work Somerville youth, with Shape Up Somerville program and STEM Garden Institute to get food and education into people’s minds and mouths.”
Events celebrating the grant award and program expansion will be held on Monday, June 9, as follows:
• 2 p.m.: Farm Raising at the Somerville Innovation Farm, Edgerly School (8 Bonair St.)
• 3 p.m.: Ribbon Cutting at the South Street Farm (138 South St.)
Administered by the state Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR), the Urban Agricultural Pilot grants encourage and facilitate more cities to grow their own food. The program will address some of the challenges facing urban farmers, such as suitable land, confined space, limited sunlight, nutrient-poor soils, high start-up costs, restrictive zoning rules and lack of farming experience and business training.
The program is also designed to build community partnerships, increase access to fresh, nutritious food for urban residents at risk for diet-related chronic diseases and promote viable farming methods and local initiatives that other cities can replicate and benefit from.
For more information on the City of Somerville’s Urban Agriculture initiative, visit www. http://somervilleurbanag.tumblr.com.