By Jana L. Pickart
Jana L. Pickart moved to JP a year ago and currently helps lead the “Resiliency Measures Working Group” at JPNET.
The second category of focus in the Better Future Project’s 2011 The State of the Movement report is sustainable food systems or the innovative ways that local residents in the New England region keep our production and consumption practices accountable to our communities. From CSAs, community gardens, and farmers markets to restaurants that source local produce (e.g. Centre Street Café in Jamaica Plain), projects across the region are focused on re-centering food production and consumption at the local level.
Sourcing local-level knowledge is key. Valuing cultural diversity is a core tenet in the Transition Town Movement, which aims to shift our communities away from our dependence on fossil fuels and towards community resilience. But what is community? Who is included?
Ask Nuestras Raices in Holyoke, MA and they’ll tell you that creating community means supporting immigrant populations in their transition to sustainable “agri-cultural” livelihoods in the U.S. Nuestras Raices, founded by migrant farmers from Puerto Rico in 1992, rents small farm plots on La Finca/The Farm to mainly Puerto Rican immigrants so they can use their cultural cultivation techniques to live off the land like they did in their home communities. They also provide small loans, training, and market assistance so farmers can graduate onto their own farms someday.
In Worcester, MA, at New Lands Farm, Lutheran Social Services launched a refugee farmer collective in 2008 after assisting many refugees who had agricultural backgrounds and asked to have a place where they could work on farming their own land. New Lands Farm now provides refugees with individual and communal plots where they grow produce for their families and communities. They also provide site-specific training so the refugees can learn about the local environment including: the seasons, native plants, pests, and seed sourcing.
To include the largely Somali-Bantu population of resettled refugees in the area, Cultivating Community, based in Portland, Maine and also active in Lewiston, provides farm plots and farmer trainings. They also provide opportunities for the refugees to cultivate and sell produce at local farmers markets and work towards developing their own “farm-based enterprises.”
Valuing cultural diversity and including immigrants and refugees in sustainable livelihood development creates a richer, more stable food system that is relevant to all residents. For more information on these programs and how you can be involved, check out:
Nuestras Raices, www.nuestras-raices.org
New Lands Farm, www.lssne.org/NewLandsFarm.aspx
Cultivating Community, www.cultivatingcommunity.org