When Allison Meierding first moved to JP, she wanted to get involved in the community but wasn’t sure where to start. She came to a JP NET potluck in the Fall of 2012, “just to check it out,” she says.
At the meeting Allison heard people talking about starting a food forest, something she had always been interested in. “I was like, wow!” she says. “These people have a ton of enthusiasm. They might actually do this!”
After the potluck JP NET staffer Orion Kriegman pulled together people interested in the idea. Allison and a handful of others showed up to the first meeting of what became the Boston Food Forest Coalition. They scouted for sites, planted food, spread the word and held countless potlucks. Allison eventually joined the Community Leaders Fellowship, where she spent eight hours per week driving the project forward with a team of others.
Over the years “folks have come and gone, according to other things going on in their lives,” explains Allison. “We’ve been lucky to have a steady stream of committed people for well over three years now. And each person who has been involved has contributed something unique.”
That steady stream of people has gotten a lot done. Today, the Food Forest serves as a non-pro t community land trust for forest gardens in Dorchester, JP, East Boston, the West End, and Mattapan. They produce hundreds of pounds of free food per year that go directly to neighbors.
Like every JP NET project, the Food Forest has provided a concrete way for neighbors to contribute to the resilience of our community. It has now “spun off” from JP NET, engaging its own volunteers and running its own operations. JP NET considers it a smash success. (Read more about it at http://bostonfoodforest.org.)
“It’s funny to think that the Food Forest used to be just a glimmer in my eye—well really a glimmer in a few people’s eyes,” says Allison. “But without JP NET, no one would have brought us together or helped us make it happen. All our great ideas, great energy, great values, wouldn’t have amounted to anything.”
“Groups like JP NET have to exist to turn community ideas into reality,” she continues.
Projects like the BFFC are why JP NET specializes in helping projects find their own legs. Communities are often full of individuals with great ideas for growing more food, creating more local energy, supporting small businesses or bridging race and class divides. Often, all that is missing is a small amount of infrastructure for outreach, project management, and morale-boosting. JP NET thrives on providing this type of support through our “Community Project Incubator.”
“It really is a win-win,” says Allison. “The more people and projects who get connected with JP NET’s Incubator, the better for everyone.”