Southside Community Land Trust’s comprehensive urban agriculture programs have made many meaningful and lasting impacts on Greater Providence for nearly three decades. Today, the organization has grown to serve over 8,500 residents each year with community gardens, youth education programs, workshops, farmland, community events such as the Plant Sale and City Fest, and city-wide urban agriculture initiatives.
Partnerships between individuals from diverse backgrounds have been at the core of Southside Community Land Trust’s history, from the organization’s beginning to our work today. Currently, over 75% of our program participants are people of color. Many of those who participate in our community gardening programs are first or second generation immigrants from Laos, Cambodia, or Vietnam, with others coming from a variety of African and Central American countries such as Liberia, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
How did Southside Community Land Trust begin?
In 1981, the Southside neighborhoods of Providence had sunk into economic and environmental decay. Many homes were being foreclosed upon, city blocks were filled with boarded up houses, and abandoned mills and factories left behind dangerous traces of lead. The founders of SCLT recognized the need for safe, open space to grow food in the neighborhood and saw an opportunity in the low cost of land. They purchased a huge vacant lot, formerly a chop shop for cars that,once transformed, was well suited for a shared garden. The founders partnered with neighbors, many of whom were recent immigrants from war-torn countries of Southeast Asia and West Africa. The new wave of neighbors from around the world found a natural partnership in the garden. They worked clean up the trash-strewn lot, and within a year, families were growing food together on their new garden plots.
Today, the same lot that the founders of SCLT and those first community gardeners transformed is now SCLT’s City Farm, a productive and inspiring example of bio-intensive, sustainable food growing in the city. Each of SCLT’s 13 community gardens have similar histories of urban neighbors joining together to improve their environment and increase access to healthy food.