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Greenwich Garden has fresh start to 2024 growing season

Properties & Equipment Coordinator Dan Roberts (left) and Community Garden Network Associate Blong Yang survey a successful bed rebuild while Food System Intern Frank Jolifier prepares the next.

Backed by our Burnett Community Garden and neighbored by residences and an elementary school, Greenwich Garden this winter received its first major facelift since SCLT established the green space in 2011. Led by Andrew Cook, Community Garden Network Director, and Blong Yang, Garden Network Associate, the project brought together SCLT staff, Greenwich gardeners, and volunteers from partner organizations who got their hands dirty to help make important improvements to the busy garden.

Twenty gardeners cultivate 38 plots at Greenwich Garden. A majority of them live within walking distance, by design. Greenwich’s gardeners are mainly individuals and families, with a few who sell their produce at local markets. In the garden, you’ll hear Swahili, Kirundi, and French spoken. The Garden Network team worked with Marie Uwera to develop the project. Uwera has served as Garden Leader since its 2011. With a network of 22 community gardens in the Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls area, the team maintains an active priority list of projects and is kept busy addressing them throughout the year.

Some garden bed walls had been replaced here and there through the years, but after more than a decade of piecemeal patches, the garden’s years were showing. The goals in the remodel were many. Eliminating redundant pathways between plots increases plantable space. It also means fewer bed edges to maintain, meaning the project is less expense in the long run. Before the revamp, walking paths disrupted the distance between beds and barrier fences; now, gardeners can plant climbing plants and use the fences to trellis their growth. The project is climate smart, too, with the design shown to provide better temperature modulation and improved water retention.

Lending a hand to Andrew and Blong, several other SCLT staff picked up shovels and pitched in. We owe special thanks to volunteers from UNFI, who weren’t afraid to dive into the project, helping with everything from hauling lumber to weed whacking. Youth Staff from SCLT’s Pawtucket Youth Program spent a shift clearing the site and readying it for the coming growing season.

 

Interested in a plot? Read more about our Community Gardens program.

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With a Solid Foundation, Advancement Team Grows

We bid farewell to Jenny Boone, longtime Grants & Communications Manager, in December as she embarked on two exciting and intertwined adventures: grandmotherhood and retirement. For the last eight years, Jenny has been deeply committed to the mission of the organization. A gifted writer and caring colleague, Jenny joined a much smaller SCLT team than the one she left. One of six staff in 2015, she used her many talents to steward funding that helped to sustain and grow the organization over the years into the multiprogram, 24-member staff team it is today.

In her newly free time, Jenny will be working to complete requirements to earn Master Gardener certification. The Rare & Unusual Plant Sale was what brought Jenny to SCLT years before joining our staff, and we are so grateful that she’ll be lending a hand for this spring’s 32nd annual sale. Best wishes and stay in touch, Jenny!

On the solid foundation Jenny leaves behind, we’ve made some exciting changes to our Advancement team early in 2024.

 

In January, SCLT welcomed Marcel De Los Santos to the role of Grants & Communications Manager. Marcel brings 15 years of development experience, including grants management, multimedia communications, and stakeholder engagement. With a particular passion for food security and a record of working with diverse audiences, Marcel is committed to developing opportunities for others. Marcel supervises SCLT’s Federal Grants Coordinator Grace Feisthamel and Grants & Communications Coordinator Sam Shepherd; both joined in early 2023.

Josselyn Velásquez-Florián, who has served as SCLT’s Development Coordinator for the previous three seasons, has accepted the position of Development Director. Informed by her two decades of nonprofit experience, Josselyn looks to deepen our connections to community, diversify the organization’s membership, and support the continuous improvement of SCLT’s programs and services.

Development Director for the last decade, Shana Santow has moved into the role of Senior Philanthropy Advisor. Shana will strengthen her longstanding relationships with corporate and private supporters and build new partnerships with mission-aligned collaborators to help advance SCLT’s work across the state.

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Leveling the playing field for small & urban farmers in RI

Margarita Pons (right) harvests beans with husband Teo on their plot at SCLT’s Urban Edge Farm, one of several sites the pair farms in small scale, including their yard in South Providence.

 

We need your to help change tax relief programs for farms in Rhode Island. They were written over 30 years ago and prioritize midsized and large scale agricultural operations while leaving out the small and urban farmers who are vital to our local food system. Put simply, larger agricultural producers are eligible for certain tax exemptions. But these benefits do not exist for the more than 250 community gardens, urban, or small farms in operation in our state today, many of which are operated by low-income farmers of color.

The state has set goals to increase local agricultural production and land conservation. Agricultural tax relief programs, as currently designed, do not accomplish these goals. Including small and urban farms will support them to meet critical community needs like economic opportunity, nutrition security, and education.

The Rhode Island Food Policy Council‘s 2024 legislative agenda focuses on addressing this inequity with the Small & Urban Farmer Success bill. The bill proposes farms working less than five acres and earning less than $3,000 in annual income are eligible for tax breaks designed specifically to support their operations. SCLT has been central to this effort, spearheaded by Food Access Associate Amelia Lopez, who works with farmers, gardeners, community partners, and legislators to bring attention to the disparities facing small and urban farmers. SCLT heads to the State House on March 28, 2 to 4:30pm, for the RIFPC’s first annual Advocacy Day to highlight this bill.

While these proposed incentives would have minimal impact on the state’s tax revenue, they would significantly – and positively – affect farmers’ abilities to invest in their farm businesses and, in turn, building resilience in our food system.

Click to read more about the RIFPC’s 2024 legislative agenda and learn how you can get involved in the movement to support small and urban farmers in our state.

 

SIGN THE LETTER to RI Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Speaker of the House Joe Shekarchi and encourage them to secure tax relief for local farmers in 2024.

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With USDA funds, SCLT-network farmers feed thousands in need

 SCLT is known for our programming to bring equity to local food production and access. Within this work, the collection, or aggregation, and distribution of fresh produce has been turbocharged since 2022, when SCLT and other food sector partners entered into an initial $475,000 contract with the state.

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Raffini wins a RI Monthly Bannister Award

[This article was reprinted from RI Monthly]

November 17, 2023

By Lauren Clem

Since their inception in 2021, the Christiana Carteaux Bannister Awards have recognized individuals delivering change to all areas of Rhode Island life, from education and the justice system to government and the medical field to advocacy and the arts. This year is no different, with a diverse range of winners recognized for their efforts to create a more equitable Rhode Island where all individuals might grow and succeed. RI Monthly logo

It’s a class worthy of its namesake, the inimitable Christiana Carteaux Bannister, whose accomplishments left a lasting legacy on all she touched. Whether through her business savvy as a salon owner; in the experiences of the elderly women of color who lived in the home she helped found; in the work of her husband, artist Edward Mitchell Bannister, whom she supported; or in the descendants of those they sheltered as part of the Underground Railroad, Bannister’s work lives on in Rhode Island today.

So, too, does the work of our Bannister Award winners in reimagining the state for a new generation. By honoring Rhode Island’s past and empowering its present with a new framework on which young visionaries might thrive, this year’s class carries on Bannister’s legacy to create a world in which everyone is responsible for ensuring equity, and the smallest among us can lead the way toward a just future.

JUDGES: Larome Myrick, executive director, Division of Youth Development, Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families.  Dr. Pablo Rodriguez, chief executive officer, Nuestra Salud Productions.  Hannah Ross, assistant director for community engagement, Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra and Music School.

_________________

Raffini

When young people join Southside Community Land Trust’s youth employment program, they learn how to tend crops, manage an urban farm and turn produce into nutritious meals. But they come away from the experience with so much more.

“I’m trying to teach people to respect themselves, to take care of their families and their communities. I’m trying to teach a different way than other people are,” says Raffini, director of youth programs for SCLT.

That inclination started young. As a child growing up in Pawtucket and South Providence, Raffini recalls tagging along at eight years old to hand out flyers for her mother’s activism work.

“My mom used to say, ‘Hold your head high. Don’t bow down,’” she says.

Later, she learned to advocate for herself and found her place in the arts. As a young, single mother, she enrolled in a word processing course at OIC of Rhode Island, located where CCRI’s Liston Campus is today. A chance meeting in the cafeteria landed her a role in a play. She never went on to do the type of secretarial work the course prepared her for, but she did find a lifelong love of theater and performed for ten years with the Rites and Reason Theatre at Brown University. The historically African American theater was founded by George Houston Bass, personasecretary to Langston Hughes, and it develops new creative works exploring the experiences of the African diaspora.

For the next twenty-five years, she shared her love of the arts with students as a teacher at the UCAP School and in various projects and special programs. She is also a founding member of the Rhode Island Black Storytellers, performing the traditional African art form for audiences around the state. In 2019, Raffini joined the staff at SCLT as the director of youth programs. Her work empowers young people to look at life through a different lens by passing on cultural heritage and helping them establish a place in the community.

“I really believe that our young people don’t love themselves, and that’s why it’s so easy for somebody to take somebody’s life or disrespect somebody,” she says. “I want them to love themselves so they can now love somebody who looks like them and turn that love into their community. Start to take care of your families and your community. Don’t wait for somebody else to do it.”

In 2015, she founded Violet’s Village, now housed at SCLT, a free summer camp for South Providence children ages five to thirteen. The program, named for her mother, teaches the history of the African diaspora through the arts and gardening. The program honors her mother by helping students develop cultural pride.

“She made a serious impact when she was here, and she gave me something to carry with me,” she says.

According to a co-worker who submitted the nomination, Raffini practices what she preaches and will continue to impact Providence’s young people for many years to come.

“She is determined to leave the world a better place than when she found it. Through her activism, advocacy and action, she has changed countless lives during her lifetime, and she shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.”

#    #    #

Photograph by Dee Speaks

Read about the other Bannister Award winners in the full RI Monthly article here.

 

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Block Party celebrates new retail businesses at 404 Broad Street

On a warm Saturday, October 28, our Trinity Square neighbors turned out to meet, sample food, dance, and celebrate the three new healthy food businesses that are making their new homes at 404 Broad Street: Black Beans PVD, D’s Spot, and the West African Superstore. The event helped build excitement for the final stage of opening SCLT’s Healthy Food Hub, which is bringing nutritious, fresh and culturally appealing food to an area where it has been scarce for far too long.

There was music, thanks to DJ Ladyruck and DJ Franchise. There were beverages thanks to Bottles Fine Wine, and there were kids’ activities. We want to give a special shout out to Thames & Kosmos, which donated 75 educational toys for the event.

SCLT’s neighbors went home from the party with free produce grown at 27 farms in SCLT’s network. The giveaway was one of about a dozen funded by the multi-year USDA Local Food Purchase Assistance grant program, which runs through next year.

Produce giveaway during SCLT's Grand Opening Block Party

Farmer Garmai Mawolo and SCLT’s Kakeena Castro staffing the produce giveaway table during the party.

The party marked a soft opening for the tenants, although Bean Marcelino has been using the commercial kitchen at SCLT for much of the past year. Chef/owner Bean will open the doors of Black Beans PVD in late November. Darell Douglas, owner of D’s Spot, is also aiming for the end of the month. Luna Walker is eager to open, as soon as her shipment of imported African goods clears customs and arrives in Providence.

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Be brave and start your growing season this fall

As the bright light of summer gives way to the richer colors of autumn, it is easy to think the gardening season is over. However, fall is, in many ways, the beginning, not the end of the growing season. Kale and beets that struggled in the heat of summer begin to grow thicker and darker, reaching their peak of sweetness as temperatures drop. You might still capture a crop of radishes that take but a month to form tubers in the cooler weather. The first “killing” frost will wipe out weeds and pests.

Egyptian onions

Top photo: Garlic shoots growing up through a deep layer of fall leaves. Above: Perennial Egyptian onions can be planted now, and will reward you throughout the next growing season.

Fall is the time to make big structural changes, to start new beds and resize old ones. It is also the time to plant bulbs: garlic, Egyptian onions, daffodils, and tulips are eager to go in the ground. You can even experiment and plant wildflowers and cilantro seeds in hidden places you will forget, only to be surprised when they emerge in the spring.

When it comes to alliums, Egyptian onions are a favorite. They provide year-round green onions for the kitchen, growing tender shoots in spring and fall, and create a formidable aromatic shield against deer and rodents. These perennial green onions emerge at the end of winter, before most plants have begun to grow, and provide protection to young neighboring plants from the very beginning of the new growing season.

As spring turns into summer, Egyptian onions bloom, and become a favorite stop for native pollinators, eventually blending in with the lush green in your garden. But, make no mistake, even in the background, these pungent guardians remain on active duty, creating a barrier that is imperceptible to humans, but so very disturbing to deer and rodents.  

Having planted your bulbs, autumn holds the key to unlock the fertility of your garden. This is the season when Master gardeners rush in with piles of manure, mineral amends, and mulch to replenish nutrients. They know that it is in the darkness of winter when cover crops, manures, and mineral amends are transformed into plant-ready nutrients by the soil food web. Your main job as a gardener is to protect this living web with a rich and thick layer of mulch, preferably in the form of fallen leaves that will slowly decompose and help remineralize your soil year after year. 

Covering your bed with cardboard and a deep layer of leaves on top is a great way to enrich your soil and suppress weeds.

If you had a hard time with weeds the previous season, fall is also the time to get ahead of them. Find plenty of plain cardboard—without glossy inks or colors, just the regular brown stuff. (Bike shops are a great place to find very large cardboard boxes that can cover an entire garden bed without interruption.) Remove tape or staples and place the cardboard on top of your beds or any area where you want to suppress weeds. Then, cover everything with a thick layer of leaves, as much as 9” deep, to protect and feed your soil ecosystem over winter. Rain and snow will soften the cardboard and compact the leaves on top, worms and arthropods will break through it, but young weeds will not—this applies to your bulbs too, so do not cover garlic or other new bulbs with cardboard. 

When spring comes, you can plant right into it; but do not remove or disturb this rich layer of cardboard and leaves beyond what is strictly necessary to plant your seedlings. This is a way to build good soil, and this is how you become a pro at creating a virtuous cycle of fertility that requires less work to grow stronger plants year over year. 

Be brave, take a leap, and this fall start your next growing season by building or rebuilding a strong foundation under your garden. 

–Francisco Cabas 

 

Francisco is a gardener at Galego Community Farm in Pawtucket. You can learn about vermiculture, natural pest control, overwintering crops, harvesting garlic, and much more from his gardening videos on Youtube @GardensofNewEngland

 

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Youth staff get a taste of garlic farming

Sharon Damore grew 26 varieties of garlic this past year – more than 4,000 bulbs – at Urban Edge Farm.

Sharon Damore grew 26 varieties of garlic this past year – more than 4,000 bulbs – at Urban Edge Farm.

As part of their food system training, SCLT’s high school youth staff work alongside farmers growing at SCLT properties in Cranston and Hope, RI. There, they weed, harvest, and learn how these small business owners help supply their farmers market customers and food insecure Rhode Islanders through SCLT’s Produce Aggregation partners.

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Farm-to-Market Center comes alive in July

Starting this month, local farmers resumed their weekly drop-offs of fresh produce at 404 Broad Street’s Farm-to-Market Center, where SCLT aggregation staff sort and store it briefly before it is delivered to clients throughout Greater Providence. Last year 23 farmers sold their produce through this program to six hunger relief agencies, as well as to our own VeggieRx produce prescription program. This much-needed nutritious food reached 1200 people and netted farmers close to $100,000.

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The awards keep coming for 404 Broad Street

Who says only bad things come in threes?

On June 22, SCLT was honored with a Smart Growth Award for the historic preservation of 404 Broad Street, our new headquarters in South Providence. This was the third recent award given to the building: In May, Union Studio Architecture & Community Design, which envisioned the $5.8 million renovation project, won a Merit Award in the Congress for the New Urbanism 2023 Charter Awards competition. And last November, the Providence Preservation Society singled out the building with its Mission-Driven Preservation Award.

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