(401) 273-9419
sclt@southsideclt.org

Southside Community Land Trust

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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

 

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Farmers add new flavors to beloved farmers market

With the outdoor farmers market season already underway, we wanted to share that one of the most successful markets in the state, the Hope Street Farmers Market (HSFM) in Providence, is bringing on six new farms for its 2023 season.Four are run by SCLT-network farmers growing at Urban Edge Farm in Cranston.

The new additions are Charlotte Uwimpuhwe (Charlotte’s Farm), Blia Moua and his wife Mai Lee (Wilson Community Farm), Chai Thao and her husband Leng Yang (Daily Farm), and Christina Dedora (Sanctuary Herbs). Each is eager to connect with new customers at this well-run, well-attended market and sell their produce, including amaranth, Thai peppers, butter ball and bitter melon, as well as more familiar vegetables, herbs and teas.

The HSFM was named one of the 10 best farmers markets in the country by USA Today in 2019, and regularly wins in the “Best of” category in RI Monthly’s annual competition. It draws large crowds (and dozens of friendly dogs) on Saturday mornings, and features live music, food trucks, and the Providence Artisans Market along Blackstone Boulevard. Its festival vibe can obscure that, for farmers, selling here can significantly affect their earnings.

Many people don’t realize that the 32-year-old HSFM was founded by an SCLT Board Member, Sandy Parsons. It began as the DownCity Farmers Market Cooperative with a handful of farmers in Kennedy Plaza before relocating to the grounds at Hope High School. It moved again, a couple of miles up the street to

Lippitt Park, in 2008. Despite the moves and the increase in participating farmers over the years, some changes were gradual.

Getting a spot at the HSFM hasn’t been easy because farmers tend to stay for years. But, attrition caused by the pandemic created several openings. SCLT staff urged farmers we work with to pursue this opportunity for them to grow their businesses and for the HSFM to better represent the BIPOC farmers in the state.

“In the early days, all the farmers at local markets were white,” said longtime SCLT volunteer and market-goer Elaine Cali. “The farmers from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean have brought a richness by introducing customers to produce from their home countries. And, they love to talk to customers about how to prepare and enjoy them.”

While the juried market will have more farmers and vendors this season than ever (48), Market Manager Rui David describes the growth as “thoughtful, manageable, and sustainable.” The HSFM accepts only “farmers and food artisans” from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. One of the criteria is that a participant’s “product will add to the overall diversity of the market without negatively impacting the financial success of current full-time vendors.” After applications are reviewed by a committee of current farmers and vendors they are voted on by all market association members in the spring.

The new farmers from Urban Edge Farm will join several others over the years with connections to SCLT. Besides City Farm, these include Pat’s Pastured, Zephyr Farm, and Greenleaf Farm. Stop by and ask any of them about their products. You may very well bring home something that adds fantastic new flavors to your next meal.

Learn more about the HSFM and check out their 2023 schedule at hopestreetmarket.com.

– Jenny Boone, Grants & Communications Manager

Caption above: Chai and Christina (standing), Blia and Charlotte, inside one of the greenhouses at Urban Edge Farm.

Read more

Record number of farmers win state-funded LASA grants

On Tues., Feb. 21, the RI Department of Environmental Management announced the winners of the Local Agriculture and Seafood Act grant program’s (LASA) 2022 funding cycle.

Read more