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SCLT awarded farm tool grant by SNEFCC

Beginning farmers using farm tools to improve the quality of soil and the produce they grow.

The nearly 400 growers in SCLT’s community gardens network will get a boost this spring, thanks to a farm tool grant from the Southern New England Farmers of Color Collaborative (SNEFCC). The organization brings together stakeholders who want to increase the success of beginning farmers of color across the region’s six states. For the last three years, SNEFCC has made grants that aim to support these farmers in developing the skills, resources, and capabilities needed to build and sustain successful farm enterprises.

Approaching his first anniversary as SCLT’s Community Gardens Network Associate, Blong Yang authored the successful proposal for the tool stipend.  The award will enable Blong and Community Gardens Network Director Andrew Cook to purchase close to $5,000 in tools like rakes, shovels, loppers, digging forks, and rototillers. These have been identified as the top needs on an ever-evolving wishlist of resources requested by gardeners whose produce feeds their families and their communities.

In 2023, food grown by SCLT farmers and gardeners ended up on the plates of over 23,250 people, at least 97% of whom live in low-income communities where fresh, healthy, and delicious food is hard to find and harder to afford. An average of 32% of residents in the communities we serve live in low-access census tracts, meaning they live more than a mile from a source of fresh food. Outside our garden walls, the fresh foods commonly available are not culturally familiar to the people living in these communities, where 32% of residents were born outside of the US. The small and urban growers in our network and across the state are vital to meeting the needs of our food-insecure neighbors.

This year’s SNEFCC Tool Stipend grant was particularly competitive, and SCLT is grateful to have been a recipient. SNEFCC makes these stipends available as part of a grant awarded by the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). SCLT is a past and current recipient of BFRDP grants. We’ve used the funds, among other purposes, to fuel our Farm Apprentice program. Apprentices are beginning farmers who are matched with an experienced farmer – often someone they already know – and are compensated for participating in an immersive and unique career readiness curriculum that includes linguistically appropriate agricultural business management training. In 2024, with our BFRDP funding and with support from the SNEFCC stipend, we’ll continue to support seven Apprentices who participated in the program last year, all of whom identify as people of color.

Gratefully, this stipend alleviates some of the tool needs for the hundreds of people working the land in SCLT’s 22 gardens across Providence, Pawtucket, and Central Falls. However, the need for shareable, reliable, well-maintained tools remains an ongoing issue for our network of growers. Check out our Resource Wishlist and consider making a donation of your new or gently used tools to support the work of our growers.