An essential part of Cultivating Community’s work is restoring growing spaces that invite people to tend the soil and become skilled food growers. Over the past ten years, Boyd Street Urban Farm in East Bayside, Portland (you see it off to the right as you drive down the slope of the Franklin Arterial toward I-295) has become a flagship urban agriculture project in which 48 community gardeners, as well as youth in Cultivating Community’s education and leadership programs, learn at, work at, and steward a once-neglected land parcel.

Every Wednesday youth sell produce they've grown at the Boyd Street Urban Farm Stand

Every Wednesday youth sell produce they’ve grown at the Boyd Street Urban Farm Stand

In 2004, the plot at Boyd Street was in very bad shape. To address contamination issues, Cultivating Community phyto-remediated one large growing space, established a large raised bed for another, and planted an urban orchard. We established perennial production (including berries). With the help of many partners, including the City of Portland, which owns the land, we also established water access, rainwater collection, and a compost system, and added two sheds plus a timber-framed pergola that supports vine production and serves as a community gathering space.

Today, annual production at Boyd Street has reached 2,000 pounds of vegetables, berries, and fruit, all of which is donated to elders and low-income families. BSUF also houses a farm stand welcoming low-income consumers to buy vegetables at an affordable price using SNAP or WIC benefits if they wish. We hope to add honey production in 2014.

In the heart of Maine’s most diverse census tract, BSUF encapsulates the potential impact of agriculture in a culturally rich, economically challenged urban area. The idea of turning city spaces in very poor health into vibrant farms that support youth programs as well as individuals/families who want to work in the soil is essential to the vision of a local, sustainable food system.

CONTACT INFO: Portland, Maine’s Community Gardens Program: http://publicworks.portlandmaine.gov/communitygarden.asp

The American Community Garden Association: http://www.communitygarden.org

 

Cultivating Community

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