In cities across the country urban farmers are growing communities, greening the landscape and revolutionizing food politics.
At 9 a.m. on a cool, bright Saturday in mid-June, Robert Burns and Diana Baldelomar set up a farm stand outside the YMCA in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. The stand is simple: a tent to keep out the sun, two folding tables set in an L-shape and a handful of zinc washtubs filled with two inches of water. In the tubs stand heads of green and red lettuce, greens, broccoli, and bunches of mint and basil.
When two women approach and ask the price of the greens, Baldelomar tells them that the turnip, mustard and collard greens are a dollar a bunch. “Honey,” the woman says, “in this neighborhood, if someone asks you for greens, they are only talking about the collards.” Her companion asks, “Did you ship it in from the country?”
“No ma’am. These are from right around the corner, West Cottage and Brook. We went out and harvested them this morning. You should stop by sometime.”
Burns and Baldelomar work with the Food Project, a community-based urban agriculture program founded in 1991 to get Boston’s youth involved in food production. Their West Cottage plot is one of four farms on vacant lots in the Dorchester neighborhood.
The Food Project is part of a growing urban agriculture movement to improve access to quality food in cities by creating local sources of fresh produce. The movement is showing that sustainable, local food systems are not only a way to ensure food security but also a means of addressing social justice issues