Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Marra Farm in 2011: Success, Challenges and Looking Ahead

As the Giving Garden farmers at Marra Farm transition into hibernation mode until February, we want to recognize our accomplishments and give you a sense of where we’re going next year.

This year, Lettuce Link produced more than 18,500 pounds of produce from our Giving Garden at Marra Farm. These organic vegetables were distributed to a wider-than-ever array of community organizations. We continued to donate the majority of our harvest to the Providence Regina House Food Bank, and also broadened our donation network to include the Beacon Ave Food Bank.

Many of the vegetables that grow abundantly in our cool climate, such as kale, daikon radish, mustard greens and bok choy, are more familiar to families from Vietnam, Cambodia and China. The Beacon Ave Food Bank primarily serves people from these and other Asian countries, so our partnership with them increased our ability to connect food recipients with culturally appropriate vegetables. 

In addition to our Giving Garden, we also: 
  • Supported our friends at the SeaMar Community Health Centers and the South Park Community Center with the launch of a bilingual South Park Community Kitchen. Participants came together monthly to prepare and share food from the Marra Farm Giving Garden, while learning new recipes, nutrition and cooking skills. 
  • Partnered with the Cooking Matters program at Solid Ground and the South Park Community Center summer day camp to offer another summer of Gardening for Good Nutrition classes to elementary school-aged students. This includes the return of Chef Sue Sheldon's purple vegetable pancakes, developed by Sue and the Marra Farm summer program students in 2009 during an abundant beet harvest. Click here for the recipe - it recently won a national award from Share Our Strength. 
  • Completed our pilot Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. As a way to generate a modest amount of revenue, we sold a small percentage of our weekly harvest to paying customers, which usually meant 7-10 items packaged up in snazzy orange bags. 
  • Worked to train 1750 volunteers about food justice, sustainable agriculture, and anti-racism - principles that provide the foundation for our work at Solid Ground. These amazing volunteers devoted nearly 6000 hours in 2011. We are so grateful for your work to improve healthy food access for struggling families as well as educate yourselves on social justice.

As we look ahead, we see challenges and opportunities.
  • The Giving Garden is infected by the soil disease clubroot (which affects members of the brassica family - including cabbages, radishes, bok choy, kohlrabi, kale, collards, and broccoli). We will be unable to grow these vegetables, which are both well-suited to this climate and popular among many eaters!
  • Our supporters at BDA Inc have donated the supplies and labor for a 25’x 60’ greenhouse, which we anticipate constructing in the spring of 2012!  
  • Our CSA combined many strands of Lettuce Link’s work: delivery of fresh local produce, recipe sharing and culinary literacy, and education about sustainable agriculture. Furthermore, it offered a small source of revenue, crucial in a time of frugal budgets. As we evaluate and expand our CSA in 2012, we hope to find ways for this model to not just generate income for Lettuce Link, but serve the needs of low-income members of the South Park and White Center communities. 

Thank you to all of you who support our work and use our services. We are truly fortunate to work with such an outstanding constellation of people.

~ Amelia and the rest of the Lettuce Link team 

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