Posted on Sat, August 08, 2009 by Jerusha Klemperer
0 Comments | Categories: Biodiversity, Farms and Farming, Food Justice,
by Amy McCoy, leader of Slow Food Rhode Island
Undeterred by the seemingly constant rain here in the Northeast, Rich Pederson, the farmer of Southside Community Land Trusts City Farm in Providence, RI, and I recently set out to plant True Red Cranberry bean seeds.
City Farm sits just blocks from Rhode Island Hospital, tucked between Southside Community Land Trusts community gardens and the Buddhist Center of New Englanda large circus-style tent with colorful signage facing the road. City Farm is no less colorful: a bike rack with an arbor dripping in beets, a planting vessel fashioned by a welder neighbor, a vibrant mural celebrating our agrarian past painted on the face of the greenhouse. And then there are the plants. We like to plant colorful things here, Pederson informed me as we walked around the back of the greenhouse, admiring garlic, scarlet runner beans, and pansies bursting from a container of compost. Thats why the True Red Cranberry bean is such a good fit for us.
Slow Food Rhode Island donated the True Red Cranberry bean seeds as well as Boothbys Blonde cucumber seedsanother unusually pigmented varietyto City Farm as part of our outreach for the Renewing Americas Food Traditions (RAFT) Alliance New England Grow-out.
In keeping with the use every bit of space philosophy of City Farm, Pederson and I planted the True Red Cranberry beans at the base of the sunflowers growing up at the back of the greenhouse. With the remaining seed, we planted the perimeter of the Bean Teepee, a fixture of the Childrens Garden, where the 200 or so participants in City Farms seven-week summer program will enjoy a hideaway formed by beanstalks.
City Farms overall mission is to teach people to grow their own food. In 1981, its founders reclaimed this 3/4-acre lot, purchased the neighboring house (which is painted violet purple) and started using sustainable technology to run the farm, such as solar panels to operate the greenhouse fans. The diversity of the neighborhoods residents at the timeranging from people from the southern United States, to Southeast Asia, to the Caribbeancontributed to the success of City Farm. Many of these families came from growing backgrounds, says Pederson, and so the community gardens followed along with City Farm, strengthening the mission, and eventually resulting in the formation of the Southside Community Land Trust. There are now 250 families growing food in Southside Community Land Trust community gardens.
Today, City Farm grows on just 1/4-acre of their 3/4-acre lot. While the farm doesnt look like a conventional farmthere is the aforementioned artwork, wild spaces, old shade maples, and fruit trees scattered about the propertythey produce over 1000-pounds of salad mix each season, in addition to other vegetables and fruits. They sell at growers-only markets, and every variety grown on the property is either edible, medicinal, or beneficial, attracting desirable bugs, birds, and bees. Pederson, City Farms farmer for the past seven years, pushes the limits of the space, looking at it both vertically and horizontally, planting the margins (as evidenced by our sunflower supports for the True Red Cranberry Bean) and always trying to answer the question, How much can be grown sustainably on one-quarter acre?
Sharing knowledge of growing techniques and practices is a priority at City Farm, which has ongoing projects with neighborhood schools, including rainwater catch basins, and a garlic bed planted by students. I knew how to grow garlic, and I was just one person who knew. So I taught these students, and then they knew. And then they shared that knowledge with their classmates, and now all of them know, too, Pederson said. This is the same philosophy that guides the Community Gardens. Southside Community Land Trust shares knowledge of sustainable growing practices, with classes for the public on topics such as composting, as well as assisting families and individuals with finding available land.
Were not all that different from other farms in aspects of food growing, but we might be different because we want to help people grow their own food, Pederson says. Slow Food Rhode Island is thrilled to have City Farm and Rich Pederson helping to share the knowledge about True Red Cranberry beans and Boothbys Blonde cucumbers.