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Urban farming takes root in Providence
By Chris Barnett / May 27, 2014 /   Loading Disqus...

A greenhouse will soon rise on a vacant, city-owned lot near a neighborhood school. The location hasn’t been decided yet, but the structure will extend the growing season for local urban farmers, foster micro-businesses and serve Providence students with fresh food and farming-related education.

Our partnership with the city of Providence and national funders builds off last year’s Lots of Hope initiative, which turns vacant, city-owned properties into productive urban farms and brings fresh produce to neighborhoods. The program from the Southside Community Land Trust is expanding Providence’s portfolio of green, open space and improving air quality, public health and local property values.

In this latest phase, the city will lease greenhouse space to new or socially disadvantaged farmers. The project will foster agriculture business development and link locally grown food with school food service purchasing. The greenhouse will also provide school-based learning opportunities like a composting pilot where students can learn about local food systems and reducing solid waste.

The other local partners include the city of Providence’s Office of Sustainability and Healthy Communities Office and the Providence School Department’s Rekindling the Dream Foundation.

“Lots of Hope helps Providence achieve all of our sustainability goals by supporting local businesses, cleaning our neighborhoods, and helping our students better understand where our food comes from and where our trash goes,” says Sheila Dormody, the city’s policy director. “Everyone in Providence wins when we get to protect the environment, invest in our local economy, and create a stronger community all through one project.”

“We are looking forward to working with our community partners to use the Lots of Hope Urban Greenhouse to create a model of best practices for extending the growing season in Providence,” said Peter Asen, director of the city’s Healthy Communities Office. “The greenhouse will help make local, healthy foods available throughout the year.”

Our $55,000 grant triggered a matching $55,000 grant awarded by the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities and its partner, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, as part of the Local Sustainability Matching Fund. The fund connects innovative city sustainability projects with local philanthropies. Providence is one of only nine communities nationwide to qualify for funding.

“It’s at the local level where sustainability initiatives have the greatest traction and where growth capital is most needed,” says Sharon Alpert, senior director of programs and strategy at the Surdna Foundation, an investor in the Local Sustainability Matching Fund. “Local municipalities are leading the way in combining sustainability with practicality.”

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