PCSE Seed Grants in Action: A Note from Hailey Sowden ’15

Long Lane 3tomato seedlings in the hoop houseThe first day of summer is coming up and The Middletown Food Project is about to take off. We’ve been planning all through the winter and spring, and it’s finally time to start getting our hands dirty!

Here’s some background on the farm and the project: After working for a few years at Long Lane Farm, two acres owned by the university and run by students, we and other student farmers started to feel that we could do a better job of inviting our neighbors onto the farm and sharing the joys of fresh vegetables and working the earth. The Middletown Food Project is all about opening our gates to the people around us, and about strengthening all of our ties to Middletown, the community, and the land.

Six low-income families are enrolled in the program, all of whom live right up the road from the farm and have kids at Snow School, an elementary school a few blocks from the farm . The MFP is a multi-pronged project: part free community supported agriculture (CSA) and part educational program on healthy living, nutrition, and everything related to growing, caring for and eating vegetables. We want to start making the changes that will help us and our new friends to take care of our bodies, our communities, and the environment.

baby green onionsTen farmers are staying in Middletown this summer to run the farm, and we’ve been working overtime to get vegetables in the ground. Farming is only part of the equation though, we’ve found that nurturing our community partnerships is just as important as nurturing our seedlings. Makaela at the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship has helped us make the community connections we needed to get the project off the ground, putting us in contact with Monica Belyea who does food justice work in Hartford and Middletown. Monica has helped us with reaching families for the project and put us in contact with Jim Gaudreau, the principal of Snow School. Principal Jim has been incredibly helpful and worked with us to set up an informational session for potential MFP participants that ended up even livelier than we had expected, with lots of neighbors coming outside to chat and kids running around in the yard. We made pizzas from farm fresh green onions and beet greens, and had a great big salad with asparagus, beets, and red onions. Even the kids ate the salad and the unorthodox pizza, though we can’t say we didn’t tempt them with the vanilla ice-cream and strawberry rhubarb sauce for dessert. We’re really excited by the enthusiasm of both the parents and the children and the openness and responsiveness of the community that we are working to play a bigger part in.

farmers preparing the greens plotThis week we’ve been working hard to get the farm cleaned up and ready for the first day of the project. We’ll be picking up the families Saturday morning and walking to the farm in a little parade. We’re planning lots of fun games and activities, and with a little luck and good weather, our pea greens and green onions will be ready for harvest. We can’t wait to share our hard work with our new friends and we’re looking forward to learning more from them! We’re happily anticipating the sunny days, hard work, good food, and good people in our future with the project.