Posted by Lilyanna Landon
When we biked up to the Cultivating Community’s garden, all I could think about was spending my summer days gardening. Toiling in the blistering sun for minimum wage, it was one of the most memorable times in my life. I worked for a garden nursery, Northland Gardens Inc. in Queensbury, NY. I have constant memories of the smell of the hibiscus, and the energetic ambiance that flowed through the nursery.
As you can imagine, I was in a daze. It was like I went back in time and I was at the nursery again. The genuineness that I saw within the community gardens had sprouted directly from my past with the nursery. I could have spent the rest of my summer right here, pulling weeds and watering the plants in this garden.
The mission of Cultivating Community is “to strengthen communities by growing food, preparing youth leaders and new farmers, and promoting social and environmental justice.” We met with Craig Lapine, Executive Director of Cultivating Community, to discuss what the organization is bringing to the community. The program focuses on three main areas: feeding our hungry, empowering our families, and healing our planet.
The organization formed as a direct response to hunger. Starting with an urban farm, used for both community and youth development programs, there is now an adjacent community garden that houses plots for 48 families to grow their own food. Craig also discussed how farm stands are now accepting food stamps, through a system set up by his organization. This is a small step towards buying locally and making local, sustainable food available to all, and it also allows for federal aid dollars to stay in the state. This would create a ripple effect on the economy, by keeping the money within the state.
Cultivating Community’s main focus is its youth and economic development projects. These programs teach refugee farmers how to grow for the market. Many of these refugees are from the oppressed underclass in Somalia, where they didn’t have an opportunity to obtain an education. Although many of them know how to grow food, Cultivating Community teaches them more efficient, sustainable growing techniques coupled with marketing techniques to effectively sell their product. The main goal is to teach the farmers to be independent and begin growing and selling on their own.
The program also works with local schools to create gardens, and has already assisted in the start of about 25 gardens. By teaching the students how to garden and facilitating the start-up process, they eventually create an independent system where the students maintain the garden.
I always find myself dreaming of working in a vegetable garden. I love the connection you can find when you grow your own food, watching tiny seeds turn into giant edible delicacies. Cultivating Community has created a place where sustainable living is attainable through sustainable practices. They are cultivating more than just community; they are cultivating change.