Nestled in Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood, The Urban Farming Institute of Boston (UFI) has spent the last six years creating a thriving and robust local farming economy. They’re producing healthy vegetables for Bostonians while also providing rewarding jobs for the city’s residents. Supporting the work of this enterprising business goes a long way in providing healthy, locally-sourced produce to Boston’s communities.
“[UFI] was created in 2012 by a small group of community residents with a desire and vision to build a healthier and more locally-based food system through public education and policy, urban farming training, land access, and access to fresh produce,” said Linda Palmer, UFI’s administrator.
From parsley, dill, and cilantro to string beans, peas, peppers, and so much more, UFI recruits Boston residents interested in urban farming, trains them, and supports their efforts to grow vegetables—which can then be sold and distributed throughout Boston. And there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.
Approximately 600 volunteers participate in the UFI’s farming work each year where they help with weeding, composting, planting, and watering. If you’re looking for something even more involved, you can sign up for an intensive nine- or twenty-week class or a summer program to learn the basics of urban farming.
“The most rewarding part of urban farming is having the opportunity to meet so many people and be able to share . . . the fruits of our labor,” said Tristram Keefe, a farm enterprise manager on staff with the UFI. “Whether it is chatting with our regular customers at the farmers market, or giving away produce to the neighbors living around our farm sites . . . the most rewarding part is being able to share with people something that you grew and nurtured from a tiny seed. Another rewarding aspect is being able to watch the transformation of an empty piece of land to a lush and productive urban farm during the course of the season and watching how that process brings people together.”
Though its primary focus is to provide healthy produce in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan, the UFI’s board and staff are devoted to inclusion and building lasting relationships throughout all of Boston’s communities. “The organization has always been diverse, intentionally multi-racial, and welcoming to those born here in Boston, or elsewhere,” said Klare Shaw, president of UFI’s board. “We want to be the hub of urban agriculture in ways that promote ownership, jobs, inclusion, health, and caring in neighborhoods that have often been marginalized.”
“Our graduates also have broad community impact,” she continued. “There are over 100 of them now working in other nonprofits and businesses, the vast majority are people of color. The grads are in our ‘farm family’ for life; they may either work in the green/food industry at say a Commonwealth Kitchen or supplement their family’s food by growing healthy crops, by keeping bees, or even by growing flowers.”
With an unofficial slogan of, “We don’t just grow food, we grow people,” UFI is firmly rooted in the principle of seeing urban agriculture leaders grow and develop, “because of the affirming nature of working in the earth and planting things that give back,” Shaw said.
Volunteer at a local farm in Boston to support the mission of the Urban Farming Institute.