First NY Times letter from The Springfield Institute: “Water on the moon, reality on Earth”

The New York Times printed my letter in today’s paper. I managed to insert Springfield priorities into the water on the moon discussion, and help get the word out about The Springfield Institute. (And don’t forget the glowing piece on the NY Times blog, Economix.)


Growing Power, in Milwaukee

la vida locavore

Growing Power: First Impressions

by: Jill Richardson

From La Vida Locavore.

Last week, I visited Growing Power, the urban farm started by Will Allen. If Will Allen’s name sounds familiar, that may be from his appearances on Good Morning America or in the New York Times, or from his Macarthur Genius Award, or from a few days before I visited Growing Power, when President Clinton called him “my hero.” Growing Power’s amazing, and I am absolutely not the first person to discover it. However, even though I was already well acquainted with the work of Will Allen and the success of Growing Power, I came away from my tour of the small Milwaukee urban farm absolutely inspired. Indeed, I think it would be impossible NOT to be transformed by it. I’ve always been amazed by the fervor of urban ag advocates, and now I feel like I understand. If Will Allen can do what he’s done at Growing Power, then there is untold amounts of untapped potential in cities across this entire country.

This diary will give a description of the neighborhood where Growing Power is located and the food that is available in the Growing Power store.

According to the USDA’s interactive food stamps map, Milwaukee county suffered much higher per capita poverty and Milwaukee residents’ per capita food stamps participation was much higher than the surrounding counties in 1999 (the most recent year for which that data is available on the site). The Census Bureau provides city level data for Milwaukee, showing that 21.3% of people in the city of Milwaukee lived below the poverty line in 1999. The Census Bureau also offers poverty data for the county of Milwaukee as recently as 2007, when the percent living in poverty is estimated as 18.2% of Milwaukee county residents. Presumably that rate would be higher within the city of Milwaukee itself, where Growing Power is located.

If you’re at Growing Power and you want to go to a supermarket, there’s an Aldi about a mile away in either direction. There are a few other places that sell food in the area, like a place called Delta Southern Groceries that is 2 miles away, but Growing Power certainly fills a need by being in the exact location where it is. An important predictor of whether people eat well is whether they have a place to buy fresh, healthy food within a mile of where they live – particularly if they do not own a car.

Keep that in mind as you look at the pictures below, taken at the Growing Power store. In addition to the salad greens, tomatoes, fish, honey, turkeys, ducks, and eggs produced on site, the store also sells produce from Growing Power’s other locations as well as produce that cannot be grown in the midwest (like bananas and oranges). I assume the outside produce is sold there to save shoppers from needing to make an extra trip to a grocery store to get all of their food. In addition to the ready to eat food sold at the store, they also sell compost and worm castings for anyone who wants to grow food at home.

The pictures below don’t show everything that was available in the store, but they do give a good representation of the types of things that were available.

growing power storegrowing power store 3growing power store 2growing power store 4

If you want to learn more about Growing Power’s here’s a link to their website.

Please give to the Farmworker Food Fund

girls at party

A chill is in the air and winter is just around the corner.  Our cupboard at All Soul’s Church in Springfield is empty and we’re already getting calls from families who have no food to put on their tables.  It was a tough year on local farms and a lot of people were laid off even earlier than usual.  Please consider a small or large donation to support our neighbors who do the hard work of harvesting local products like strawberries and blueberries, planting mums, Easter lilies and poinsettias, and cutting lawns up and down the valley.

Last winter we gave out food to over 300 people each month from November to March.  This winter we again need your help to support this volunteer effort.  None of the money donated goes toward salaries, overhead or anything but the food we give directly to our immigrant neighbors.  This effort  brings together immigrants with members of the community who support their struggles and organize with them to make change.

Thank you for your support.

Farmworker Food Project, c/o Pioneer Valley Project
235 Eastern Avenue, Springfield MA 01108

For more info, contact Maria Cuerda at 413-686-9033 or

Let’s challenge the ban on keeping chickens in Springfield


Here’s a link to an article in The Republican.  There’s a petition to sign here.  We need some residents of Springfield to step up and support this effort.

A message from Magdalena Gomez

[The following is a message from Magdalena Gomez, of Teatro Vida, regarding today’s event, “Municipal performance indicators that matter to residents.” Published with permission.]

Magdalena GomezDear Aron, et al:

My thanks to you, the interns and all of the members of The Springfield Institute for hosting today’s event and for bringing the voices and ideas of Charlotte B. Kahn and Paul N. Foster to the table, while allowing a forum for public discussion.

There were some concerns and excellent points brought up at today’s forum that stayed with me, and I hope will be revisited and addressed in greater depth in the future. It is my intention to be helpful and amplify some of the concerns I heard at today’s meeting as listed below.

  1. The need for citizens to know that when there is a specific issue or concern regarding the wellness of our community, they will have ready access to information and the city officials assigned to the particular task without getting a bureaucratic runaround.  Who among us has not been put on hold and sent from department to department when trying to access a business, institution or government agency? Those of us who work in the trenches for little or no pay are especially discouraged when we must waste our valuable time going in circles in search of a clear and intelligible response to a community or personal concern.  I refer in particular to the concerns brought up by the representatives of Gardening the Community today. Continue reading