Everett Community Growers Finding Popularity with Fresh Food, Gardening

Though it’s a bad pun, the fact of the matter is that the Everett Community Growers are sprouting garden plots all over the City – and perhaps with even more to come in the future.

The original community garden at the top of the ledge on Florence Street began some four years ago and now has 13 plots for local gardeners, but that hasn’t been enough.

The lure of fresh-grown food has caused an expansion. This year, 15 plots were added on the other side of Everett at Tremont Street – and the new location has been wildly popular.

The program is part of the Everett Community Health Partnership, which involved the City and Cambridge Health Alliance, and sponsored by La Communidad Inc.

“This is just really my thing; I love it,” said J.R. Brabant, who has a plot at Florence Street. “It’s really more than growing healthy food; it’s have a place where people feel it’s their own. Everyone helps each other out and everyone shares what they grow. If someone leaves for a few days, another person will water their plot. It’s something I just really enjoy.”

Sylvia Oliveira, the manager for Florence Street Garden, said the garden is very popular with Everett’s diverse population, especially with immigrants who have come to Everett from rural areas in other countries.

“Many feel like they’re stepping back into their old country,” she said. “In their country, they were farmers or they grew everything they ate in their backyard. They came here and find that everything is in the store and it’s wrapped in plastic and you buy it. It’s just very refreshing for people to be able to grow fresh food like they did back home.”

Katie Rosa of the Community Growers said the mix of people drawn to gardening is quite noteworthy.

“It really is a very good mix of people we have,” she said. “We have Spanish, American, Haitian, Brazilian and just about everyone else in the garden – including young people and older people too.”

Kathleen O’Brien, who works for the partnership, said the community gardens are a great first step for Everett, but the long-term goal is much more ambitious.

Using a grant from the state and Boston, O’Brien was able to analyze hundreds of properties that were ripe for community gardens or even for urban farms. She said she followed the same process that Boston did a few years ago to identify locations for urban farming.

“It’s become very popular and it’s growing,” said O’Brien. “Last year, we did a big land survey. We followed the same process Boston did in 2013. I whittled it down to about 53 specific spots. Then, we went and physically surveyed the properties and came up with 12 or 15 spots that could be used for community gardens or urban farms. Our long-term goal is to be growing our own food in Everett.”

The idea of an urban farm is some

Sylvia Oliveira, a garden manager for the Everett Community Growers Florence Street location, shows off some freshly harvested radishes last week. The community garden effort in Everett has grown this year, expanding to a second location on Tremont Street, with hopes of creating at least 12 to 15 locations for gardens or urban farms.

Sylvia Oliveira, a garden manager for the Everett Community
Growers Florence Street location, shows off some freshly harvested radishes last week. The community garden effort in Everett has grown this year, expanding to a second location on Tremont Street, with hopes of creating at least 12 to 15 locations for gardens or urban farms.

thing where the Growers would private, commercial land to grow large amounts of food to be sold.

“We’re looking to do that in the future,” said O’Brien.

As she surveyed her own plot last week, Oliveira pulled out some radishes that were ready for eating. She cleaned off the soil and handed them over to Brabant.

“These are so sweet,” she said. “This is nothing like what you’ll find in a grocery store. They have a spice to them too. Store radishes don’t taste like this. That’s why I love this so much.”

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