As Providence & Beyond evolves, we are trying to focus on five sites in the area. This will let us see how the different issues we investigate affect the same location or lab site.
Rather than bring in an outside speaker, as we have in the past, we decided to dedicate that time to an introductory multimedia presentation and a panel discussion, starting with prepared questions from Robert Leaver based on the presentation. Then the panel took questions from the group at large before joining us the "traditional" cafe tables. Our panelists - from left to right - were:
- Josh Miller of Local 121
- Greg Gerritt of the Urban Agriculture Task Force in Providence
- Catherine Ady from Woonsocket City Planning
We at New Commons felt the format worked well, generating focused conversation that centered on our region, rather than the issue. So we talked about urban food - as it applies to our cities, specifically. Leave a comment and let us know what you think.
Did this new format have any impact on the events that transpired? Who knows. But remarkable things happened. That much is certain.
Idea 1: Connecting Community Gardens with Restaurants
Thinking: Josh Miller told us about how Local 121 has become a defacto sponsor of a local community garden by purchasing their crops. And the evolution of their relationship is instructive.
At first, the gardeners brought whatever produce they had to the restaurant, and Local 121's chefs would create menu items based on what was available. This limited the amount the restaurant would buy because, since the menu was already set, these could only be used on 'specials'.
But, over the next winter, the restaurant and the gardeners met and planned their summer together. The chefs were able to request specific crops that, given a regular and ongoing supply, could support 'regular' menu items. Gardeners could plan their crops to meet this demand and help the chefs plan a highly localized seasonal menu.
Linking & Doing: Joe Vaughan from LISC seized on this idea of linking community gardens with restaurants, because finding an ongoing revenue stream to at least partially fund the costs of running a community garden would be key to enabling community gardening at the Sustainable Communities sites. He is actively pursuing the idea with restaurants.
Idea 2: Creating a Portfolio of Brownfields for Remediation
Thinking: This idea grew out of a discussion of the main challenge of siting urban community gardens in the Providence region: virtually every square yard of available soil is contaminated. Remediation costs money. Then Terry Gray of DEM put forth a most remarkable notion. He said he could more easily fund the remediation of a large portfolio of small sites than he could fund the remediation of each site individually.
Linking & Doing : Margaux Morrisseau of NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley works in an area dotted with contaminated sites. She is developing a portfolio to bring to DEM.
We'll try to keep you posted on how these projects unfold. Hopefully, we'll have be able to play a direct role in creating more community gardens in Providence & Beyond.