Anabelle Harari '11

 Gardening the Community - Springfield, Ma
Major: International Relations Minor: Middle Eastern Studies

This past summer working with Gardening the Community, a youth based urban agriculture organization, located in Springfield MA opened my eyes to the power of community organizing and community revitalization. As an intern I was able to work on what were once abandoned lots transformed into beautiful fruit and vegetable gardens, with youth from around the city. I learned how to grow food in an urban environment, and also about the lives of the youth and their experiences growing up in Springfield. The friendships I forged with the youth were especially important to me, because I didn't want them to view me as an outsider. On the contrary, as the summer progressed the group bonded and working together became more of a fun activity than work.

At GTC everything from relying on rain barrels to water our plants, to using anything we could for compost, to biking to farmers markets exhibited a commitment to sustainability. Additionally, having the opportunity to work with other groups from the community, such as the MIGHTY(moving, improving, and gaining health together at the YMCA) program a pediaric weigh management program sponsored by Bay State Hospital, allowed me to put my working knowledge of gardening to use and help families who were starting their first gardens as a way to continue their healthy eating habits. Another aspect of GTC that was very rewarding was participating in the farmers markets every week in Mason Square- a neighborhood that generally does not have access to healthy and affordable food. At the farmers market, not only was I able to learn from and connect with other local farmers, but also connect with community members who were so grateful to have a place where they could find affordable fruits and vegetables.

At GTC my interests in community action were able to flourish. As a Mount Holyoke student it is rare to have a meaningful experience with communities outside of our own, and so this opportunity, generously funded by the Center for the Environment, really afforded me a chance to break boundaries and develop a relationship with a vibrant community in Springfield. Despite the long and unbearably hot and dry days at the garden, being able to see people pass by our gardens in amazement and applaud the work we did in the community really made it worth it. I am lucky enough to be able to continue working with GTC throughout the year through the CBL program, and continue helping GTC in the amazing work they provide for the Springfield community.  

GTC Staff Member Mabelline Velez and Annabelle Harari '11
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