When we center community, ground ourselves in justice and water the seeds of resilience, good things grow. This has been the story of OASIS (Opportunity, Affirmation, Sustainability, Inspiration, Success) on Ballou Farm in the year 2020. A year that has presented challenges unprecedented in over a century in the form of a global pandemic in which we were forced to separate ourselves to remain safe. During a time when the community has a renewed interest and stake in adapting healthy practices and lifestyles, the success of Ballou Farm serves as a reminder that during a collective health crisis the need for fresh, healthy, affordable food has never been greater.
This past summer, with the support of a grant support from the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and pro bono help from Youth Build trainees, CSNDC installed a 30 x 72 foot hoop house. Now, MDAR has awarded CSNDC another $50,000 grant that will enable us to install lighting, heaters and fans in the hoop house this coming winter season, which will enable us to start our first winter growing season between November 2020 through Spring 2021. CSNDC plans to work with Green City Growers to help plan for this winter growing season in the hopes that we can triple crop yields to 10,000 pounds in 2021!
“MDAR is pleased to support CSNDC with this $50,000 grant which will help Codman Square extend the growing season into the winter months, resulting in many more pounds of healthy, fresh produce grown and distributed to the community,” said Rose Arruda, Urban Agriculture Coordinator for MDAR.
Other key news about the Farm: Under the leadership of Farm Manager, Apolo Catala, OASIS on Ballou Farm grew and distributed over 3,000 pounds of food via direct sales and our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Now in its second year, the CSA program is a partnership with local farm and food justice entities Urban Farming Institute and Dorchester Food Coop.
Collaboration and leveraging volunteers have been crucial to OASIS on Ballou Farm’s success. Whether it was serving as liaison for resources, as was the case in partnering with Fedco Trees of Maine to distribute approximately 1,000 fruit trees out of Ballou Farm and other local urban farm sites to area residents and beyond, or working with Rebuilding Together Boston to perform site maintenance and upgrades, strategic partnerships have been key. Ballou Farm was able to work with Mission Safe and City Year Boston to host nine farm interns and ten weekly volunteers throughout the summer growing season. Farmers from Global Village in Grafton, MA (a farmer’s coop, education and healing center focused on indigenous sovereignty) graciously volunteered their time as well as provided and operated a Kubota tractor which allowed us to move and shape 75 yards of soil in preparation for operation of our recently installed hoop house. Food sovereignty activists from Uprooted and Rising have also provided generous support through sustained skilled volunteering at the site.
Since its inception OASIS on Ballou Farm has had a commitment to education and community engagement. Although the Covid-19 health crisis dictated that we scale back our normal neighborhood education programming, we were still able to support local Dorchester school children via a partnership with City Sprouts. Beginning in September 2020, two City Sprouts garden educators have worked with Ballou Farm on Wednesday afternoons to provide gardening instruction to local public-school students. This early introduction to growing food and having youth make the connection between what they consume and where their food comes from is an investment in our collective future the OASIS on Ballou Farm is particularly proud of!
OASIS on Ballou is located at 100 Ballou Ave, Dorchester, MA. For more information, please contact, Apolo Catala at firstname.lastname@example.org.