Saturday, May 3, 2008

City Council Recognizes Non-Profit

from The Sun, May 2-8, 2008

The Holyoke City Council voted to recognize local grassroots organization Nuestras Raices for the ways in which their community gardens have contributed to the quality of life in Holyoke, and also for the esteem and national recognition their work brings to the city.

This Proclamation will be presented at the next City Council Meeting on May 6th in the Council Chambers.

Nuestras Raices, which means “our roots” in Spanish, promotes economic, human and community development in Holyoke through projects relating to food, agriculture and the environment.

The motion for the proclamation was made by City Councilor At-Large Rebecca Lisi and approved unanimously. Councilor Lisi cited the article, “A Papaya Grows in Holyoke” from the April Atlantic, a national magazine, as inspiring the proclamation. Nuestras Raíces volunteer and farmer Robert Chipman brought the article to Lisi’s attention.

Nuestras Raices originated in 1987 with the members of La Finquita Community Garden, on the corner of Cabot and South East Streets, and was later incorporated in 1992. From the community gardens have grown innovative programs. Nuestras Raíces helps community members to start small businesses and create jobs, trains beginning farmers, researches and educates community members about the urban environment, builds youth leadership, and fosters community-based coalitions.

Nuestras Raices now has ten gardens throughout the city, in which more than one hundred and twenty-five Holyoke families are participating. The gardeners have worked together to transform what were once vacant lots into flourishing green spaces where they produce fresh herbs, vegetables, berries and flowers. Low income families who have gardens with Nuestras Raices produce on average one thousand dollars in food.

On Nuestras Raíces Farm, Nuestras Raíces helps community members who were farmers in Puerto Rico and other countries of origin become commercial farmers in Massachusetts. The farm is on a thirty acre parcel of land, some of which the Sisters of Providence lease to the organization. The river-front site features walking trails, cultural festivals, a youth farm, petting zoo, farm stand, and paso fino horse stable, among other attractions.

Nuestras Raices has received recognition and support from numerous state and national institutions, bringing positive attention and funding into Holyoke. In 2007, Nuestras Raices was a leader in the Holyoke coalition that secured a $4.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to fight obesity. Most recently, on April 29, the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund granted $310,000 to Nuestras Raices' thirty acre farming project.

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