“Working with Summer of Solutions has been a blessing in disguise for me. Working at Moylan Elementary with the staff, teachers and students has been really eye opening as well. It’s fun to see how involved the kids want to be in what we’re doing. It’s also nice how involved the staff are in helping us at anytime. It really makes me feel like we’re actually making a difference somehow.”
My name is Rubelise Acosta and I am excited to announce that I am a new Program Coordinator for Summer of Solutions.
I began as an intern in 2016 and have experience working in Hartford Public Schools for 5 years. I was born and raised in Hartford, CT and still reside in this awesome city.
I look forward to meeting and supporting new interns and also connecting with people doing great things in our community.
(left to right, Aaliyah, Rubelise, and Sonsharae, three members of the 2017 Program Coordinator Team)
Summer of solutions Hartford was a great opportunity to learn and accomplish urban gardening. During the duration of Summer of solutions Hartford I was able to learn about plant identification as well as weed identification and get a hands on experience. With my hands on experience from summer of solutions I was not only able to accomplish beautiful scenery for the community but contribute to the earths well being. Summer of solutions Hartford also allows you to meet many different people that might have the same interests and might not, but we also learned from our peers who have known more about gardening that can reflect and also help u learn many new things ! With all the great factors from Summer of solutions we were able to take all of are newly gained knowledge about gardening and pass it on to younger students during summer school such as teaching them how to plant seed, water, and how to identify plants.
-Morgan, session 2 intern
In the inner city, it is hard to find locally grown food and for cheap. While working for Summer of Solutions I have hosted countless food stands where we have given fresh crops, or we have just welcomed people into our garden during the end of our growing season, so that they can come to the garden and take what ever crops are left over.
Food and culture are closely tied. Food not only provides nourishment to our bodies, but also acts as a connection to our diverse heritages and cultures. Through supplying seeds that are grown in a variety of countries, community members in the Hartford area are given the opportunity to grow the food that is unique to their culture. Supplying seeds that build cultural connections for our community members brings a familiar comfort to those without access to celebrations of their own culture.
– By Sonsharae Owens and Nichol McCarter
Before working at Summer of Solutions, I didn’t know much about the food system. I knew food grew in the ground and I can buy it at the grocery store but the steps in between were a little fuzzy. Every Friday at our workshop we learn something new about the things we consume every day. Did you know that your produce tastes better when it is sourced locally? Or that they ripen tomatoes with gases in order to make them red? Some of our vegetables come all the way from Mexico! I started to think “Why would I want an apple from another country if I can just get one from Connecticut?”
Soon, I sought out places where I could buy produce that was grown just a few miles away from me! Apples, peaches, strawberries, corn, and blueberries were just a few towns away. Even better news was finding out that I can buy all of these things in Hartford at the Farmers’ Market. I only knew about one or two of the markets in Hartford but after I started looking around I found out that Hartford has seven!
Monday, June 13th marked Team B’s first work day of the session two internship program! The Connecticut River Academy is an early-college high school in East Hartford, Connecticut, that has a strong commitment to environmental sustainability and leadership. During session two, Team B will be nurturing and expanding their community gardens, every Monday and Thursday.
Today, we had two main goals: water all the vegetation and re-plot the pumpkin patch. Pumpkins have a large root system and need a good a
mount of space for their roots to grow. The current pumpkin patch had several seeds growing, but they were bundled together, causing their root systems to compete for nutrients. While digging up the pumpkins, we were fascinated by the pumpkin seeds we found, connected to the plant’s root system and its stem. It was beautiful to see those familiar looking pumpkin seeds, broken open by that initial sprout. It is a reminder that nature consistently creates life, which can be easily forgotten about.
In the wake of tragedies within our own communities, such as in Orlando, witnessing life grow from something so small is inspiring. It’s a reminder that life (and humanity) is more complex than what it seems to be on the surface. Like the pumpkin, everyone needs a space of their own, in order to thrive and flourish. Unfortunately, a place of safety was taken away from the Latinx and LGBTQ community, and we would like to send our deepest sympathies and love to those who lost their lives and lost their loved ones. We stand with you.
Although we cannot easily re-plot humanity, this pumpkin seed can be re-located. It may seem like a small act, but it is a kindness we can pay forward. After carefully removing each plant, we gave each one enough space for it’s roots to grow.
Once we finished re-plotting the pumpkin seeds, we removed weeds and watered the school’s raised beds. They are growing a variety of different fruits and veggies including: strawberries, apples, hot peppers, basil, chives, tomatoes and more! Our team member, Chloe, showed us the chocolate-basil that is growing in it’s own raised bed. It has a really strong flavor (loved by some, hated by others) and it seems to be growing really well. The food that is grown from these gardens is distributed to a local church, the animals in their habitat room and their school’s staff and students.
We can’t wait to do more work in the gardens at Connecticut River Academy. And in remembrance of the victims of the tragic shooting in Orlando, it helps to reflect on how we can create communities of compassion, instead of ones of oppressive isolation. Our actions and outlooks make a large impact, no matter how small it may seem. You can make a difference.
“Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”
At the end of each session of the Urban Farming Internship, we take a field trip to visit a farm or urban garden. This year, we participated in a work day with Gardening the Community in Springfield, MA.
Gardening the Community is a food justice organization engaged in youth development, urban agriculture and sustainable living to build healthy and equitable communities.
Much like Summer of Solutions, Gardening the Community coordinates a youth program in their gardens. We worked with members of their youth program, some of whom had been working there for four years, while some had started just a few weeks before! Along with, volunteers from a local church, a local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, and a bike-fixing startup, we worked at two different lots.
Gardening the Community works on a combination of city land and their own land. Some of their sites are focused on production for their farm stand and CSA, while others are dedicated to community growing space. We focused on two of their production sites for the day, and walked a few blocks over to check out their new greenhouse. Our group worked on clearing some overgrowth to make room for a new bed, planting tomatoes, and watering. It was wonderful to learn from another urban farming program, with their own successes and challenges. Gardening the Community is planning a visit down to Hartford soon to work with us on the Zion Street Community Garden!
This year, the Urban Farming Internship is split into three 10-week sessions, spring, summer, and fall. We made this change to accommodate people with different schedules, such as high schools students, or parents who can only work while their children are in school. Interns had the option to apply to 1, 2, or all 3 sessions. We ended Session 1 on June 4th, and five of our interns, Drashawn, Chloe, Nyrieka, Bishar, and Nichol, stayed on for Session 2. We welcomed five new interns, Jesse, Morgan, Nyah, Sakinah, and Derek, at Session 2 Orientation on June 10th.
We played some name games, filled out boring paperwork, and then made seed bombs, lead by Nichol!
We like to start the program with a group work day, before our interns break off into smaller teams to work on their garden sites. So, we all met up on Saturday afternoon at the Wesley Colbert Zion Street Community Garden. Our new interns were such great sports as it rained for the whole. four. hours.
We signed up neighbors for new raised beds, transplanted peppers, collected some mulberries, cleared overgrown branches, and spent 10 minutes huddled in the shed to wait out a particularly aggressive downpour. One of our intern’s dads volunteered with us for the day to help weed-whack the back of the lot. Of course, as these things go, the sun came out in the last 20 minutes of our workday.
We are delighted to share great news about our spring campaign for Summer of Solutions Hartford. Every month, employees from GoFundMe nominate their favorite projects on the site for consideration for their Give Back award. Brian, a GoFundMe employee, was inspired by our work after watching a talk by Will Allen, an urban farming activist. He nominated us to receive a $1,000 contribution from GoFundMe. All of the nominations were reviewed by a committee, and they selected our project as the winner!
1) Contribute to our online Go Fund Me campaign
2) Mail a check to our fiscal sponsor, made out to New England Grassroots Environment Fund. Write “Summer of Solutions Hartford” in the memo line and mail to:PO Box 611, Newmarket NH 03857