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  • Photo: planted-out bed of vegetables

Cambridge City Growers: Growing Much More than Food

Cambridge City Growers: Growing Much More than Food

Free, healthy, locally-grown food for everyone is the mission of Cambridge's newest, plantiest organization.

Born of the coronavirus pandemic, fueled by the ever-present need for human connection, the neighborly grassroots organization Cambridge City Growers (CCG) plunges its nurturing, eager hands into both the soil and the Cambridge community.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting risk of a local and global food supply-chain interruption, CCG is setting out to grow food that is local, organic, healthy - and FREE.

Since their inaugural meeting in April of this year, and with the support of Cambridge Mutual Aid Network, much progress has been made: Active CCG committees have been formed and populated with committed volunteers; The Goree House, a community space in Cambridge, has made land available for CCG to build and plant out a spray of raised beds; and dozens of other raised beds have been installed around the City. All for the growing and distributing of food.

Driven by the acute and growing awareness of the need for neighbors to be there for each other, CCG is raising more than food: It’s raising consciousness about the destructiveness and exploitive nature endemic to the capitalist system that forms the basis of much of our modern society, including food distribution. CCG craves more than arugala and kale. It craves justice, human connection, compassion, and the manifestation of a vision of a new world for everyone. Everyone. CCG’s mission is a right one, a bright one, a hopeful one, one invigorated by the injustice and threats to global well-being made blatant by the current pandemic.

[Image below by peakpx.com: strawberries in hands]
Jake Carman, co-founding organizer of CCG, elaborates. “We envision a world where people share to meet our needs. We hope for people to contribute in the ways they are able - be it volunteering, sharing their land, organizing, donating, etc. - and take what they need. COVID-19 has exposed the capitalist system and all its failings to the world, but the issues worsened by the disease will not be cured by a vaccine. Our efforts this spring are toward a long-term campaign to bring gardens to the people so we can feed ourselves.”

CCG knows it needs to connect and work with other groups to accomplish its goals. Masha Vernik, CCG’s Strategy Team Co-coordinator notes, “We partner with Green Cambridge, which has been growing community gardens in Cambridge for some years. And we’re working with the Goree House and Cambridge Community Center to grow food at their locations. We all want to grow food together.”

Of course, all this building of beds, testing soil, planting in healthy, nutrient-rich soil, and working the plots takes resources. Lots of resources. CCG’s current primary funding comes from a GoFundMe campaign. Other resources are direct donations of soil, seedlings, compost, tools, and offerings to share land.

Land offerings can come from anyone within the City. Charlie Fineman - a long-term Winter Street resident – has eagerly made his entire backyard available to be planted and worked by CCG volunteers. Working the plots is done in a COVID-19-safe way, following CDC and City-designated guidelines, and emphasizing mutual respect and communication. Anyone connected with CCG can volunteer to plant and tend to CCG-created plots. Such volunteering is one of CCG’s needed and growing bank of resources, helping to nurture its mission forward.

CCG also plans to apply for grants, and hopes to procure land from the City of Cambridge to expand its growing potential. CCG’s Policy Group hopes to work with the City to develop an ordinance to allocate some amount of land with each new development for gardening/greening. If you’d like to support CCG’s efforts with the City, you can sign this petition.

[Image below from pixhere.com: farm stand]
CCG plans to distribute some of its gardens’ produce in a couple of ways, based on the size of the gardens being worked. For smaller, residential settings, the method will likely be a free farmers market-type stand on a set day. For larger gardens – like that established recently at Goree House – it will likely be coordinated with a larger distribution organization.

While some of the mechanisms of CCG are still being formulated, the spirit, integrity, ingenuity, and commitment of CCG as a whole and participants on an individual basis are notable and impressive. I’ve attended several CCG weekly organizing meetings and found the participating group of 12-20 people to be organized, detailed-oriented, while also attending respectfully and well to democratic, transparent group process. This combination bodes well for the wise, careful, and authentic unfolding and growth of CCG. CCG's got the turgor. It just needs the land.

Jake Carman notes, “We hope that, by bringing as many communal raised beds as possible into neighborhoods, we can work to blur the distinctions between producers and consumers - because we are, after all, both. We want to see neighbors working together to grow and share their own food, turning the far-flung capitalist economic system on its head. We are especially committed to working with communities of color and other people who face systematic oppression.”

Sahana, a volunteer organizer, emphasizes, “We want to acknowledge the inherent intersectionality between food insecurity and racial injustice. You cannot discuss or work for change in food systems without delving deeper into this interconnected and complex relationship. CCG hopes to center our work around environmental and racial justice and think of ways to benefit communities of color while addressing the needs of food insecurity. Our hope is to build plots of land where the food can go directly back into the community it is growing on.”

CCG’s first harvests will begin in the late summer and fall. Given that this is CCG’s first year, there is an expectation that production might be low, but the eye is on using the experience of this year to grow momentum, build community connections, and create gardens all over the city, growing justice while growing food and food-sharing.

“Cambridge City Growers is a great example of how thinking globally but acting locally can help individuals empower and support their communities,” Masha reminds us. “Because every bit of action - no matter how small - helps.”

[Image below from Pixaby.com: Hand holding small seeds]
Indeed. The smallest of seeds become generous plants, which nourish us. All of us.

So email CCG or visit their website. And then roll up your sleeves and join CCG in plunging your hands into the soil and into our community. We need this. And we can do this, with CCG’s guiding light, focused spirit, and plant-inspired turgor..