Plans for a new urban farming and job development program kicked into high gear this week when Mayor Walsh announced that the Urban Farming Pathways Initiative had received $100,000 in grant funding. The program will equip individuals re-entering the workforce with urban agriculture skills, grow local produce for Boston farmers markets, and support the City’s sustainability, health, and equity goals.

It’s official

The program is called the Urban Farming Pathways Initiative (UFPI), and news of its funding means that starting next year, it will put its first 25 participants to work growing produce and distributing it to farmers markets in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. UFPI will be hosted on a city-owned parcel in Dorchester or Roxbury, and its mission is threefold: it will support the development of sustainable urban agriculture, provide skills training provide opportunities for individuals re-entering the workforce, and increase access to local produce in the City of Boston.

It takes a village

Youth empowerment, community engagement, and urban farming organizations in Boston will work collaboratively to run UFPI. Youth Options Unlimited (YOU) Boston, which serves young adults from neighborhoods with high levels of poverty and violence, and those reentering community from incarceration, will house a program coordinator to oversee the initiative. They will work with City Soil, the Urban Farming Institute, and other community partners to develop the programming.

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In its first year, UFPI will train and employ 25 individuals who are re-entering the workforce in urban agriculture positions. They will be participants in the Youth Options Unlimited Program which has strict requirements regarding who can be part of their re-entry programs. YOU Boston’s re-entry initiatives focuses on residents between the ages of 17 and 30 and is part of the larger Boston Re-Entry Initiative, a collaboration between the City of Boston, the Attorney General, the Suffolk District Attorney and the US Attorney’s office. The operation will grow and distribute 5,000 pounds of fresh produce to five farmers markets in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. The program will make locally grown food available to an estimated 1,000 residents.

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From an idea to a reality

UFPI was created from a vision shared by the Environment, Energy and Open Space Cabinet, the Boston Foundation, the Boston Parks and Recreation Department, the Mayor’s Office of Public Safety Initiatives, the Office of Workforce Development, Youth Options Unlimited Boston, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Department of Neighborhood Development. Partners for Places (part of the Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities) provided a third of the project’s $320,000 total cost, and their contribution was matched by The Boston Foundation. Additional costs will be covered by the Neighborhood Jobs Trust and the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

The Urban Farming Pathways Initiative supports the City of Boston’s Climate Action Plan through a focus on public health, economic development, and neighborhood-level resiliency. The program will provide formerly incarcerated residents with a pathway back into their communities by giving them skills needed to pursue opportunities in careers that will benefit their friends, family and neighbors. By growing 5,000 lbs of produce, it will provide food deserts with an additional source of healthy foods at affordable prices. And if successful, it will provide a model for the Parks and Recreation Department to improve their greenhouse facilities as part of a facilities master planning process they will be undertaking over the next couple years.

Greenovate will follow the Urban Farming Pathways Initiative’s development, implementation, and impact as it grows.


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