It's been a long time since Dorchester thrived with crops and orchards, its soil making farming a lucrative option. Now, the area could rediscover some of that economic uplift through the city's Pilot Urban Agriculture Project.
The project -- a venture of the mayor’s office, Boston Redevelopment Authority, and Department of Neighborhood Development -- proposes to put several vacant, city-owned parcels in South Dorchester into productive use for farming, with the goal of producing fresh, healthy food for sale in Boston.
Edith Murnane, director of food initiatives for the city, said plans are underway for two parcels -- on Tucker Street and Glenway Street -- to be developed into local farms by groups that have been selected for the projects. Preliminary plans call for ReVision Urban Farm to be assigned to the Tucker Street location, and City Growers to direct the Glenway Street farm. Final approval is still pending.
The city solicited proposals for the program this summer. The plans were evaluated by a committee comprised of local residents, local farmers, an employee of the Department of Neighborhood Development and a representative of the mayor’s office, Murnane said.
The two proposals chosen were then presented at a community meeting in October.
John (Tad) Read, senior planner for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, said the groups were chosen because they shared the community's desire to see the benefits of farms within the neighborhood. Both organizations plan to employ local farmers and intend to sell solely to local merchants and residents. Their business models for distributing the produce are different, however.
ReVision plans to set up farm stands within Dorchester, in order to make the fresh produce accessible to the community, Murnane said. The group, which is associated with Victory Programs' Revision House, a shelter for homeless women and their children in Dorchester, already runs farm programs in the neighborhood.
ReVision farm would make produce more affordable by allowing people to use Boston Bounty Bucks to purchase produce. Bounty Bucks is a subsidy for people on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
“We don’t turn anyone away who can’t pay,” said Jonathan Scott, president and CEO of Victory Programs, the umbrella group for ReVision. He said ReVision already gives away about 200 pounds of food a year to local homeless shelters and offers job training in farming and marketing.
City Growers also plans to keep its produce local, but would sell to restaurants, grocery stores and others who have signed on to purchase its produce. The group is "more about entrepreneurism and creating an environment in which small-scale farms can be financially and fiscally vibrant, ” Murnane said.
City Growers would try to bring local residents with farming experience into what could become a viable business venture, she said.
Murnane said the city hopes to award the bids by the end of the year, so that planting could begin in the spring.
The proposal first has to be approved by the zoning commission, with a number of details remaining to be worked out, according to Read.
This article was reported and written by under the supervision of journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel (email@example.com), as part of collaboration between Northeastern University and the Globe.