Changing the landscape of Boston farming

The Food Project grows 200,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables on the 70 acres of farmland it maintains.

Teen volunteers lead harvests, and help run the community supported agriculture (CSA) programs and farmers’ markets that The Food Project is involved in.

Every summer when the teens participating in The Food Project program begin their first day on the job, they usually are a bit overwhelmed by the grueling physical labor.

“It’s a bit of a shock to the system,” said Danielle Andrews, The Food Project’s Boston farm manager.

Sometimes, some of the 120 teens from Greater Boston and the suburbs will have some experience tending to their family garden. But, as Andrews explains, that’s very different than laborious farming — which is how the 14-17 year-olds spend their days.

Together, they cultivate and harvest vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruit on about 70 acres of urban and suburban farmland using natural growing methods without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.


The Food Project began in 1991 as the brainchild of a farmer in Lincoln and a minister in Roxbury. Since those early days, it has evolved into a nationally recognized nonprofit.

Its staff, Board of Trustees, and legions of volunteers are all driven by its mission: to create a community of youth and adults from diverse backgrounds who will work together to create a sustainable food system.

With six farms in Lynn, Lincoln, Wenham, and Boston’s Dudley neighborhood, The Food Project’s goal is to produce healthy food for all residents in the city and suburbs and to help fulfill the right to food and increase access to fresh, healthy food for all, explained Yasser Aponte, the Greater Boston community programs manager.

The Food Project grows 200,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables on the 70 acres of farmland it maintains.

Half of that is distributed to individuals struggling with food insecurity through farmers’ markets and relationships with businesses in Boston’s Dudley neighborhood and the city of Lynn, where multi-generations of families work to overcome food inequities, Aponte said.

The Food Project works to establish a model where fresh food can be sold in an affordable, accessible way for both the farmers and the customers.

Joining the crews

It all starts with the young, volunteer farmers.


The Food Project has several levels for teens to move through: the Seed Crew, or the first level where the youngest teens grow and distribute thousands of pounds of produce. The teens also attend workshops on sustainable agriculture, food access, and social justice.

The next level is the Dirt Crew, where teens expand on their knowledge and skills by building raised-bed gardens in Lynn, Dorchester, and Roxbury. The crew also leads volunteers on the farms and supports community events.

In the Root Crew, teens foster the skills from their work to create and facilitate workshops that address the causes and impacts of food access inequities, lead volunteer groups on urban and suburban farms, cultivate crops in greenhouses, and mobilize peers. This crew leads harvests and helps run the community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs and farmers’ markets that The Food Project is involved in.

The Food Project also offers fellowships to high school graduates who have completed at least one session on a crew.

“These youth are looking to make an impact in their community,” Aponte said. They perform outreach and build relationships with community organizations and other nonprofits and churches.

Volunteers with The Food Project (Courtesy)

Dudley Greenhouse

Another way The Food Project meets its mission is through the Dudley Greenhouse, which was created through a brownfields remediation grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, Andrews and Aponte said.


At 10,000-square feet, the greenhouse is “a substantial size for a small neighborhood,” Andrews said.

The indoor farm, located in a close-knit neighborhood, is run by The Food Project and residents and overseen by an advisory committee, Aponte said.

The greenhouse allows local farmers and residents to have a growing space and also offers space for resources and educational workshops.

Fledging gardeners collaborate with and learn from experienced growers. The community also has access to seedlings, quality compost, and gardening tools.

In addition to common vegetables, specialty crops geared toward neighborhood residents are harvested in the greenhouse, such as cousa squash.

“We’re lucky to be in a neighborhood that is rich with growers,” Andrews said. “People care about [the greenhouse and the farmland] and watch out for them.”


Since its inception, The Food Project has:
● Built more than 1,500 raised-bed gardens in residents’ backyards and in community spaces.
● Graduated over 1,800 youth from Seed Crew, Root Crew, and Dirt Crew.
● Cultivated over 5,000,000 pounds of produce on 60 acres of urban and suburban land.
● Provided nearly 100,000 hours of service at more than 15 local hunger relief organizations.
● Welcomed more than 44,500 serve and grow volunteers on its farms.

Information provided by The Food Project


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