The “Florence Street Community Garden”, located at Scharf Park, is a symbolic milestone for not only the City of Everett, but specifically to a coalition of Everett community residents and organizations, Everyone Eats Healthy in Everett (EEHE). EEHE is a coalition funded by the Boston Public Health Commission’s Center for Health Equity and Social Justice, and it seeks to educate and empower community members to advocate for policy changes that promote better food access and racial justice in the City of Everett. For about two years this alliance has been working to implement policies to help support and create an equitable environment to make healthy food affordable and accessible for all Everett residents.
The coalition decided on two plans of action: 1) providing transportation to affordable food (in our case Market Basket) while advocating for better MBTA service to Market Basket, and 2) growing own food by creating community gardens and an ordinance to support urban agriculture. The focus on a community garden was brought to light because many low income and residents of color in Everett that have come from other countries and states are used to cultivating their own soil and growing their own food as a source of fruits and vegetables. Many residents have voiced opinions that it is almost impossible for them to get fresh fruits and vegetables given the high prices of produce in nearby supermarkets, lack of affordable and fresh options in local corner stores, and hardships in accessing markets that do hold cheaper prices. Residents want the option to grow their own produce here in Everett, and a community garden is the first step in helping with this solution.
EEHE appealed to Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr., Marzie Galazka, Everett’s Director of Community Development and Peter Pietrantonio, acting Director of City Services for property to be allotted to the group to start a community garden. A portion of Jacob Scharf Park on Chelsea and Florence Streets was allotted for this purpose. Mr. Pietrantonio helped in providing the soil, land, fencing, and signs, and building 10 raised beds for growing. 10 families have worked to use the 10 beds to grow fruits, vegetables, or flowers, as they desire. They have named their garden “Florence Street Community Garden”. These members will work together as a team to maintain their plots, distribute food among themselves, and distribute extra to family, neighbors and/or nearby food pantries. They will commit to meet regularly to discuss problems, share knowledge, set rules, and see that the rules are followed. If a family does not maintain their garden for an extended period of time, they will have the opportunity to decide how to choose another family to take over the plot. They will continue to have support from members of EEHE to help iron out difficulties. EEHE will work together with the Mayor’s Office to draft an urban agriculture ordinance that will solidify these rules and regulations and create a framework for community gardens all over the City to help residents acquire fresher, healthier food as well as help them control where their food comes from and how it is produced.
EEHE wishes to thank the City of Everett for all they have done, and invite all members of the community to celebrate this great achievement in our city. Hopefully, there will be more community gardens in the future. Our ultimate goal, through the Mayor’s office, the Planning and Development Office, and the Health Department is to develop an Urban Agricultural Ordinance, encouraging raised bed gardening on other properties available from the city as well as on privately own land.