Ray Porfilio, the author of this column, is a member of WRSE's Steering Committee and vice president of the New Brook Farm board of directors.
In recent years urban agriculture and community farming have exploded in popularity as more people rediscover the benefits of growing their own vegetables and fruits, having access to fresh produce, and coming together with neighbors to produce food locally.
Many of us are familiar with the lovely sight of the Newton Community Farm on Nahanton Road, particularly when its rows of vegetables are at full growth and bursting in green leaf. Wouldn't it be terrific if West Roxbury could support a similar endeavor in our own back yard?
A couple of years ago a small group, led by West Roxbury resident Bill Tuttle, began noting how wonderful such a community farm would be in West Roxbury. This led to consideration of the local historical treasure Brook Farm and the appropriateness of siting a new farm on that land — resurrecting one of the original intents and uses of this erstwhile utopian agrarian community. The talking turned into research and more talking, and that in turn led to initial outreach efforts with West Roxbury constituencies and community groups. The talking, research, and outreach continue today through a recently formed community organization called New Brook Farm, Inc.
Inspired by the original Brook Farm community and by the natural beauty of the site, the New Brook Farm group aspires to launch a small-scale urban farm in the form of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) non-profit. New Brook Farm will also share information and raise awareness of the historical, social, archeological, and environmental significance of the Brook Farm site among adults and students in Greater Boston and beyond.
The vision includes the following elements: A diversified community farm growing a variety of organic vegetables and fruits that will return a portion of the Brook Farm site to its historic agricultural use; an educational and interpretive center for all ages focusing on the history of Brook Farm, food systems, urban home gardening, food preparation and preservation, and more; and an inspirational setting for hikers, community and cultural events, and respectful contemplation of visitors to area cemeteries.
With a board of directors, and a nascent Web site with additional content on its way, New Brook Farm is organizing for the new year.
We have formed five working groups: Education; Fund-Raising and Budget; Marketing; Permissions and Organization; and Farming/Site Planning.
As local citizens volunteering our time and efforts to launch a New Brook Farm, we have the utmost respect for the land and the land's history. While more expertise and energy will be needed to see this project come to fruition, our hope is that this endeavor will support sustainable farming and education in our community.
For more information as the journey unfolds, visit the New Brook Farm Web site at newbrookfarm.org. To get involved or learn more, send an e-mail to wrse@westroxburysavesenergy or to Bill Tuttle at email@example.com and let us know your thoughts.
Also, on January 30, the Boston Redevelopment Authority is holding a citywide meeting at Suffolk University on urban agriculture — an opportunity for the community to take a fresh look at zoning and how it reflects on how people want their land to be used. For more details about this program and how to attend, click here.