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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Orieta

Urban Food Systems: Mill City Grows and Beacon Food Forest

Urban agriculture is increasingly coming up in discussions about how to get fresh, more sustainable food in cities. It is often associated with locavorism, or other strategies to try and shorten the “food miles” involved in conventional food ways. Urban agriculture can take various forms: personal gardens in yards or front lawns, rooftop gardens, community gardening, guerilla gardening, urban food forests, foraging, among others. Just as there are different forms of urban agriculture, people support it for different reasons. For some, it is a cheaper way to get fresh produce, while for others it is an opportunity to connect with the land, learn where their food comes from, or be in community with others practicing urban agriculture.

Jessica Wilson and Elise Evans are two awesome women who engage in urban agriculture in the East and West Coast of the US, respectively. Jessica Wilson is the executive Director of Mill City Grows, a community garden in Lowell, Massachusetts. The garden proportions fresh produce to the community through a variety of programs, including CSAs, Mobile Markets, and even through partnerships with the City of Lowell and the State of Massachusetts to provide food at low cost to people on the SNAP program. Elise Evans is a volunteer and former president of the Board for the Beacon Food Forest, in Seattle, Washington. The Beacon Food Forest operates with a different model than Mill City Grows, and actually has open harvest areas where community members can collect food to take home for free. They sustain the forest through volunteer work groups, and build community through these and other events.

Even though they’re different, both of these projects satisfy an important need in the community. They provide food, they run educational programs, and they contribute to the greening of cities, in turn sustaining more biodiversity than there would be otherwise.

Learn more about these projects through our panel, “Community Gardens: Building Sustainable and Accessible Food Systems” (below) or by visiting their website and/or following them on social media.

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