Greenwich Gets a Garden

Click here to see the garden build-out unfold!

For the last month, Liza Sutton, our Community Growers Director, has been coordinating the construction of a new garden at 49 Greenwich Street in partnership with the International Institute of Rhode Island, which provides educational, legal, and social services to immigrants and refugees in Providence. Thanks to Liza’s efforts, and the efforts of Ben Torpey, a teacher at the school and a former Southside Community Land Trust apprentice, a group of men and women studying intensive English at the Institute now have access to plots nearby filled with healthy soil where they can grow food for their families.

The Community Land Trust approached the International Institute with the idea for the garden last summer, and the two organizations collaborated to apply for a grant from The Cedar Tree Foundation to cover the cost of materials. “The Land Trust has been working with refugees for a long time,” Ben says. “We were thrilled when they came to us with the idea of creating a garden near the Institute. Many of the people we work with come from an agricultural background, and have been displaced from their land. Most have been here less than a year. They were really excited by the idea.” The students had already formed a small community given that they take classes together five days a week; it seemed natural to have that group begin gardening together.

James Kaskile used to farm in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He agrees that the garden represents a little bit of home. “I believe if you are capable of helping someone, you should. I feel good because this is helping refugees so they can have natural food,” he says. In his country of origin, he reports, they do not commonly use gardening tools, but their hands only. Here in Providence, where he has lived since January of last year, he has planted beans, hot peppers, and tomatoes in his new plot. “I cook for my five kids,” he says, “because my wife works full-time.” Ben adds, “You can grow a significant amount of food in a garden plot, and this is more nutritious and better-tasting than many of the things purchased with food stamps. In my class, people are always lamenting that the food here is just not as fresh—and the chiles not as spicy—as back home. Now they can grow some of what they can’t find at the store.”

“We are so proud to have undertaken and completed this project with another community organization,” Liza says. “It’s been incredible to see 37 raised beds rise up from the ground where there used to be only trash.”

To watch a short video about the garden’s development, click below. Thank you to The Cedar Tree Foundation, The Mary Dexter Chafee Fund, and an anonymous donor for their financial support, and to Casa Buena Builders, Inc. for their hard work and construction expertise. Together, we have given 17 Providence families a green space where they can feel more connected to their new city, to the food they eat, and to one another.

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