Welcome Our New Community Growers Network Coordinator!

Cindy Llamas, the new Community Growers Network Coordinator for the Community Land Trust

Cindy Llamas is the newest addition to the Southside Community Land Trust staff. She will be helping to expand the recently launched Community Growers Network alongside its director, Liza Sutton, giving community gardeners, home gardeners, and school gardens in Providence the resources they need to be successful at growing food in the city.

Cindy comes to us from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, where she had been conducting outreach around Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—formerly known as food stamps—at soup kitchens, food pantries, and senior centers in her hometown of Newport. Her goal was to educate people about how to qualify for the program, what is covered, and how to maintain good nutrition. She also worked to get EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) payments accepted at area farmers’ markets. “There’s actually a high poverty rate in many cities in Rhode Island, and a lot of people aren’t accessing their benefits, even though they’re eligible,” she says. “Once I started working with the Food Bank, I really saw the poverty here, and I wanted to improve quality of life for these people by getting them access to good food.”

Cindy also worked extensively with the Latino population in Newport; she speaks fluent Spanish, having grown up with two parents from Bolivia and Guatemala. “There aren’t as many social service providers there that speak Spanish,” she says, “so I was called on often to translate.” In fact, Cindy got her start in community organizing through a church group that was helping to support Spanish-speaking immigrants by providing them with legal advocacy services. “That was what opened the door to my work in the community,” she says. She began attending meetings and doing regular outreach to low-income families and seniors.

Cindy’s interest in food originated from many years of working in restaurants. In 1998, she moved to southern California, where she continued to work in the food industry while taking courses at San Diego City College and the University of California at Santa Cruz. While in school, she observed what she calls the “culture of farmers’ markets” in California and thought, “I would like to see this back in Rhode Island.” She returned to the Ocean State to complete her degree in Latin American Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Inspired by what she had learned about indigenous communities’ connection to the earth and their reliance on farming as a way of life, she began working in landscape design and became the leader of a garden in the Park Holm community in Newport called the Learners’ Journey Community Garden.

That was how she first heard about the Community Land Trust. “When I started getting involved, I came across information from SCLT about how to start a garden,” she says. “I hadn’t realized the extent of urban agriculture here in Rhode Island, and I fell in love with the idea of community gardens. They bring people together and give them new experiences. The other day, I was trying to get a girl to try a fresh green bean. She said she only liked them in cans, because that’s the only way she’d ever had them. I asked her, ‘How do you think it gets in there?’ and that got her to try one. It’s exciting to see their mindset changing.”

When she’s not molding new gardeners or growing vegetables herself, Cindy is busy planning her wedding, which will take place next month! We’re so glad to have her on board. Congratulations to Cindy on both her new position and her marriage!

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One Comment to “Welcome Our New Community Growers Network Coordinator!”

  1. Great article…good luck with everything Cindy! Hope to see you at one of the SCLT sites this summer!

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