Connections to Farmers, Gaps in Local Food System the Focus of ‘root2Rise’

root2RISE Community Share event bags. Courtesy photo

The root2RISE team held a ‘Community Share’ this fall, to continue to spread the message about having a greater connection to the food we eat.

root2RISE Community Share event bags. Courtesy photo

By Ronni Newton

As the growing season came to an end this fall, the root2RISE team wanted to make sure their message – and the conversation the organization has been emphasizing with residents about having a greater connection to their food – would not become dormant.

In late October, root2RISE – the organization that was formerly known as Growing Great Schools but now has a new name and expanded mission – hosted a Community Share even with local farmers, assembling 158 share bags, 35 of which were donated to elementary school families.

“Seeing the farmers in our community struggle through extreme weather this summer had me asking myself, why don’t we all have a closer, more direct relationship to our farmers?” said Kim Hughes, co-director of root2RISE. “That includes the urban farmers in Hartford as well. They’re right next door. These farmers/producers care deeply about healthy soil, water and air, just like I do! We all benefit from a robust, inclusive, local food system and this should include our children and what they eat at school as well.”

root2RISE Community Share event bags. Courtesy photo

Hughes, and Nakia Alexander, the other co-director of root2RISE, said through the event they were looking to bring focus to local farmers, including urban and BIPOC farmers, and want to continue to “encourage thinking and dialogue around what it means to be more directly connected to your food.”

That conversation includes considering existing barriers that prevent access to fresh food for many children and their families. While processed and packaged food is often accessible and inexpensive, healthy and fresh food is often much more expensive. In addition, “Ours is a system where farm laborers work hard but often don’t get a proportionate share of the profits,” Hughes and Alexander said.

The bags provided at the Community Share included fresh seasonal produce from local farmers like onions, sweet potatoes, apples, and acorn squash, as well as recipes for how to prepare some items that may be unfamiliar – like collards and tulsi. Area farmers that participated included Micro2life, Samad Gardens Initiative, Scotts’ Bakery, George Hall Farm, and High Hill Farm.

The event exceeded their expectations, Hughes and Alexander said.

Benefits from a local food system include healthier and more sustainable communities, they said, as well as “greater support for farmers and other producers who care for and are connected to the land, water, and air.”

Root2RISE is hoping that when the growing season resumes, more people in the community will consider seeking out a CSA and forming a direct relationship with farmers. “Additionally, think more about how we can support local BIPOC farmers such as Micro2Life (www.micro2life.com) and Samad Garden Initiative (samadgardensinitiative.com), who participated in the Community Share Event,” they said.

The mission of root2RISE is to “ensure access to inclusive, outdoor education.” More information about the organization can be found on their website.

root2RISE Community Share event bags. Courtesy photo

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