Urban farm project leasing parcels to start-up immigrant and refugee farmers, with on-farm sales, cultural agritourism events, and cluster of businesses for permaculture economic development.
NUESTRAS RAICES FARM
This is the story of how an urban community reached for self-determination through agriculture and participatory design.
Tierra de Oportunidades (Land of Opportunities)
Nuestras Raíces (“Our Roots”) is a community organization in Holyoke Massachusetts that has used food, agriculture, and the environment as the basis for community development projects in the urban, largely low-income Puerto Rican neighborhoods where they work. Eric Toensmeier served nine years as a Board member and five as staff, bringing a permaculture approach to a community facing many challenges.
Holyoke’s Puerto Rican residents immigrated from the rural mountain areas, and many worked in the US as farm laborers. Living in a crumbling city they were unable to fully express their culture or use their skills for community self-determination. Community gardens and other projects developed leadership and improved food security but residents wanted more business opportunities, especially in agriculture.
In 2004 Nuestras Raíces obtained access to farmland on the outskirts of the city. Working with farmer-candidates, youth, and women’s leaders, a community-driven permaculture process was used to develop a design for the thirty-acre site.
The process integrated goals set by community members, a detailed site analysis, and market research. A large portion of the farm was set aside for parcels for start-up farmers, a group which has grown to include refugees and immigrants from around the world.
A smaller portion of the farm was designated to serve as an intensively-used cultural agri-tourism destination.
A set of business ideas were developed to be leased as concessions, with Nuestras Raíces developing the infrastructure and seeking community entrepreneurs to develop and run the businesses. These concessions were designed to minimize competition between enterprises; benefit the environment and the community; celebrate Puerto Rican culture; functionally interconnect by utilizing each other’s waste products; and mutually support each other by attracting customers to each other’s businesses.
The idea was that with good design, each business, through self-interested marketing of their operation, would attract customers to benefit other enterprises and the farmers as well.
The Farm Today
Businesses currently on-site include 22 small farm parcels, a pig-roasting operation, farm store, paso fino equestrian operation, petting zoo with heritage Caribbean breeds, and cultural events with up to 3,000 visitors for live music, theater, and folkloric dancing. Several greenhouse businesses are under development, with heat provided by waste vegetable oil from another Nuestras Raíces restaurant downtown.
Participatory design enabled community members to set goals and develop and choose scenarios that met their needs while fitting the site’s opportunities and limitations. The farm has been nationally recognized as a model for community-based ecological economic development.
Note: The various badges displayed in people profiles are largely honesty-based self-proclamations by the individuals themselves. There are reporting functions users can use if they know of blatant misrepresentation (for both people and projects). Legitimacy, competency and reputation for all people and projects can be evidenced and/or developed through their providing regular updates on permaculture work they’re involved in, before/after photographs, etc. A spirit of objective nurturing of both people and projects through knowledge/encouragement/inspiration/resource sharing is the aim of the Worldwide Permaculture Network.
A member is a permaculturist who has never taken a PDC course. These cannot become PDC teachers. Members may be novice or highly experienced permaculturists or anywhere in between. Watch their updates for evaluation.
One of these badges will show if you select your gender and the "I'm single, looking for a permaculture partner" option in your profile.
People who claim to have taken a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course somewhere in the world.
People who have entered an email address for the teacher of their PDC course, and have had their PDC status verified by that teacher. Watch their updates for evaluation.
People who’ve taken a Permaculture Research Institute PDC somewhere in the world.
People who claim to teach some version of PDC somewhere in the world.
With the exception of the ‘Member’ who has never taken a PDC, all of the above can apply to become a PRI PDC Teacher. PRI PDC Teachers are those who the PRI recognise, through a vetting board, as determined and competent to teach the full 72-hour course as developed by Permaculture founder Bill Mollison – covering all the topics of The Designers’ Manual as well as possible (i.e. not cherry picking only aspects the teacher feels most interested or competent in). Such teachers also commit to focussing on the design science, and not including subjective spiritual/metaphysical elements. The reason these items are not included in the PDC curriculum is because they are “belief” based. Permaculture Design education concerns itself with teaching good design based on strategies and techniques which are scientifically provable.
PRI PDC Teachers may be given teaching and/or consultancy offerings as they become available as the network grows.
The individual with this badge is indicating they are, have, or would like to be involved in permaculture aid work. As such, the individual may or may not have permaculture aid worker experience. Watch their updates for evaluation.
The individual with this badge is indicating they are, have, or would like to do paid permaculture design consultancy work. As such, the individual may or may not have permaculture consultancy experience. Watch their updates for evaluation.
Community projects are projects that help develop sustainable community interaction and increase localised resiliency.