Community Garden in Lowell Stars in BBC Piece
LOWELL -- The community garden is blossoming in Back Central.
Giant kale as tall as the 5-foot, 8-inch gardener, in addition to monster zucchini and an enormous pumpkin.
“Wow, they’re like Jurassic,” Alexis Pancrazi says of the kale at Mill City Grows’ Rotary Club Community Garden.
Pancrazi speaks to gardeners, immigrants and others to learn about the community gardens’ impact across the city.
She recently released her findings in a 27-minute podcast segment as part of BBC World Service’s “Neighbourhood” series. The title of the radio segment broadcast last week was “How a Garden Grows.”
“We’ve been working with her for over a year on that piece, so we were really excited it finally aired,” said Lydia Sisson, co-director of Mill City Grows.
“We’re really passionate about sharing stories of our gardeners and participants, and how their lives are impacted,” she added. “We hope this will bring more attention to the power that community gardens have.”
The segment shines a light on Mill City Grows’ first community garden, the Rotary Club garden founded in 2012. It’s located in Back Central, off a side street near the Lawrence Street and Rogers Street intersection.
It’s nestled between houses next to a skate park, and was formerly an empty lot. The segment discusses how community gardens across the country are blossoming in the place of empty lots and blight.
In Lowell, the community gardens are helping improve urban access to fresh produce, Pancrazi says.
“It’s so much more than just the food,” says Mill City Grows Co-Director Francey Slater. “It’s the sense of belonging to a community. It’s the people that you meet.
“That sense of ownership you develop -- transforming a piece of your neighborhood that had been blighted and ugly and vacant and dilapidated, into something that’s really rich and lush and welcoming,” she added. “There’s something so celebratory about that.”
The radio segment goes over Lowell’s industrial past, and how the large, red-bricked buildings still dominate downtown. Pancrazi dives into the city’s diverse population and the refugees who have settled here.
From the immigrant discussion, she tells an anecdote of how some tomatoes have disappeared, pointing to a language barrier possibly causing those thefts. A “trusted neighbor” is the suspect, and one of the gardeners says they may have taken the tomatoes because “community garden” to some sounds like anyone can take the finished product.
Furthermore, Pancrazi talks about the economic situation in Lowell, where home prices and rents are rapidly rising. She then discusses how community gardens can both stabilize neighborhoods and raise real-estate values -- which is good for homeowners, but tough for renters.
“It’s a double-edged sword,” Pancrazi said.
“Your rent goes up, and you get edged out,” she later added. “It can make it harder for these people to stay here.”
The series is a collaboration between the BBC World Service and the Sundance Institute. It’s available for streaming at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w3csxh4j .
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.