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The Fertile Underground in 1000 Words!
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I write you in the spirit of renewal. I have a story to tell about the Fertile Underground and how it has grown in my life and throughout the near environment.
In 2009, my time was in Oregon on farms with foods growing, healthy water & air, lovely animals and plenty of work to commit to. I returned to Rhode Island that fall, in place to welcome our first son to Earth in a locale near my wife’s folks, and our existing community here. My consciousness transitioned from a place of green, trees, goats, and river to the paved expanses and crumbling infrastructure of Providence. We arrived into the entry of a Friday night party, and we heard about the Fertile Underground, that had developed since we had gone.
The next day I walked the four blocks from where we stayed and began cultivating the lot on Pearl Street, which was a first garden home established that May. What I saw was the desolation renewed with reclaimed materials forming the elements of a solid & bountiful urban garden. I felt immense gratitude for having this space in which to soften the transition to the city. It furthered my understanding that sacred spaces can be anywhere.
Passing time there, working and building a greenhouse that winter, many able men would approach the fence, asking for work. I explained I was doing this so I could plant vegetables inside. These folks needed food today; there is a shelter very close by, and our garden was between that shelter and the Amos House, which serves lunch every day, so we’d get a lot of foot traffic.
I began thinking a lot about how many able-bodied people are in Providence with no good chance for work, and just kicking time along, also struggling to eat. I began creating a vision for garden barter of work for food. It would use objects like value-stamped books as instruments to represent the work, redeemable at various food spots like gardens. Then people could work a day, and get food when it was available.
A year later, the Fertile Underground kept growing and thriving. I recognized it as the amazing living community it is, and decided to make this my full-time commitment. Ideas firmed into the Food Truck, whereby we could get vegetables effectively from farms into all areas of the city. Also, to sell fresh farm produce in prepared form, because such a bulk of people do not regularly cook their meals, whether through unfamiliarity with these vegetables or inadequate access to a kitchen, or a perceived lack of time.
I was able to find a used but damaged canteen truck for $6500 and to buy it with family gifts from our recent matrimony. The process began of fixing it and getting the ducks in row. Meanwhile, the West Broadway Neighborhood Association asked us to consider completing their grant to open a Grocery Store on the West Side, at 1577 Westminster St. I realized the immense trilogy that would be created by having gardens, a food distribution place, and mobile prepared foods. This circular format appeared so equilateral and thus the “Furtile” food truck was parked behind Lady Shop for undercarriage body-work, and then let to hibernate indefinitely while we prepared the Grocery.
2 years later, the thaw is here. Furtile Turtle is waking up from the nap, and is now back in the shop, getting electrically sound. The Grocery is humming, our worker-cooperative is deep and brilliant, and new buds are appearing all over. I am confident now that the time for the truck has approached. For Slow Food, it is worth the wait.
I am writing to relate the origin of the idea, and the possibility it creates as a reality. As a young farmer and father, I am working to create quality, efficient distribution for fresh vegetables. Farmers Markets use up too much of farmers time. Other workers need to get in the game. Food grocery retail is one aspect we have opened up, along with the cooking which happens in the Café. The kitchen on this truck, and the audiences we will approach with our food, create an entirely new dynamic for peddling super-fresh and local farm produce.
The Fertile Underground are wearing many hats. We provide gardening support and land use for our members, we operate an accessible Grocery Store within a former food desert, we provide high quality local and health items within the store while also being price-conscious, we support small farmers by paying fair prices for their products, we create social events, we build in and cultivate public spaces, to create uplifting environments. A goal we always hold and is perhaps most difficult to achieve, is to truly deeply provide local food access to all people of our city, and to create options for uplifting and supportive work.
The travels of this truck will bring a new flavor to the streets of Providence. We notice that some people struggle in thought while spending $6-8 on raw fresh vegetables, but will easily spend that same amount on prepared take-out foods with questionable health value. We are now here to challenge the dominance of the Meal Imposters, and to provide a super-live healthy feast option, readily available. SLOW FOOD IS ON THE MOVE!
As our truck sources more quantity of local produce, we hope to inspire folks to consider growing food here and to become a proud producer of sustenance in their neighborhoods. We will continue to keep a tight food loop. And we hope soon, that when someone is approaching us asking for work, we will invite them into a productive garden to help out, and later share hot foods, when the Furtile Turtle rolls around.
We are the Turtle now, patient and slow, large and wise. Many wonderful people fit into this shell and come along to ride into future days with solid cooperative partnerships, connective work-places, and life-giving food to keep us alive.
Yours in Truth,
Fertile Underground in 1000 words.
If A Pictures is worth 1000 Words, I bet this video could pay off our national debt of Words!