Tag Archives: urban gardens

Edith parked in fashion! … Worcester Earth Day clean ups? The city’s most equitable/best farmers markets? Community gardens and more? REC’s been a Woo shining star for decades!

Garden with REC!

By Edith Morgan
It’s that time of year again: Worcester’s citywide Earth Day Clean-up happens April 9, and on that Saturday morning, from 8 a.m. to noon, we expect more than 1,000 volunteers to fan out throughout the city to pick up trash in public places. 

So, in preparation for the event, there was a gathering at the Worcester Senior Center last night, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., to get ready – and to eat and see friends, and take care of “business.”  
Earth Day has been observed here in Worcester by the REC and all our neighborhoods since 1989, and yearly we have gotten together to celebrate the successes of the REC projects, plan for the future, and pass out the materials needed for the clean-up.
A lively and excited group filled the large meeting-eating area at the Senior Center. After a brief welcome from REC Board President Julie Orozco, we got down to the business of eating the great assortment of “pot-luck” foods that attendees had brought.
Then, down to business business: President Orozco  gave a brief summary of her involvement with the organization,  and  Treasurer Ted Hudson summarized the year’s finances, which were detailed for all attendees in the annual report booklet that we all were given.
To complete the formal part of this annual meeting,  elections were then held (the slate was at each of our seats,  and everyone was duly introduced, sworn in, and welcomed by the group.)

The Regional Environmental Council has greatly impacted the Worcester Community:

Thywill Opare summarized the accomplishments of the YouthGROW program and its impact on the young people involved with it.

Rafaela Morales-Rosa talked about the Community Gardens program.

Winifred Octave spoke about how she came to be involved, not only in the yearly clean-ups but also in advocating for the great improvements to Grant Park, directly across the street from where she lives. Together with Deb Bolz she founded the Green Hill Neighborhood Association, which carries on improvements year-round.
Finally, Steve Fischer, REC executive Director, spoke about some of the accomplishments of these programs:

Steve said there were 50 sites throughout the the city, that last year, 50 tons of trash were collected, involving more than 1,000 volunteers.

Trash all over our streets! Here’s a bunch of refuse illegally dumped, on Ward Street heading into the Canal District! pic:R.T.

He thanked the many great corporate and community organization sponsors.

Spring is here!!! flower pics: Chef Joey

Before giving the assembled Earth Day Coordinators some tips for the Earth Day Clean-up activities, Steve mentioned some figures that gave us a better idea of the impact these programs are having in Worcester:

There are now 64 [REC] community and school gardens in Worcester;  

34 youth are employed
on two “urban farms” 

and the ever increasing number of REC farmers markets served 8,000 separate (unique) customers. Lest you get the idea that using these locally grown and sold foods are being consumed only by those who can afford the sometimes higher prices that fresh, pure fruits and vegetables bring, I was amazed to find that half of all sales went to users of SNAP benefits and the WIC Program – so people who need it most are getting great, healthy food, fresh and home-grown. That’s a real win-win!

All Worcester families can afford to buy the fresh produce and more available at REC FARMERS MARKETS because the REC markets do not discriminate – keep some city residents out of the healthy food loop – AND ACCEPT SNAP cards! Some even double the amount of veggies you can buy with SNAP. FOOD JUSTICE NOW!! – R. Tirella pic: Ron O’Clair
So, I urge everyone to participate, join REC, help us make our neighborhoods pristine …

… and on April 9 – our city’s Earth Day celebration – fill as many of REC’s yellow trash bags as you can!

REC provides Earth Day clean-up site coordinators with bags, gloves, instructions, and advice.

If you want to help, or have questions, or want to know more, call REC at 508-799-9139. Or go to their website: www.RECworcester.org.

From Main South’s REC!


We’re thankful for you!

This Holiday Season, we’re so thankful that you’re involved with the REC. Over the past 44 years, thousands of people like you have helped build a powerful organization for community change. Thank you for volunteering, donating, supporting, and working together with us. You are making a difference every day in the lives of Worcester and Central MA residents. Together we are making a healthier, more sustainable and more just community.

We’re so glad that you are part of the REC.

Steve Fischer, executive director
Regional Environmental Council




To learn more about this REC program that gives Worcester low-income  kids jobs working at REC’s YouthGrow farm, REC’s Worcester community gardens, and REC farmers markets and the REC mobile farmers market – all of which reach out to and support Worcester’s urban core – CLICK HERE!     – R.T.

What REC’s farmers market folks, urban gardeners and community food-justice leaders are up to this winter

Dear  Supporters,

Every REC Food Justice Program staff member has been asked this question at least once: “So what do you DO all Winter?”

Well, here is your answer!

January has been a full month for us, kicking off on Saturday, January 10, at the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-MA) Conference at Worcester State University. Katie Rozenas, our School Gardens AmeriCorps VISTA, planned and led the children’s programming for the day with over 25 participants ranging from age 2 to 12. Activities included making homemade salsa, recycled rain sticks, and a group mural.

REC’s YouthGROW program also represented at NOFA where we premiered a new workshop titled “Gentrification in the Food System,” led by Junior Staff, Chad McClain and Ralph Weah.

The workshop generated great discussions with over 30 participants and Chad and Ralph both agreed the highlight was an original skit they had created to get people talking. Chad remarked after “I believe that people were connected to the skit because they’ve either experienced it before or seen it happen.”

This past week, we celebrated our amazing volunteer School Garden Coordinators at our Annual School & Educational Gardens Appreciation Dinner.

Katie prepared a delicious homemade meal with local ingredients and we all got a chance to hear about highlights from 2014.

Nancy Thibault from Rainbow Child Development Center talked about how their educational garden has changed the neighborhood for the better and about their new initiative to build a hydroponic growing system.

Patty Flanagan from the YWCA of Central MA told us how their educational garden has involved staff and participants from all programs of the organization—growing more than 200 lbs of fresh veggies for food-insecure families this season. The YWCA also hosted a Bancroft School intern who created beautiful art to decorate their garden.

For our community gardeners who may be feeling left out, don’t worry! We are planning a great event for you as well.

Please join us Tuesday, January 27, at 6 PM at the Dynamy Carriage House, (27 Sever Street), for the UGROW Appreciation Dinner. Stacie and the REC team want to congratulate you on your hard work in 2014 and hear your ideas for how we can enrich the gardens network this year.

Stay tuned for how we keep busy in February, and don’t forget to support your favorite Food Justice organization!

We are currently looking for interns and volunteers, and can always use your financial support.

Thank you for making our work possible!

-The REC Food Justice Team

From the Worcester Tree Initiative …

Fruit Tree Guards: Keep rodents and deer away!

Even in Worcester rodents and deer can destroy fruit trees.  Fruit tree wood is a tasty treat in the middle of winter.  If your trees are planted close to a wooded area, you may want to install tree guards like the ones used on the top of Newton Hill. To make: Simply cut plastic pipes and wire them closed to prevent girdling of trees.


Worcester Fun Fact

….”According to one map of Worcester in 1776, a huge, old elm grew at the corner of today’s Main and Pleasant Streets – a tree so respected it was left standing as the town developed roads around it; hence, the reason, though the elm is long gone, why Pleasant is slightly offset from Front Street.” – Evelyn Herwitz




Saturday, Jan 24

11:30 am – 1:30 pm in the Saxe Room at the Worcester Public Library, Salem Square


Wednesday, January 21

8 am – 9 am at Ameripride Corporation at 280 Greenwood St.


Saturday, March 14

10:30 am at 27 Oread Place

Benefit Street community garden revived! Needs growers for next season!


Dear REC Members and Supporters,

I really appreciate this time of year. Colder temperatures and shorter days signal the end of the growing season, and I get a chance to retreat to the office to spend time reflecting on the busy summer season.

This summer, I had the pleasure of working with 40 freshman students from University Park Campus School (UPCS). Our mission was to revive the Benefit Street Community Garden. As a result of a decline in the number of community gardeners, the garden was beginning to resemble a pristine meadow sandwiched between two apartment buildings, rather than an active community garden.

Over the course of three weeks, we packed the REC pickup truck full of tall grasses, and overgrown weeds. We picked up trash within the garden and along the street. We cleared paths, and spread compost. We outlined plots for future community gardeners, established a perennial butterfly and herb garden, and even set aside a garden plot for UPCS.

The garden transformation was incredible. Each day neighbors walked by and thanked us for our hard work. Some even signed up to garden in 2015. The students were a huge help in getting Benefit Street Garden back up and running. Their hard work has motivated other community members to get involved, and has contributed to a greater positive impact within the neighborhood. If you or someone you know is interested in growing at any of the 37 community gardens within the city, sign up [below].

[ALSO:] Please consider supporting us by donating to our Annual Appeal!

[editor’s note: CLICK HERE to donate to REC this holiday season! CLICK HERE to sign up to be a part of the Benefit Street garden or any of REC’s Worcester community gardens!]

Stacie Brimmage

UGROW Coordinator

The hardest part. The easiest part.

By Rosalie Tirella

So I moved back to Worcester’s District 4 after three years of living at 159 Greenwood St., Worcester. Back then, living on Greenwood Street, living at the edge of Quinsig Village, I felt, for the first time!, almost semi-retired. Heaven! I was born and raised in the inner city and lived in all kinds of sketchy pads in sketchy hoods most of my life. The edge of the Village, near the Millbury line, was like joining AARP.

In the Village, I could truly unwind… across the street from my digs there was a big park, next door a business that closed up at 5, every night…and next door, on the other side of my place, my human neighbors were two old Swedes and their old son who would inherit their antiseptic little house and existence and keep the cycle spinning, keep things blessedly quiet. …Greenwood Street is wide and busy with zooming traffic – no chance of small talk with neighbors across the street!!!

Now I AM IN THE THICK OF HUMAN HAPPENINGS HERE IN MY D 4 inner city hood! TONS OF PEOPLE ARE JAMMED IN HERE – most desperate around the edges, lots a pay-check or two away from being out on the street. Lots of folks here don’t work at all…

When I first moved here I was annoyed, ANNOYED, by all the messy human activity. Annoyed that the guy nearby decided to rip into his girlfriend one day as I was getting into my car to hit the road for InCity Times. The nerve of the guy! Calling his gal pal a cunt and rushing at her just as I was planning on where to buy my coffee…I am middle aged and I’ve been to this rodeo before. It’s as constant as the turning of the earth. It began with my father in Green Island decades ago! The guy loathes himself, believes deep deep deep down he’s shit, a loser. Lost and broken, he is. Then a woman takes him in (we always take them in) and it’s good for awhile but then the man who hates himself begins to transfer his self loathing onto his woman – rips into the woman to feel better about himself.

The morning I was thinking about my coffee, I sensed, without turning my head to look at the garish spectacle, that the guy who was screaming at his girlfriend and threatening to punch her was showing off…for me… The new lady neighbor with big sun glasses who always tries to look nice when she runs her business…and always takes her little husky dog with her wherever she goes …

I felt mad and ashamed. For them. For me. For the human race…

But that was several months ago…

Things change.

I have re-remembered that for every shitty experience that goes down in the inner city, 10 cool things happen. For instance, my downstairs neighbors are LOVELY. They love Jett and call him beautiful. One of them came upstairs with a box of doggie biscuits a few months ago, and the other gave me a teeny spider plant which I have replanted three times in successively bigger flower pots – making her little gift a big, sprawling, BEAUTIFUL testament to her good ways. Despite the poverty.

My neighbor next door has cleaned the yard and has planted an urban garden for all of us to admire, and it is fun to watch his squashes grow by the hour it seems! Squashes and tomato vines carressing our inner city yard – lovely. The little yard where his little dogs scamper about and try to mix it up with Jett my husky mix.

Yesterday I saw some plastic soda bottles and wrapping paper and other trash strewn in front of our three decker and I got indignant! No! My neighborhood, my home, is not your personal trash can! (Lots of people think it’s perfectly OK to throw their garbage onto inner city streets and sidewalks, as if to say let the paper and plastic refuse join the human kind. This is immoral! We WILL CHANGE THIS MINDSET, my neighbors and I!)

Sometimes taking pride in yourself, your jalopy, your neighborhood is catching and your neighbors start to clean up around their yards and plant pretty flowers in their front yards and joke with their dogs as they see you make your way to your car with your husky dog! Everybody walks a little taller.

And then sometimes inner-city life can be TRANSCENDENT…

A few months ago I was heading to my apartment after a long day’s work. I was tired. I had closed my car door, was putting the leash on Jett to lead him to the back yard to pee and then this: boom! Four or so boys, 12, 13 years old, were in my face…They looked dirty, rough, their hair knotty and when I looked up one of the boys put his hand out to me and said: LOOK!!!

In his hand a sparrow. A sparrow that he was cupping so he and his little gang could show me. The pretty little, tough little brown birds that you find every where in the inner city, the ones that make their nests in the eaves of old sheds or the condemned three decker you had given up on.

There sat the brown bird, so so still, in his hand, feathers dirty and ruffled. Perfect. The boys let me look long and close at this mystery.

The leader said: He got himself hit with our baseball!

I thought to myself: You mean the one you whipped at him. Now he’s probably in shock.

Still, I stared, grateful that they had thought of me, had guessed (correctly!) that I would love the sparrow.

And then FOOF! The sparrow FLEW OUT OF HIS TRAP and made mad little circles over head.

The boy yelled, laughing: YOU FAKER!

And looking up into the sky, running helter skelter, their tee shirts ill fitting, greasy bangs in their eyes the boys ran out of my parking lot following the sparrow…The bird was high in the sky…We were all looking up at it! We were smiling. Happy.

The time to make up your mind about inner-city life is … NEVER!