Thanks to the gifts and generosity of many, we exceeded our $60,000 fundraising goal! We will use this funding to support our youth leadership development and food justice work this winter, and to further develop our Walnut Street Farm. We are humbled and grateful for the many contributions that made this possible.
Every dollar will be invested into building the leadership of our youth and growing our presence on our land and in our community -- keeping GTC sustainable for the future.
Your gifts will make possible:
Our deep thanks for supporting GTC and our work to nurture the land, grow strong youth leaders and build a movement for food justice.
Mabeline Velez: A Voice for Justice and Sustainability in Springfield and Beyond
When I was a little girl my grandfather taught me to love the land that provided my daily bread, the land that my ancestors for years had farmed to provide for the generations to come. He taught me to treat the land as a treasure that I needed to pass on.
At the age of 13 when I moved from Puerto Rico to Springfield, I knew that I left a part of myself in the coffee fields my grandfather cultivated. In my new home, I found there was very limited green space and very few places to play and be active outdoors. Thankfully, in the midst of the busy city I was blessed to find a place to connect back to the land -- that place was Gardening the Community.
At Gardening the Community I was able to carry on the legacy of sustainable farming that my grandfather put in my heart. I was excited about spending time outside and meeting new people from different backgrounds. Even with my limited English, I could share farming methods and learn new ones. I started leading groups with youth members and then finally became “Junior Staff,” working for an hourly wage. I loved GTC; it was my home.
Since then I have graduated from college and am now finishing my Masters degree in epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts. I have stayed connected with GTC, helping with projects like program evaluation, events and fundraising. Looking back, I can see how all of these experiences collectively have shaped me into becoming a leader in my community. I often find myself addressing issues that my community faces without fear of speaking up and standing for what is right, thanks to what I learned at GTC.
GTC has also strengthened my commitment to sustainability. In a busy city like Springfield, I believe that finding a farm is like finding a hidden treasure. That is why it is so important to practice farming in a sustainable way, so that this treasure can be passed down to future generations. In a time of climate change denial, GTC has created an environment where young people are able to learn about sustainability and their connection to the earth. Through the youth leadership program, GTC makes sure that each of our youth learns sustainable agriculture skills such as rainwater collection, no-till growing and crop rotation to prevent exhausting all the nutrients from our land. We also teach youth to use less fossil fuel by biking our food to markets.
GTC’s legacy of sustainable practice has allowed for many youth and adults to change their views about our land, and about our planet -- to learn that taking care of the environment is our job. When I see one of GTC’s youth lead a soil workshop, I know that GTC is ensuring that the youth of Springfield are preserving the land and our Planet Earth. When I see our youth speaking at conferences about urban farming, I know that GTC is doing its part to create awareness about a desperately needed change in the current way of growing and distributing food. When I see our youth speak about racism, I know that GTC is teaching us how to stand up for our culture and our identity. When I see GTC youth organize, I see how we are the ones who are going to change Earth’s history for the better.
It is because of your support that I am able to step forward as a leader to help the land I love and carry forward my grandfather’s legacy, both here in Springfield and in Puerto Rico. In this moment of crisis, I feel it is my generation’s responsibility to help Puerto Rico and bring it back to being La Isla del Encanto (the Enchanted Island). GTC will play an important role in this work, preparing emerging Puerto Rican leaders like me here in Springfield, so that we can help restore the island while also organizing here.
It is also thanks to you that GTC is growing strong. We have been able to create a new farm on Walnut Street, where we are working hard to regenerate the soil and create a beautiful place for generations to come. For the first time ever, we own the land. No one can take it from us -- we are building our legacy for our community.
I am asking you to make a gift so that we can continue this important work. Every dollar you give will be invested into building the leadership of our youth and growing our presence on our land and in our community -- treasures that will last beyond our lifetimes.
Thank you! ¡Muchísimas gracias!