For somewhere between $20 and $75 a year, based on income, a gardener can rent a chunk of Providence land and plant seeds that may blossom into a new way to earn a living. For that small investment, the urban farmer will get fencing, good soil and a water supply.
That’s one part of the multilayered vision for Lots of Hope, a program launched in January by the city, in collaboration with Southside Community Land Trust.
“This is not the first time gardeners will be growing food on city property. We’ve helped create community gardens in many city parks,” said Providence Director of Sustainability Sheila Dormody. “With Lots of Hope, we want to encourage farmers to make a living growing food in the city.”
Providence is one of six cities in the U.S. awarded a $50,000 grant from the Florida-based Local Sustainability Matching Fund. The grant requires a local matching fund – that came from The Rhode Island Foundation – a city sustainability office, and a local partner – that’s Southside Community Land Trust.
“A family could make a substantial portion of their annual income with urban agriculture in Providence,” said Margaret DeVos, executive director of Southside Community Land Trust.
“Our farm is a demonstration farm, so the goal is not just to earn money. We do a lot of teaching there and that three-quarters-of-an-acre brings in $65,000 a year in revenue,” DeVos said. “I think $65,000 in revenue could be brought in on other urban farms of the same size.”
The gardener will have to invest in some equipment, compost and seeds, and the land trust offers those at reduced costs, she said.
Growing the state’s urban-agriculture industry, even by one family at a time, is economic development, said DeVos.
“When you think about economic development, people often think of millions of dollars in profits, but this is economic development on the scale of the individual,” DeVos said. “At this investment scale, these revenues and the grocery savings are significant.”
In addition to growing the urban-agriculture industry in Providence, Lots of Hope fits in with the city’s comprehensive plan.
The Providence comprehensive plan calls for establishing “a goal that every Providence resident live within a 10-minute walk of a community garden.”