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Knox Hartford

This little farmer went to market – for better health

The challenge

High obesity rates in urban areas, such as Hartford, Conn., contribute to health problems in both children and adults. Yet, the city’s farmers markets lack crops used in many ethnic recipes. Also, minority group members are underrepresented at farmers markets and related venues such as regional conferences on locally grown foods.

The vision

For over 49 years, KNOX has been teaching community gardening, horticulture, green community building and environmental awareness. Today, KNOX works with over 290 community gardening families. With Aetna Foundation support, KNOX is launching its Urban Sprouts program in an effort to include culturally diverse and low-income communities in urban agriculture. By creating an urban farm for KNOX’s community gardeners, the organization also is educating nonprofits, schools, civic groups and individuals, and is helping children to spend more time outdoors and develop healthy eating habits. The group also is advising residents on how to start their own businesses, which in turn will generate more fresh, locally grown produce. They will assist others in starting community gardening and agricultural projects. These activities will increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, and increase ethnic crops at city farmers markets.

The approach

Twelve people are learning the basics of farming. The goal is to expand into production-scale growing. Both the community gardeners and beginner farmers have access to part of a commercial greenhouse year-round. Their produce will be sold at Hartford-area farmers markets. Educational materials are being provided to nonprofits looking to start their own garden, environmental class or other green project. KNOX also is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to teach residents how to bring their produce to market and explore scaling up production.

The results

More than 500 children and community members are learning nutrition and gardening through the program. Fifty beds are now being used to grow fresh produce in the Earle Street Community Garden. Future plans include launching a mini chicken and bee farm, and opening a retail operation for horticulture products.

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