In The Thick of It – Ana Mosseri, BFA Furniture Design, 2017
Southside Community Land Trust is a non-profit organization in Providence that is dedicated to helping people in Southside gain access to locally produced, affordable and healthy food through urban farming. They have locations scattered around the greater Providence area, but originated in the Southside and continue to have their focus in that neighborhood. One of their many programs is the Youth Employment Program. Using mostly funding from state grants, in addition to private donors, the organization is able to employ twelve high school students to do work in farming, outreach and education.
Just a year ago, SCLT acquired a plot of land dedicated just to youth development. It is called Somerset Hayward Community Farm and it is a quarter acre of land that is mainly dedicated to the youth employment program.
I’ve included a map of the area in this post because for me, location was one of the first things that struck me about Somerset Hayward. The plot is on the corner of Somerset St. and Hayward St., just one block from the main road, Broad St. We are across the street from the back of the Salvation Army, one block from McDonald’s and KFC, two blocks from a liquor store that opens in the early morning, three blocks from the social service agency, Amos House, six blocks from the vibrant Davey Lopes Recreation Center and we are surrounded by ten plus vacant houses. As you can imagine, the Somerset Hayward Community Farm is a busy place with a lot of people passing by each day, asking questions, giving feedback (mostly positive) or simply observing us working on the farm. There is something very refreshing about receiving such constant and direct feedback from a community while in the middle of a work day.
These past two weeks, I have been orienting myself at the organization, learning about youth development, planting and education. Starting Monday, the returning youth staff begin their summer schedule where they will spend time each week working on the farm, assisting with growing lessons at the Davey Lopes Recreation Center as well as the Center for Southeast Asians, going on field trips to learn about food systems and lastly coming up with and executing a group capstone project that is fully theirs.
In brainstorming with my supervisor, Laura Bozzi, we decided that the capstone project would be the best area of focus for this fellowship because it remains an open part of the curriculum where I am able to contribute in a way that would be significant. I began to think of different projects we might do that could incorporate design/build techniques, but kept feeling like any idea I had might be an imposition on the youth staff rather than something constructive. Eventually it occurred to us that one of the biggest things I might have to offer is my design process itself. My goal for this summer is to distill my design process into steps and to use that structure in guiding the youth staff through the design and execution of their own group project. It will be interesting to see how the design/build process can be applied to a student project in the field of food systems and community outreach.