Summer youth employees from Workforce NY landscaping at Conley Park aka the Permaculture Park Project
Image by Josh Dolan

Youth employees from Workforce NY landscaping at Conley Park (Summer 2020)

Solidarity Gardens

Note: this project ended in August 2021.

The Solidarity Gardens project was a coalition of CCE-Tompkins Staff staff, BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) focused organizations, community stakeholders, and volunteers who were organizing together to build gardens in Tompkins County. The project was based on the belief that gardens are healing spaces that uplift the spirit as well as the body and should be a central strategy on the road to recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic. This program was made possible thanks to a grant from NY State Department of Agriculture & Markets.

Our work focused on addressing the root causes of food insecurity including land access and land-use policy, physical resources, education, and institutional racism. We worked within CCE to shift from a top-down approach to remove barriers to full participation within our food system and greater support for initiatives arising from the grassroots. We also worked to identify urban and rural agriculture opportunities, both community and commercial, and to support entrepreneurial opportunities within the food system.

Community Liaison

The community liaison position within Solidarity Gardens was designed to serve the entire Ag/Hort team at CCE Tompkins. This position would be directly responsible for making and cultivating connections in the community, increasing outreach activities, and playing a role in the leadership of our steering committee. This position was geared toward a BIPOC individual with strong ties to the community, community organizing experience, administrative skills, and a strong interest in ag/hort issues. No experience in ag/horticulture was required and requisite training would be be provided, potentially to include Master gardener training, Seed to Supper training, and specific classes on offer at CCE Tompkins.

Coalition Building

Solidarity Gardens worked to bring organizations together under the banner of solidarity and food sovereignty. It prioritized BIPOC communities in its work and its main goal was to align efforts with the desires and needs of those we served. We worked to find ways to have these conversations, invite dedicated individuals into leadership, and support the efforts of BIPOC lead organizations. Our goal for Winter 2021 was to form a strategic vision and a path to equity in our food system. The coalition worked to identify shared goals, opportunities, and barriers; gather resources and distribute them within the group, identify joint projects, work together to enact favorable policy, AND conduct outreach in the community to match families with resources and programs.

Land and Market Assessment

One goal for 2021 was an inventory of both land and entrepreneurial opportunities. One of the crucial elements of successful urban agriculture projects is land access. We aimed to catalog city-owned land, vacant or marginal lands held privately, and other parcels within Tompkins County with a priority for easy access for low-income residents. We also worked with our partners to identify emerging opportunities related to urban agriculture and entrepreneurial projects/employment.

Grow Guide and Grow Along

A goal for 2021 was to create a growing guide to help new gardeners or gardeners with too little time the ability to achieve successful harvests to supplement their SNAP benefits. This Growing Guide would result from research to identify the intersection of fruits and vegetables that 1) offer dense nutrition, 2) may be harder to access or pay for at the grocery, and 3) are generally successful for new gardeners. Up to 12 participants would be compensated for their involvement in a grow along process, in which CCE would support and monitor gardeners growing and evaluating crops based on the above criteria.

Solidarity Gardens Corps

In partnership with workforce NY this project  proposed to offer 4 summer youth employment positions and 2 year round positions. The project  aimed to teach workers valuable job skills in horticulture and agriculture as well as provide a higher level of job readiness to participants. It would also be a great resume builder and  a doorway to future employment in the local job market.

Pilot Projects

Stay tuned to hear about our raised beds, microgreens, and mushroom pilot projects

Support for Gardens

In 2021 we will support previous participants to increase their success and expand their gardens. We will also be on the lookout for a few new sites with garden champions who are ready to grow new gardens. If you are a new gardener and would like support, or would like to lend your skills to our efforts, please fill out our 2021 intake form.

Last updated June 24, 2023