Originally published January 31, 2023 as part of a series by Special Contributor and local Philanthropist Ellen Andre focusing on local non-profits
Mill City Grows (MCG) has been in operation for over 11 years. They foster food justice by improving physical health, economic independence and environmental sustainability in Lowell, MA through increased access to land, locally grown food and education. Their target population includes low-income families who face one or more obstacles to procuring fresh, healthy food. They work with immigrant and refugee families, elders, people with disabilities, people diagnosed with chronic illness, SNAP/WIC users and youth.
Jessica Wilson, their Executive Director explains that in 10 years, Mill City Grows has grown form one community garden to over 6 acres of production: 28 school and community gardens, 2 farm sites, a mobile market, a farm share program (they deliver produce to 100 families per week, 10 months of the year!), and food/gardening education for all ages. That’s some incredible growth and it wouldn’t have happened if the community didn’t support this every step of the way and respond with such excitement and interest. They’re so proud that LOWELL has proven that people want to get in touch with their food, eat local and eat healthy.
There are so many ways they’ve made an impact including their work building and maintaining school gardens. They have made a garden accessible to over 6,000students every year. That means that kids who grow up in the city, many without access to green space, and many who are eating 80% or more of their meals at school, are in touch with, learning to grow and cook produce throughout their time in school. Such an amazing number of kids!
They also distribute food grown in Lowell and grown by other growers throughout Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. All in all, about 125,000 pounds of produce a year from their farms, gardens and other growers. If you think about that in terms of servings, it’s about 500,000 servings a year.
We asked MCG where they’d like to grow or expand. They are currently working with MassAudubon and Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust, who purchased Rollie’s Farm, to keep this land a space for the community to grow, learn about and share food, as well as, experience outdoor recreation, environmental education and more. The space will be over 20 acres dedicated for community use. Naturally, they are very excited about this project and know it will be something growing and expanding for several years. They will look to the community for support and input every step of the way.
Some their challenges include purchasing supplies for the gardens including lumber, compost, seeds. The price has gone up exponentially on these products so they are constantly looking for discounts and funds to purchase these items. As much as they do, people are always interested in more (gardens, farm shares, programming etc.). They explain it is hard to have enough capacity to respond to the needs of the community with limited staff and growing space.
When asked how the community can help… they ask that people visit their website and learn about MCG, sign up to volunteer and spread the word to your friends. www.millcitygrows.org
They are in need of monetary donations…any amount is helpful. They accept some in-kind items and have a wish list on the website.
If you would like to make a monetary donation you can do so on their website or mail a check to:
Mill City Grows
650 Suffolk St., Suite G10
Lowell, MA 01854
They also accept gifts of stock. Call for more info. (978)455-2620