Start with one little seed hitting the soil and it just mushrooms from there. Knox, Inc.’s urban farming operation is a boon for many low-income Hartford residents. It’s employment, especially for immigrants; it’s fresh, affordable food for the hungry; it’s a learning opportunity for school kids; and, oh yes, Mother Nature couldn’t be happier.
Knox has decades under its belt keeping our capitol city ever-green. It’s rooted in a small lot on Laurel Street, where it trains farmers-to-be, operates greenhouses, hosts a farmer’s market, and offers garden space to those just getting started. From there it branches out to schools all over the city, offering gardens where kids can plant seeds and have the satisfaction of seeing them mature.
As is all too apparent, children’s relationship with the great outdoors has certainly waned. A recent survey of 12,000 parents in 10 countries found that one-third of kids spend under 30 minutes outside each day.
That may be why it’s no surprise to Knox’s grounds manager that many of the 1,000 school children they work with have no idea where tomatoes and other produce come from. (“The grocery store” is the wrong answer.) Knox operates gardens at 10 schools in the city to introduce kids to the wonders of nature. It can truly be an exciting “aha” to many school children that food can be grown anywhere and that they have the power to do it with their own two hands.
Operations like Knox also help address the phenomenon of ”food deserts’” … neighborhoods with no grocery stores that offer a plentiful variety of guaranteed fresh food. Yes, Hartford has any number of neighborhood grocery stores and shops catering to a specific culture’s cuisine. But, in many cases, they’re set up for convenience, not high nutrition.
Farmers who “graduate” from the community gardens at Knox’s Laurel Street site can go on to plant their harvests in formerly vacant lots all over the city. Some are owned by Knox and other lots are the property of the city of Hartford. It’s yet another win for Hartford residents, who can witness the revitalization of their neighborhoods.
Knox growers’ produce stocks five Hartford farmers’ markets. This provides family income, can involve all family members in the growing process, and puts food on the table at home. Surplus produce finds its way to city soup kitchens, and to school cafeterias serving 50,000 children.
Mother Nature is pretty happy, too. All Knox gardens are 100 percent chemical free, relying on homemade compost to keep them healthy. Insects are invited, too, because many are not pests and can enhance the growing process (who knew?).
Looks like Knox’s urban farms, now a major contributor to Hartford’s food resources, have cultivated a happy ecosystem in our capital city, benefitting everyone, right down to the bees. Liberty Bank Foundation is proud to be a supporter!