Healing the Soil ~ Healing the Community ~ Feeding the Community

by Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Coordinator

Growing food in urban areas like Boston, Newark or Springfield where soils are depleted and contaminated with lead and/or other heavy metals can be a daunting task.  For gardeners who are looking to build community and grow healthy food for their families, dealing with contaminated soils in vacant lots while building community gardens can be expensive and make gardening in the city seem almost impossible. 

NOFA/Mass’s newly developed Bioremediation Project, funded by a grant from MDAR, will be a helpful and necessary tool to increase safe growing spaces for backyard, school and community gardens in the city.  The project will focus on two urban community garden/farming youth organizationsHome City Housing and Gardening the Community in Springfield. 

Andrew Laurion

The overall project is being stewarded by NOFA/Mass’s Bioremediation Coordinator, Andrew Laurion.  Andrew is an urban farmer and expert woodworker who has a love for the community and helping to create greater access to healthy food.  His expertise in urban growing, working in small spaces and his love for the Springfield neighborhood where the project is taking hold will help to bring this great project to fruition. 

Andrew will work closely with each group’s youth programs to conduct on-farm trials of bioremediation techniques where heavy metal contamination and/or hydrocarbon pollutants are a concern. Our goal is to educate people about bioremediation techniques, designed by experts, to heal existing polluted or poor-quality soil.

Nance Klehm

The team of soil consultants involved in this effort is led by Nance Klehm Nance has over two decades of experience in urban agriculture, bioremediation, regenerative systems and permaculture growing. Through her firm, Social Ecologies, she has worked on over twenty integrated ecological systems projects of various scales, ranging from bioremediation to community waste diversion and large-scale agroforestry. She is the author of the book Ground Rules: A Manual to Reconnect Soil and Soul (a guide to community composting and DIY bioremediation) as well as the forthcoming book The Soil Keepers. She is also the subject of the documentary film Weedeater.   

Willie Crosby, Founder and Owner of Fungi Ally, will champion the use of mushrooms and fungi to draw out toxins from the soil.  These efforts are experimental and will create citizen scientists of both the youth and the larger community for improving soil health.

Willie Crosby

In part two of this article, we will hear from Andrew about his vision for the project and the impact that this partnership is making on the community. 

If you want more information on the MDAR sponsored NOFA/Mass Bioremediation Project, please contact Andrew Laurion, Bioremediation Coordinator, at [email protected].  For more information on NOFA/Mass’s larger Food Access Program, please contact NOFA/Mass Equity Director and Food Access Coordinator Anna Gilbert-Muhammad at [email protected].org.