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

Two women planting seedlings

NOFA/Mass Food Access Coordinator, Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, plants vegetable starts in the Tapley Court Apartments Community Garden with one of the area youths.

Preparations at the community gardens that we work with in Springfield have been a multi-month process leading up to the official 2021 season opening.

In April, The Land and Food Cadre from Boston, MA helped with garden clean up by coming to the Open Pantry Gardens and the Tapley Court Apartments Community Gardens. The Land and Food Cadre, a part of the Black Summit which has a chapter in Boston, is committed to creating greater food access for Black and Brown families in Massachusetts. They do this by creating opportunities for families across the state to access land for growing healthy food and linking up with groups statewide that share that objective.

Michael Thomas, co-facilitator for the Cadre, mentioned how communal growing can give residents and families in neighborhoods such as Mattapan and Dorchester the opportunity to not only access healthy food, but to also learn how to grow food together. Dora Muhammad, another co-facilitator for the Cadre, stated “By working across the state and working with other groups that are facing similar food insecurity issues, more families can be served.”

A group of people wearing masks gather in front of the camera

The Land for Food Cadre visits the Springfield area community gardens in April, 2021.

After planting strawberries at the Tapley Court Apartments Community Garden and cleaning up the Open Pantry Garden, the Cadre team went to Gardening the Community’s Walnut Street Farm and the Community Garden at the Mason Square Library. The day was completed with a trip to Cook’s Dairy Farm and a treat of organic raw milk ice cream.  The Land and Food Cadre will be returning to Western Mass this summer to take part in some of the youth classes at Tapley Court Apartments.

On May 26th, 2021, the Tapley Court Apartments Community Garden welcomed new youth to the garden and celebrated the achievements of the previous year with a cookout and tour of the garden.

Gladys Lebron-Martinez, Community Engagement Manager for Home City Housing, expressed her excitement for the youth leaders that are participating in the garden and classes that revolve around organic growing, soil health, food preservation and nutrition.  Several new participants were excited to learn about plant identification, canning salsa and soil health (especially working with microscopes). Ryan, a new student, mentioned that he would garden with his grandfather.  “Now, I can bring vegetables to him,” he shared.

Springfield area youth get excited for the growing season at the planting party, May 2021.

Bernard and Agnes, senior members of the youth growing team, will be assisting with training and shepherding the new youth growers.  Both are looking forward to the season and bringing food to the families of Tapley Court Apartments.  When asked about how they feel about the garden, Bernard replied, “I am ready to get back to work in the garden. Having the new youth will be fun.” Agnes responded, “I look forward to working in the garden and seeing all of the new crops”.

This year the Tapley Garden will focus more on production farming and will be partnering with Woven Roots Farm to provide training to the youth on higher level techniques. Look for more exciting news and activity from the garden this season.

Learn more about our Food Access Program at