A Real Oasis of Healthy Food and Beautiful Gardens

Raised bed gardens planted with green leafy plants

Oasis on Ballou’s raised bed gardens in September 2021. Photo credit: Anna Muhammad

by Anna Muhammad, NOFA/Mass Food Access Coordinator

In the early part of September 2021, a group of youth leaders and I had a chance to visit with Apolo Catala at the urban farm, Oasis on Ballou. This farm is small, but mighty! Apolo Catala, a graduate of the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), manages the area that sprawls upward to the T-Line Train.  Everything is in beautiful, manicured raised beds and with the help of Miguel (and his trellising expertise), the vegetables are large, full and look beautiful.

Plants growing inside a hoop house

Oasis’s hoop house allows the farm to produce food year-round.

Oasis on Ballou (Oasis stands for Opportunity Affirmation Sustainability Inspiration Success) is nestled in the Woodrow-Mountain area of Dorchester, Massachusetts. This area is mainly Black and Brown, and the wonderful produce that Oasis on Ballou grows represents the cultural tastes of the area. Oasis participates in the Farm stand at UFI and provides for a small CSA.  Oasis hosts various volunteer groups throughout the growing season.  Last year, Oasis acquired a hoop house that allows for growing starts and growing year round.

A man places a scoop of soil into a zip lock bag held by a woman

Apolo Catala, right, places a sample of the farm’s soil into a bag for testing.

I had heard of this beautiful farm from Apolo before, and upon seeing the site in person, my breath was completely taken away. What impressed me most was the corn, peppers, and other items that were growing right on the embankment towards the T-Line. Additionally, there are fruit trees along the pathway close to the train and even a small patch of very beautiful okra growing in one spot. Apolo and his team are looking forward to having some sort of market onsite and would like to have events to highlight the beautiful vegetables that are being grown on the farm as well as create opportunities to build community in the neighborhood. Oasis on Ballou is truly a sight that cools the eyes.

For more information on Oasis on Ballou or if you are interested in volunteering at or donating to the farm, please contact Apolo Catala via email at apolocatala@gmail.com.

For more information on the NOFA/Mass Food Access Program or if you are interested in volunteering at or donating to the program, please visit https://www.nofamass.org/food-access/ or contact Anna Gilbert-Muhammad, Food Access Coordinator at anna@nofamass.org.