Provlandia: Urban Agriculture on the West End

If you are what you eat, then West Enders are hyper-local, fresh and progressive. Providence has been on a long and interesting urban agricultural trip that hasn’t even begun to peak. Although it’s not a new concept, urban gardening and farming has been gaining momentum in the city over the past decade or so, especially on the West End. Community gardens are popping up where vacant lots once where. More and more restaurants, bakeries and cafés are choosing to source locally. Community members are choosing farmers markets and co-ops over traditional grocery stores.

Basically, I’d give Broadway two green thumbs up!

PVD’s urban agriculturalists come from all walks of life. The urban agriculture scene has intensified as a means of solving some fundamental issues the city faces, including unemployment, a lack of access to healthy food and unsustainable environmental practices. A legitimate grassroots movement, from the dirt to your mouth; 5-second rule need not apply.

Currently, there are two public community gardens on the West End: the Parade Street Garden and the Bridgham Street Community Garden. The West End is also home to The Fertile Underground, the first grocery store to open in what was a “food desert” for over 20 years prior. The Fertile Underground brings fresh food to the West End in a worker-owned co-op dedicated to improving the health of PVD’s communities. They provide ethically sourced, local foods. In addition to groceries, The Fertile Underground has a communal garden and a café.

The West End is also home to Cluck!, a farming and gardening supply store that supports growers. Three years ago, an abandoned gas station on the corner of Broadway and Courtland was converted into the welcoming, green (literally and figuratively) supply store and garden. When asked about the impact her store has had on the community, Drake Patten, head farmer and sole owner, said, “Changing the dynamic of this corner has been very positive, not only for our street but for the neighborhood. I think the reason that’s happened has less to do with anything I’ve done and more about the community’s embrace of what we’re doing.”

The community has also embraced restaurants sourcing locally. The Grange, a vegetarian restaurant, café and bar, shares its namesake with the oldest American agriculture advocacy group, which has promoted the well-being of communities since 1867. So, what’s in a name? Apparently a whole heck of a lot, considering this plant-based restaurant is committed to sourcing as many organic and locally grown ingredients as possible and is one of Farm Fresh RI’s notable buyers.

Another restaurant on the West End that sources locally is North, a small fusion-fare restaurant devoted to nurturing the community and setting an example for the cooking culture as a whole. North has two plots at the Bridgham Street Community Garden and is most definitely practicing and promoting SWELL (Shop, Work, Eat and Live Locally) through their community focus and positive force.

From “Beehive of Industry” to the “Creative Capital,” Providence just can’t stop being a hub of transformation and influence. Gaining notoriety as GQ’s “Coolest City,” Time and Leisure’s “Favorite City in America” and quickly becoming the culinary/foodie capital of the states, this little city is turning heads. With watchful eyes, the West End demonstrates how urban agriculture creates healthier, stronger, sustainable communities.

For a complete look at Motif’s neighborhood profile of the West End, click here.

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