Updated: May 4, 2022
ReVision Urban Farm, Boston, MA
Carrick Gamble, Senior Grower
Stephanie Ploof, Communications Coordinator
Phone Interview: 4/26/2022
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On the south side of Boston on Fabyan Street, ReVision Urban Farm offers fresh produce to those who do not have access to it. Victory Programs’ ReVision Urban Farm is an innovative community-based urban agriculture project that grows produce in its own fields and provides access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food to residents of our ReVision Family Home and our extended community. In association with ReVision Family Home, they also provide job training for youth and Boston’s homeless. At ReVision Urban Farm, they integrate agriculture and enterprise to help teach homeless residents of ReVision Family Home transferable and practical job skills.
The Farm Program and Mission
Every season up to two shelter residents work as interns at Revision Urban Farm. For many, the internship is a first job. Beyond teaching basic job skills, Revision’s training program provides experience in small-scale organic farming, greenhouse management, seedling production, marketing, and community outreach.
Working with just one acre divided among three separate city lots, the farm grows an abundance of veggies, fruits, and flowers. “It’s all about food access,” Senior Grower Carrick Gambell said. The reclaimed abandoned urban lots are now not only producing life-giving food but also helping to rebuild lives. Started 30 years ago, Revision committed to serving single or expecting mothers who otherwise would not have an opportunity to work.
What Makes ReVision Unique?
ReVision specializes in serving the underinvested parts of the city. These areas often are neighborhoods where great diversity exists - people from many ethnicities who share their food when they are gardening and farming together. ReVision Urban Farm is part of an umbrella nonprofit Victory Programs which serves the Boston community. They specialize in operating shelters. But, this farm and its program really stand out as a powerful way to reach those in transition or who struggle with substance abuse. “We are lucky that funding for the farm is not a question from year to year. Even with that, we try to maximize our income streams to offset farm costs. By leveraging the women’s home for office space and cooler space we are also able to reduce costs.”
Another unique part of ReVision Urban Farm is our high-tech greenhouse. With that resource, we can turn out 20,000 seedlings each year for a large plant sale around Mother’s Day. The local gardeners really appreciate buying them from us.
ReVision’s “job readiness” program allows those without a stable living situation to work part-time at the farm to provide the basic necessities. Some work for weeks and others for months. The farm staff watches what happens when each individual being connects with the land. ReVision has shared a few inspirational stories of women who successfully complete the program and are empowering others.
Carrick’s Journey to Farming
A native of Maine, Carrick Gamble, Senior Grower, graduated from Colby College with a degree in Government and Education. He took a year off after teaching for five years to travel around the US in a van. That’s when he got interested in local food systems and organic growing practices. Something was calling him to find work that better fit his love for nature, people, and community. In 2021, his search led him to ReVision and saw this grower position as an ideal fit. Carrick loves the small team and operation because, “you get to do it all in one season: marketing, harvesting, growing, selling.” Carrick shared that The Urban Farming Institute offers farmer training programs to help expand this work.
When asked what he enjoys most about his work, he responded, “It’s a really cool feeling to see plants grow as you nurture them. I really feel it when I see people receiving food. They are so appreciative of it! At the farmer’s market each week, I get to share connection with the community. There’s always a food story to share, whether that be a unique bean or basil variety that is a valuable food for someone from a different country. We really try to grow culturally relevant crops - food that our community would want to eat, whether that is malabar spinach for our Vietnamese neighbors, and Scotch Bonnet peppers for our Jamaican community.”
The farm leadership consists of a staff of three: Farm Manager, Senior Grower, and Assistant Grower. As Senior Grower, Carrick works with community groups to assemble volunteers for farm projects and community outreach. He is also responsible for the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) distribution. In 2021, in addition to selling at the farmer’s market and a nearby food stand, ReVision filled 80 shares. They donate about 20% of their food to the shelter’s community fridge. 40% is sold at the farmer’s market. The rest fills the CSA shares. “To fulfill all our commitments, there’ve been times when we needed to insource more local produce.” Carrick mentioned. “We pretty much help each other until the job is done.”
“Despite the demand, things do run remarkably well.” Carrick acknowledged. “Our biggest challenge is just reaching all our goals as a farm, and not having enough hours in the day.
There’s a big demand for local food, and we always seem to run out. Big goals mean we never have enough time to do it all. We also want to shift our focus from selling food to connecting with the underserved, those with low income.” That’s what farming with a social mission is all about.
Author - Farmer Karl