Rural-Urban Partnerships at Work and Play
By Debra Kozikowski
Something special is happening in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
The Sisters of Providence, a religious community with deep roots in the city of Holyoke, Massachusetts, donated land in June of this year to The Trustees of Reservations. Today, a ceremony will take place to dedicate The Land of Providence, a 25 acre parcel of farm and woodlands situated alongside the Connecticut River, as the newest reservation of The Trustees.
Holyoke is a post-industrial city, it’s history steeped in the stories of immigrants that built what became known as a textile and paper city. From the Irish and French Canadian who came to work in the mills in the late 1800s to the influx of American Spanish speaking families who arrived from Puerto Rico to toil in the famed Connecticut River Valley tobacco fields in the mid 1960s — each wave of immigrant families has brought new history and culture.
Public-private partnerships have helped Holyoke survive economic downturns and the changing fortunes older cities face. The Land of Providence serves as a model of hope into action for cities across the northeast. It is managed by The Trustees, a member supported non-profit organization, at a time when rural-urban partnerships are becoming more popular and providing city residents with the benefits of fresh, local produce generally associated with rural living.
A portion of the land is currently farmed by Nuestras Raices (Our Roots), a vibrant grass-roots group that helps immigrant communities grow and harvest fresh ethnic crops while training and supporting immigrant farmers. The majority of the gardeners involved in the project grew up on farms in rural Puerto Rico and though they live in the city remain farmers at heart. Nuestras Raices was founded in 1992 and is an ongoing contributor to the community.
At my house, we’ve pretty much hung up our hoes for this season. We’re cleaning out the garden in readiness for its well earned winter’s nap. But this weekend you’ll find me joining the party at the 16th annual Festival de la Cosecha (Harvest Festival). It all takes place on Saturday, September 26th from noon to 6 PM. Live music, traditional Caribbean foods and plenty of activities for the children are highlights of the afternoon. The event is open to the public. Check out the Nuestras Raices website at for more info.