Community Herb Project
Help Us Reach our 2023 SeedMoney Challenge Goal to Fundraise for the Community Herb Project! bit.ly/seeds4somerville23
History of the Growing Center's Community Herb Project
The Community Herb Project increases equitable access to herbs in Somerville by providing space for cultivation in the Growing Center’s quarter-acre of public land, prioritizing community input in deciding what is grown, and offering participatory educational events to foster an appreciation and greater understanding of the role of herbs in medicinal, culinary, and other therapeutic practices. By spreading the benefit of locally grown herbs to herbalists, educators, kids, and community members in need, the Project expands the reach of the Growing Center beyond the garden gates.
An initiative launched in 2020 during the COVID pandemic, the Community Herb Project was spearheaded by Site Coordinator/Children in Nature Initiative Coordinator Paula Jordan and Growing Center volunteer Alexandra Williams, with support from Growing Center volunteers.
This project facilitates the sowing and harvesting of herbs, brings children and adults to the Center to learn about herb production and use in a variety of contexts and programs, and nourishes community members - some in need - through donations to the Somerville Community Fridge, Early Head Start, Connexion Kitchen, IMPACT moms group, YMCA/PHA children and youth, and Growing Center volunteers.
The annual CommuniTEA event, held most years in October since 2020, offers Growing Center volunteers an opportunity to explore the power of herbs in more depth. Led by the Boston-based urban farmer, florist, educator, and creative Sabrina Pilet-Jones, CommuniTEA ceremonies provide a way for folks to integrate the healing practice of drinking herbal tea for wellness and relaxation into their lives while meeting new people and creating something in community. It was first begun as a support during covid - a recognition of mental health struggles many were facing. But it was also focused on offering volunteer support and engagement, plant connection, and community building; and providing financial commitment to and other recognition of BIPOC herbal makers/healers.
With this important funding, we were able to:
-Harvest and dry herbs with the help of our volunteers and children from Early Head Start;
-Contribute donations of herbs to the Somerville Community Fridge;
-Pay local herbalists to host events at the garden;
-Plant garlic with preschoolers from the Somerville YMCA Preschool;
-Make and give away herbal products such as salves and tinctures; and
-Purchase children’s books with diverse representation.
As part of the application process for the Grants 4 Plants funding from Mountain Rose Herbs, we created this short video - posted to YouTube as part of a longer video showcasing the other winners. To see the Growing Center's portion, skip ahead to 6:18 (although we encourage you to watch them all!).
In the summer of 2022, the Center hosted weekly nature-focused learning experiences for 40-60 children from the Somerville YMCA Summer Camp, who were between the ages of 6 and 11. Working together with adults and educators, the kids made hibiscus sun tea, garlicky pesto, lavender lemonade, pickles, salads, and more, while learning to use tools and kitchen utensils like a mortar and pestle. All recipes centered on herbs and ingredients grown in the Growing Center. Link to recipes forthcoming!
Additionally, the project involved making facial steams with garden-grown herbs for IMPACT, an immigrant mom’s group; hosting an Elderberry syrup-making class; making de-stress tea kits for local Head Start teachers; connecting with herbalists doing mutual aid work; giving away herbs to herbalists and community members; and hosting a medicinal and culinary herb-planting activity with local families.
We expanded capacity of this project by offering a home remedy herbal class for IMPACT Moms and Padres Latinos; hosted more kids in garden, and hired more BIPOC herbalists to work with kids and families. And we made sure to listen to community member suggestions by planting herbs that local residents requested and felt were integral to their cultures. We also held an herb and cut flower giveaway!
Additionally, in 2021 and 2022, we raised $4,900 for the Community Herb Project through two consecutive SeedMoney Campaigns which qualified us for a total of $700 in additional grant funding from SeedMoney! To donate to our 2023 SeedMoney Campaign, go to bit.ly/seeds4somerville23.
In 2023, the Center provided ongoing opportunities to engage with and learn about herbs year-round through its programming, including workshops on winter foraging, a summer Herb of the Month series, and classes on topics like soil health, the relationship between flavor and chemistry, herbal tea blending, and more. See more of these programs listed on our Events Page.
The hope as this program continues is to host more bilingual herbal events. The outreach work has begun; through all of this we’ve continued to develop and deepen our relationships with local non profits and Black, Indigenous, Latine, Asian and Queer herbalists who are involved in Food as Medicine, social justice, community herbalism and mutual aid work.
Anyone is welcome to stop in with questions about herb usage, volunteer as part of this program, or join the Children in Nature Initiative Committee to get more involved with this project.
Community Herb Project Programming
Honoring the True Roots of Herbalism: A Dialogue about Plants, Decolonization & Liberation (Virtual Talk)
Wednesday, November 15, 6:00-7:30 pm
Join Nathalie Rodríguez and Denise Goitia, queer biracial Latinx folk herbalists and community healers, in a dialogue about plant medicine, liberation and healing justice. This talk is part of the Growing Center's Community Herb Project, initially funded through a grant from Mountain Rose Herbs.
Register through this link.
Want to learn more about the Community Herb Project?
Visit our Events Page to see listings of past herb workshops and events.
Want to get your hands a little herby? Join the Center as a volunteer by attending a Volunteer Orientation!
Read more about the Community Herb Project on the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism website.
Check out our YouTube Page for more videos from our past!