A Little Haven in the Middle of Urban Life

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Guest Blog by Hattie Grant, a young volunteer at ReVision Urban Farm

I live in the city but love the outdoors. I spend my summers far away from Boston in the wilderness, working with my hands and getting dirty and that’s where I feel the happiest. So when I discovered an opportunity to work on a farm in Boston, I jumped at it.

Before arriving at Revision Urban Farm, I knew very little about it except that it was an urban farm and it was a part of Victory Programs. When I got to the farm, I was blown away.

My first impression was merely based on its aesthetic beauty. It endeared me to its charm immediately. I loved the perfect rows of green plants and the way that each little patch of dirt teemed with leaves of all different colors and vibrant flowers. The entire place was a little haven in the middle of urban life.

My love for the farm grew stronger when I learned about its mission to provide fresh vegetables to low-income families whose access to affordable, healthy, locally-grown food is limited. The farm sells chard, tomatoes, onions, peppers, lettuces, and more at reasonable prices at local markets.

Working with Todd and Conor throughout the week was amazing. The experience of taking and adding to the land was extremely cathartic, not to mention hard work. One day, it took me around three hours to weed one row of carrots! However, each hour I spent on the farm was rewarded with new growth and delicious vegetables.

The food had such a rich and nutritious taste, I had never eaten food so fresh and straight from the source. Literally, I picked some husk cherry tomatoes from the dirt with my own hands before plopping them into my mouth.

My admiration for Todd and Conor grew as I realized how much they did every day. Their passion and interest in the crops they were growing were contagious and soon I found myself researching various types of tomatoes and making plans for the weeks to come when I hoped to visit again.

After two weeks on the farm, I fell head over heels for it. I loved the vegetables, I loved working on a farm with amazing people, and I especially loved feeling like what I was doing could help someone get a healthy snack. I feel incredibly lucky to have found this haven of leaves, roots, and flowers on the streets of Dorchester, and I hope to return to Revision Urban Farm as soon as I can!

If you are interested in volunteering at ReVision Urban Farm, please call Victory Programs’ Volunteer Coordinator, Tammy Blocker, at 617-236-1012 x227 or email tblocker@vpi.org.

If you would like to make a financial gift to support the farm, please visit: https://give.vpi.org/grow to help us grow!

Support from our generous volunteers and donors is essential to continuing our mission to provide fresh, nutritionally dense, affordable produce to our community. 

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International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31, 2019

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Drugs take beautiful people out of the world. It’s the friend. The lover. The son. The mother. The favorite aunt. The boy next door. The class clown. The first crush. Drugs take beautiful people out of the world. First they are gone. Missing from work. From school. From family dinners and social gatherings. Then they are gone. They leave a hole shaped like memory. Full of laughter and heartbreak. Complicated. Precious. Tender. Lonely. | - International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31, 2019 | 965 Massachusetts Avenue | 617-541-0222 | www.vpi.org | Victory Programs Logo | Background Image: black and white high contrast portrait from the shoulders up of an individual whose race and gender are not determinable against a black background. The portrait is blurry, as through seen through textured glass. The person is looking up and away, with right half of their face hidden in darkness.Opioid-related overdose deaths are down 11% in Massachusetts for the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period last year. At 611 confirmed deaths, with 292 to 363 additional deaths estimated, the number is still tragically high.

The decrease in fatalities is largely attributed to increased distribution of the overdose reversal drug known as naloxone, or Narcan, a highly-effective intervention responsible for rescuing 4,079 individuals from opioid-related overdoses in 2018, with 3,628 of the reported rescues performed by people who use drugs.

Community distribution of naloxone to people who use drugs and people who are likely to witness an overdose has a proven track record of reducing preventable opioid-related overdose deaths. Naloxone, which is safe enough to use on an infant, has no side effects, and no potential for abuse, is available to any Massachusetts resident from most pharmacies through their insurance. Individuals who are likely to experience or witness an overdose may also obtain free naloxone and training on how to respond to an overdose from organizations participating in the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Overdose Education and Naloxone Distribution (OEND) program, like the Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team.

Opioid-related overdose death isn’t the only challenge facing people who use drugs, however. Individuals in active use, particularly those who inject drugs, also face increased risk of contracting infectious diseases and other health complications. While naloxone is the most effective tool for preventing opioid-related overdose deaths, other methods of harm reduction like risk reduction kits, needle exchanges, and routine testing can lower the rate at which infectious diseases are spread through injection drug use.

In addition to overdose education and naloxone distribution, Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team offers the following services to the community:

Every opioid-related overdose death is tragic. Most could be prevented by effective, timely intervention with naloxone and/or emergency medical care. Stigma against people who use drugs continues to present a challenge to reaching those at-risk of experiencing an overdose and although overall fatalities are trending downward opioid-related overdose deaths have become the leading cause of workplace fatalities according to a special study conducted by the Occupational Health Surveillance Program in 2018.

Drugs take beautiful people out of the world, but it doesn’t have to be the case. Providing safe, effective, evidence-based interventions to more members of our community, particularly those likely to witness an overdose, has a significant impact on reducing drug-related fatalities by giving people who use drugs and the friends and family who love them better tools to reduce risk and maintain their health and wellness.

You can learn more about Victory Programs’ Mobile Prevention Team and services here.

If you would like to support our prevention work or any of our other services for individuals and families facing the challenges of homelessness, substance use disorder, chronic illness, or infectious diseases like HIV, Hepatitis C, and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, please click here to make a gift to support any of our programs or “where needed most.”

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Phaedra’s Story

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From Fear to Determination and Hope

“Right and wrong choices are like twins, they are always together, they speak their own secret language, and confusingly, to people like me, they often look the same.”

Late in 2019, Phaedra realized she needed to learn to differentiate between right and wrong choices. She was tired of living in fear, running from everything she had done to fill needs she didn’t fully understand. For so much of her life, Phaedra had turned to substances and toxic relationships to quiet her unmet needs. She felt like the walls were closing in on her, and she knew she needed help to make a meaningful change.

Phaedra found the support she was looking for at Victory Programs’ New Joelyn’s Home. “What I’m doing right now is working with great counselors,” she shares. “I’m learning to practice patience.” For Phaedra, learning patience gives her the space to think about her choices. She says taking the time to really think through her choices and consider the impact they might have on her future makes it easier to tell those right and wrong choices apart.

“I was choosing from a place of suffering,” she says. “At the time, so many obviously terrible choices seemed like the only choice.” She’s grateful for the support she receives from both staff and other clients at New Joelyn’s Home for helping her develop the tools to forgive herself for her past and think about what she needs to build a brighter future.

“I’m using all of the tools that I’ve learned here to cope with life and to handle life as it comes at me,” she explains. “Life is always going to be life and the tools that I have gained here have given me that strength.”

See Phaedra’s Story in her own words by watching the video below.



You can support recovery clients, like Phaedra, by supporting Victory Programs. Please click here to learn more.

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Concern for Our Neighbors

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The following went out to our supporters on August 9, 2019:

If you’ve spent any time near Victory Programs’ administrative building at 965 Massachusetts Avenue, you’ve inevitably seen some of our neighbors. The intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard offers a glimpse into the immense need many of our community members face while trying to manage the challenges of homelessness and addiction.
Anyone who passes through the Mass/Cass intersection on their way into our neighborhood inevitably asks “what is the answer? what should we do?”

To say that it is a complicated, slow, painstaking process feels cliché, but it is very true. This neighborhood is rich with low-threshold services, which is why it is an attractive place for people with nowhere else to go to congregate. There is daily outreach happening alongside an increasingly active police presence. Despite this, there are still large groups of people in a desperate situation with massive, ever-growing, needs.

Things that do or could help: more shelter options, diverse types of housing, harm reduction services, short-term navigation, medication-assisted treatment, safe consumption sites, and more. With individuals as vulnerable as our neighbors, we’ve learned that people have the best chance of success when they have immediate access to services at the exact moment they first consider seeking support. Access to the right service, at the right moment, can save a life and restore dignity and respect.

In addition to the front-page story about recent events in our neighborhood in today’s issue of Boston Globe, we encourage you to read the opinion section from the same paper which features an opinion piece penned by State Senators Cindy F. Friedman and Jeffery N. Roy on the hope represented by safe consumption sites, and another piece by Dr. Jon Santiago, a state representative, on the need for a comprehensive response to address the challenges vulnerable individuals face.

If you have been monitoring the situation and wondering what to do. Please consider contacting your legislators and/or writing a letter-to-the-editor in response to any of the news articles linked above.

The individuals congregating in this area are our neighbors. They are the people who come through our doors asking for services and support when they are ready to seek help. Victory Programs, despite the complicated and heartbreaking nature of the situation, continues to daily find ways to meeting individuals where they are with compassion, evidence-based care, and opportunity.

Sarah Porter, Intermin CEO
Victory Programs

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ReVision Urban Farm Uses Technology, Data, and Hard Work to Maximize Production

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Guest Blog by Conor Brosnan, ReVision Urban Farm Grower

Photo of produce at the farm stand. Everything is in trays and baskets on a wooden table. On the far left, a basket on it's side holds vine-ripe tomatoes, next to it sit peppers, carrots, summer squash, green onions, strawberries, and cauliflower. The top row is kale, lettuce, cabbage and other greens. Victory Programs’ ReVision Urban Farm is a special place; a small slice of farmland evoking the picturesque landscape of America’s agricultural heartland nestled in the heart of Boston’s densely populated Dorchester and Mattapan communities. Our staff strives to blend ages-old best practices for land management with modern, data-driven approaches to improve efficiency and maximize production on a small lot. Unlike many of its larger counterparts, our farm falls on less than an acre of land, which requires us to utilize and maximize every square foot. This urban “land challenge” has sparked a need for a variety of forward-thinking and innovative approaches. Our mission has, and will always be, to bring fresh, nutritious, local food to our community. Fulfilling this mission requires soil, sun, water, and lots of hard work; the hallmarks of any successful farm.

The ReVision team is currently researching and exploring a variety of technological advancements that would improve our yields, efficiency and more effectively fulfill our mission. Planned improvements include maximizing greenhouse efficiency through monitors and updated heating systems and monitoring field temperatures, soil saturation, and even pest issues to improve productivity. Although many of these technological improvements are in the idea and planning stage, we have already begun improving our

Overhead view of ReVision Urban Farm from the third floor of ReVision Family Home showing the gazebo, and fields lush with growing plants.

data-tracking, efficiency, and ability to meaningfully plan for future seasons. This season alone we’ve been able to channel generous support from donors and grants into significant improvements which enable us to better predict harvest yield and plan for future needs.

Our new germination chamber, purchased through a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, tracks and controls humidity, temperature, and the overall environment for growing seeds, which has already drastically improved our germination rates. The germination chamber also helps us reduce our consumption of water, soil, compost, and other resources while addressing the dreaded anxiety of waiting on the unknown germination outcomes. Not only does the germination chamber save time, money, and headaches, it also allows us to grow and sell microgreens at markets year-round.

Another improvement we’ve been able to make this season is mapping our available growing space through an in-depth spreadsheet. Every single, row is mapped out with the planted crops and expected yield for each in via an advanced and user-friendly interface. Volunteers planting seedlings in the greenhouse at ReVision. The volunteer on the left is a woman with ebony skin and just below shoulder length dreadlocks wearing a black sweater over a grey shirt. She is smiling and leaning over a seed tray. The woman on the right has pale skin and short, light brown hair. She is wearing a shirt with horizontal grey and black strips and sunglasses. She is holding a pen which she is using to make holes to put seeds into. Our new system allows up to see at-a-glance how many plants are in each bed, what variety each is, and more accurately project what will be available for CSA subscribers, farmers markets, and community partners. Looking forward, this data will provide us the information we need to make informed changes to crop plans and ensure that we are maximizing our available growing space.

Urban farming is entering a new and exciting chapter that intersects the need to understand and utilize both nature and technology. Our goal at ReVision Urban Farm is to lead by example, adopting the best practices that will help us bring affordable, nutritious, local food to our community. By committing to both data and cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned sweat and hard work, our small piece of land will be able to change the culture and approach to food and nutrition in our neighborhood and beyond.

Curious about ReVision Urban Farm?

Give us a call at 617-822-3276 or stop by our farm stand at 1062 Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester, open Fridays from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM through October.

You can also support our work by making a donation to the farm here or calling our volunteer coordinator at 617-236-1012 x227 to ask about available work shifts.

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