Planting seeds in fertile ground. Nurturing young, fragile seedlings. Patiently awaiting growth. Harvesting the fruits of labor.
These are more than farm terms; they are meaningful metaphors that are part of the everyday vocabulary at The Food Project, a Massachusetts nonprofit organization that grows organic produce and distributes it through a variety of community programs and a farmers' market.
And though the group is not a "faith-based organization" with any religious affiliation or directly religious principles, The Food Project is like a living parable, a testament to the uniting spiritual power of the land and the positive force it exerts on the people who work it.
The Lincoln, Mass.-based Food Project was founded in 1991 as an experiment in how creating sustainable agriculture can have a byproduct other than healthy produce—a unifying sense of community that can span racial and socioeconomic barriers. At the Project, young people from posh suburbs work together with youth from some of Boston's most troubled neighborhoods to farm the land. They follow the path of fresh, organic produce from seed to the farm stand or dining table, and share their harvest with soup kitchens and homeless shelters in the area.
Today the organization—which hopes to harvest 200,000 pounds of produce this year—includes a dizzying array of paid fellowships and internships, suburban farms and urban community gardens, and summer and year-round programs that are aimed at creating a generation of youth who are committed to organic farming, sustainable agriculture—and each other.