Angels Among Us 2013
Today, The New Urban Farmers is an integral member of the Galego community. Money is a constant issue, but the frugally minded Jodka and Grijalva have ensured that their outreach remains a year-round operation. In the winter, the two can be found at the nearby community center, working with kids after school on arts programs and homework support. This past February they launched a free eight-week program in which residents learn about growing and cooking their own food.
On a late spring day their presence is clearly evident. Grijalva is running late to the garden because he’s helping one of the residents move a television set. When he does arrive, he gets there just in time to welcome one of the garden’s regulars, a guy named Miguel, who’s come to tend his pole beans. He’s followed by a neighbor who is looking for tomato plants. “I had planted some,” the man explains, “but then I went away for the weekend, and when I came back they were gone. I asked my neighbor about it, and she said she threw them in the trash.” His face adopts a puzzled look. “She thought I was planting cameras!”
Next comes Dominga, a Dominican Republic native wearing a T-shirt from one of the nonprofit’s annual Earth Day celebrations. She inquires about some kale. “Over here,” Jodka says, walking her over to a bed, where she plucks a big bunch of greens.
But it’s the arrival of 6-year-old Outhi Felix, an energetic kid who’s been a fixture at the garden since he was 2, that puts the biggest smile on Jodka’s and Grijalva’s faces. Within minutes he and Jodka have planted their feet in the children’s garden and are pulling up knotweed.
“Give it a little wiggle,” Jodka instructs as Outhi wrestles with an especially big plant. “Like a tooth.” She starts to help him, trying to free it up, but Outhi soon waves her off. His face grimaces, and then, with one big tug, he manages to pull out a weed that’s nearly as tall as he is. “Boom!” he exclaims triumphantly and throws it. Soon, Outhi becomes the instructor, pushing Jodka to keep up with him. “Come on,” he says. “Get them out of here.”
Later in the afternoon, Jodka meets up with Rafael Ramon, a middle-aged man originally from Puerto Rico who’s called Pawtucket his home for 35 years. Wiry, with a thin, graying goatee framing his narrow face, Ramon comes from a family of farmers. When Jodka and Grijalva announced their plans in 2010, he jumped at the chance to help out. “It changed me a lot,” Ramon says, sitting on a picnic table outside the garden. “I’ve met a lot of new people, and I’ve met a lot of kids who want to learn from me. That makes me feel good. It makes me want to continue. It can be crazy here.” His eyes pan over to the garden, where he’s put in so many hours of his life these past three years. “This is a place that isn’t crazy.”
For more information, visit: newurbanfarmers.org
In the fall of 2007, Steve Gordon embarked on what many colleagues considered a curious career change. A longtime newspaper reporter and editor, Gordon, who lives in
Cornish, New Hampshire, left the world of journalism to work full-time as a massage therapist.
“I remember getting a lot of what I call the ‘bad clam’ look,” says the 57-year-old of his old newspaper friends. “It’s like they have a bad clam in their mouth, but they’re trying not to look like they do. There were a lot of weak smiles and people going, ‘Isn’t that nice.’”