UMass Lowell Connector Logo

Mill City Grows comes to campus

(Photo courtesy of Nate Coady) “Mill City Grows brought a variety of produce to campus”

Nate Coady
Connector Editor

On Wednesday, Feb. 21, Mill City Grows, a food justice nonprofit, set up shop in University Crossing. Their farmer’s market stand included potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and much more, all grown locally in either Massachusetts or New Hampshire. The “mobile farmer’s market” is a collaboration between UMass Lowell and Mill City Grows to bring attention to local food sources as a form of public health and sustainability. 

Grace McKay works with Mill City Grows. She says, “We have a number of community gardens throughout the city, as well as many school gardens and school programming… We have an urban farm in Pawtucketville, and we have our mobile markets as well.”

Mill City Grows focuses primarily on the city of Lowell and its food needs. Students may be familiar with the community gardens around Lowell. They can be found around The Acre, Lower Highlands, and in other areas of Lowell. Residents of Lowell, not just students, came to the mobile market to get some fresh produce. 

Mill City Grows selects areas around Lowell with high numbers of people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). “Throughout the season, I want to say between seventy-five to eighty percent of all the dollars that are spent here are using some kind of food benefit service,” says McKay. In the past when UMass Lowell hosted farmer’s markets, there were multiple vendors from around the area. However, Wednesday was also Taste of The Acre, which is a free food event where local restaurants and food vendors from Lowell give out free samples. Most vendors that are usually at the farmer’s markets were there instead. 

According to McKay, there are a couple of reasons to buy from the farmer’s markets. One is that supporting Mill City Grows directly helps bring more food security to Lowell. “You’re supporting a local nonprofit that’s also doing a lot of work in the Lowell community, benefitting other community members and families in the city,” she says. McKay also mentions, “If you are a student using a food benefit service, we accept a lot of those. It can make farmer’s market food a lot more accessible.” 

MassDevelopment is a development finance agency that helps UMass Lowell and Mill City Grows plan for events like the farmer’s market and Taste of The Acre. Nate Robertson, who works for MassDevelopment, says, “We’re working with a lot of local partners, including UMass Lowell’s sustainability office, on ways to improve the neighborhood, highlighting businesses, fortifying neighborhood identity and making it more pedestrian friendly. This effort is an attempt to get more students, faculty, and staff to frequent areas of businesses.” He says students should come for a very simple reason: “The food is good. The food is worth it alone… see what’s around in your neighborhood.” 

For students interested in buying fresh produce, don’t worry. There will be three more farmer’s markets in the coming future. The next one will be indoors at UCrossing on March 3 from 1p.m to 4p.m. 

Related posts