Veggies del Barrio

Jan. 21, 2022
2 images, left image is of Paloma Martinez adding carrots into bags, right image of filled bags ready for distribution.

(Left) Paloma Martinez adds carrots to the Barrio-Supported Agriculture (BSA) bags. (Right) BSA bags ready for distribution.

Earth Grant student Paloma Martinez spends every Tuesday morning at Midtown Farm, in the Barrio Centro neighborhood of Tucson. Working alongside farm managers Jacob Robles and Brandon Alexander, Paloma walks the produce rows at the farm to see what vegetables are ready for harvest. She then guides the morning’s volunteers in snipping the best-looking chard leaves and broccoli florets, and pulls the larger carrots and beets. All produce is washed and bagged for Midtown Farm’s new Barrio-Supported Agriculture (BSA) program. BSA members begin to arrive later in the morning, excited to take home this week’s bag. Paloma described hearing from some members that they were receiving vegetables they weren’t used to, like eggplant or leafy greens. She started putting together a weekly newsletter with a recipe, to help make unfamiliar vegetables less intimidating. As a student in UArizona’s Food Studies program, Paloma understands the political and economic factors that create barriers to fresh food for Barrio Centro, a predominantly low-income and Hispanic/Latinx neighborhood. Through her Earth Grant internship, Paloma supports Midtown Farm in a variety of ways, from creating outreach materials and recruiting volunteers, to event planning and organizing, general farm care tasks, and managing the new BSA program.

Farm managers Brandon Alexander and Jacob Robles and Earth Grant student Paloma Martinez at a farm.

(Left to right): Farm managers Brandon Alexander and Jacob Robles, and Earth Grant student Paloma Martinez.

Midtown Farm is a dream that became a reality for Flowers & Bullets, a collective organization dedicated to amplifying cultural roots through sustainability, art, rebellion, and healing. Founded in 2012 by Barrio Centro neighborhood residents, Flowers & Bullets members began enacting the sustainability branch of their mission by installing home gardens and rainwater harvesting systems with neighborhood residents. When the neighborhood school site, Julia Keen (closed by the school district in 2004), went up for sale in 2017, collective members organized to propose a new vision for this empty property: an urban farm and educational community space. With enthusiastic support from the community and many local champions, the school district voted to lease the space to Flowers & Bullets, and Midtown Farm was born. University of Arizona has been an organizational partner throughout the evolution of Midtown Farm, providing support through the School and Community Garden Program and the Agnes Nelms Haury program.

Although sustainability “features” like rainwater cisterns and community gardens are often associated with affluent, majority white neighborhoods, Flowers & Bullets staff point out that these techniques aren’t new. The Tucson Basin has been in cultivation for over 4,000 years by indigenous peoples before this land was designated as the United States or Mexico. Community workshops offered at Midtown Farm help make these connections, like a recent corn tortilla workshop using traditional methods to nixtamalize and grind farm-grown corn. By practicing these indigenous techniques, community members connect to their cultural roots and their local environment in ways that improve social connections and health.

2 images, left is of a chicken, right is of a goat, both taken at Midtown Farm.

Midtown Farm is home to chickens and goats.

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