WGBH Interview - Together We Give
June 7th, 2022
Community Spotlight Service Credit Union
It all started with Justin and Jessica Munroe’s backyard vegetable garden. As they planted seeds one early spring day, the couple considered how important the garden was to them for their physical health, their mental health, for the food they could provide for their family.
Living in Nashua, they knew that many people in the city didn’t have the luxury of land to garden on. “We were thinking, maybe we could give a plot of land to one of our neighbors who might be in need,” Justin says. They were especially concerned about people Justin calls “new Americans,” refugees and immigrants from other countries.
Their own yard was too small, so they reached out to St. Joseph Hospital, which had a large plot of land available, large enough for a community vegetable garden. They then reached out to people who might want to take part. “In our first season, we had 20 different families from 12 different countries gardening in that space,” Justin says. “That was a lot of fun. We learned from that, and we have been growing ever since.”
That first season was seven years ago. Now, what became Grow Nashua has seven community gardens throughout the city and 150 families taking part. The raised-bed gardens are placed in “food deserts,” areas where people don’t have access to fresh produce within walking distance. “Ninety-five percent of our families are low-income families who struggle with access to nutritious food,” Justin says. “There are a lot of corner stores, but often they don’t have much to offer besides sugary drinks and chips.”
The seven community gardens are on land provided free of charge by the City of Nashua and the Nashua School District. The gardening expertise, also free, is provided by the Grow Nashua Team and host of "Garden Tender" volunteers. "We help with everything," Justin says. "We're coaching them about what to plant and when to plant." To build a gardener's knowledge, each month Grow Nashua offers virtual agricultural training programs.
The effort to educate extends into the schools. Justin’s wife, Jessica, leads a Garden Basics Builder program for fourth-and fifth-graders in three of the city’s Title I schools, schools where on average 75% of the students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches. As they’re learning soil basics, plant systems, garden nutrition and garden planning, the students put their knowledge to work in a garden on school property. Continue reading full article PDF here.
The Nashua Patch
The Nashua Telegraph
A local nonprofit, a beverage company charity and several volunteers collaborated to help upgrade a Nashua community garden last week.
On Sept. 28, 20 volunteers took part in the project at the Pine Street Urban Growing Space, located at the Nashua Heritage Trail on Pine Street. The group constructed and painted new gates and planting beds and created new seating areas to allow gardeners and visitors to enjoy the growing space
The garden is run by Grow Nashua, a nonprofit with a mission of connecting and caring for underserved families by providing the resources to grow their own food.
Partnering with Grow Nashua on the initiative was Love, Tito's Block to Block. Run by Tito's Handmade Vodka, the initiative seeks to provide fresh and healthy food to communities by working alongside local nonprofit organizations and volunteers to create green spaces, including community gardens and farms.
"Tito's Block to Block has been an amazing partner of Grow Nashua for the last three years and has helped us to build three garden sites, add wheelchair accessibility features to be more inclusive in our offerings, and to improve the community garden infrastructure in traditionally underserved neighborhoods," Justin Munroe, the executive director of Grow Nashua, told Patch.
Find out what's happening in Nashuawith free, real-time updates from Patch.
Munroe continued: "We are so grateful that this new growing space will provide more spots for families to grow veggies for their dinner tables and simultaneously strengthen their neighborhood relationships, which we feel is equally important."
The upgraded farm, according to Grow Nashua, will help the organization continue to increase access to fresh, nutrient-dense food, especially for people who live far from grocery stores, have limited transportation and struggle with the expense of nutritious food.
July 13th, 2017
Back-to-school season came early for some at Amherst Street Elementary School on Tuesday as staff members and other volunteers worked to transform the school’s tired, but loved, courtyard into what they hope will be a thriving and engaging garden.
The effort is the latest from GrowNashua, a nonprofit organization that focuses on developing small-plot gardens in areas that typically wouldn’t be associated with agriculture, and to provide education and encouragement to people who may not have the background or means to make the gardens thrive.
Several soaked but engaged volunteers grubbed, raked and weeded their way through the central courtyard during Tuesday morning’s rain, busily preparing the existing beds for new plants and new learning experiences for the school’s students.
The area has served much in the same way as a suburban home’s backyard. Flowers and shrubs bloomed, but have become a bit overgrown, in a handful of beds that had sprouted enough weeds to fill several read more...
Garden Club Interview
The Story of a Community Garden
Justin Munroe lives with his family in Nashua. As Founder of JMPhotography.com, he has specialized in Wedding Photography for the last 15 years and is also a lover of gardening. I recently met him at the UNH Master Gardening class in the spring. What impressed me about Justin is that he has jumped in to do something impactful for the less fortunate and to educate the public about gardening. He has garnered corporate support to start several community gardens in Nashua. The first garden is now up and running on land owned by St. Jo-seph’s Hospital. The second is in process at the Amherst St. Elementary School and the third will be on land owned by Dartmouth Hitchcock of Nashua. He calls this program “Grow Nashua”.
DB: It seems that you have a love for gardening - how has that been fostered?
JM: I just love all the different things that gardening "is". There is awe in the power of a small seed and how it can grow to be a gigantic plant that provides nourishment for our bodies. My grandparents and parents always had a little garden in the yard that they tended to and so I think it has always been kind of a standard thing to do. Once I had my own home my wife and I really started doing it for fun more than anything else and to this day still find it quite a relaxing hobby.
DB: What gave you the idea for "Grow Nashua"?
JM: We thought about how a refugee comes here and lives in an apartment and has a minimum wage job that
they are stuck in due to the language barrier. Last spring when we were planting, we thought read more...
Skip to minute 38:00
Local TV Broadcast
Justin Munroe of Grow Nashua, will be teaming up two community members to design a comprehensive and exciting presentation on how to structure classroom curriculum to increase students interest and knowledge of local food systems. The school gardening workshop will be held on February 20, 2017 for the Nashua School District.
UNH Cooperative Extension Field Specialist, Sarah Grosvenor, is in charge of building a curriculum for teachers Grosvenor explains that the curriculum will generally “present information that ties directly into what is included in the Food Systems curriculum, along with the Next Generation Science Standards that are encompassed in the lessons.” The workshop’s curriculum will highlight that “our current food system is unsustainable so we need to engage with the next generation on how to problem solve for the future.” Grosvenor is passionate about increasing education and awareness of sustainable gardening and her inspiration particularly stems from the price gap between local and industrial foods. Before joining the UNH Cooperative Extension team, Grosvenor was a seventh grade teacher who successfully incorporated local food systems into her class curriculum. Grosvenor’s past work focused on how “many of [her] students couldn’t afford to buy food from the farmer’s market, organic or local farms, but that gave [the class] rich discussion on why it is important for the next generation to find ways to make it affordable and to find ways to help make our food systems more sustainable.”
The Nashua School District school gardening workshops will aim to equip teachers with a customizable curriculum to educate their students about benefits of buying and growing local produce. Munroe and his team look forward to increasing Nashua School District’s awareness and involvement in school gardens.
The Nashua Telegraph
Volunteers got to work quickly Friday on the city’s Community Teaching Farm, turning unused land into a nutrient-rich garden bed.
A few dozen people worked together at the site, wielding rakes, shovels and wheelbarrows under the instruction of Justin Munroe, CEO of Grow Nashua.
The property, located on Lake Street, was lent to Grow Nashua by St. Joseph Hospital.
Munroe, the mind behind the farm, started Grow Nashua last fall with the help of the United Way of Greater Nashua. His vision is to bring Nashua families together to strengthen their community, while teaching them to farm and harvest their own fresh vegetables.
The program focuses on families that may not have the land or financial resources to have farm space of their own.
“We really want to empower people,” Munroe said. “We’re providing them with the foundation to grow their own read more...
NH Farm Bureau
Justin Munroe, CEO of the relatively new non-profit, Grow Nashua, explained its mission to “bring families together with a common goal of strengthening their community while learning to farm and harvest their own fresh vegetables.”
The group has a plot of land at St. Joseph’s Hospital where people from 12 different countries have been able to work on the “Learning Farm” prepared by 80 volunteers. The garden plot sign-up was filled in two weeks this year. The goal is to teach farming skills to those who don’t know them and to teach farmers from other countries how to farm in this climate. Graduates from the program, which includes workshops as well as in-the-garden training, will then have a chance to work either on a production farm (Grow Nashua is in the process of looking for land) or to create their own farming space. In time they should be able to sell their
products through the institutions that are supporting it
already—hospitals, schools, and other institutions. This
project has been embraced by the city, the hospital, United Way and the YMCA among other organizations.
Justin commented that he loves to see the family
grandmothers get out of their houses and meet in the
gardens, because an underlying theme is developing
community. Any time there is a meeting or workshop, Grow Nashua hasto hire two translators and also rely on people to translate for each other.