March 17, 2011
Conversation with Vanessa Rule of Sommerville Climate Action, Jamie Corliss of Shape Up Somerville, Arn Franzen of City of Somerville Parks and Open Space, and Brad Arndt of Groundwork Somerville.
-How did the Somerville network of Delegations come together?
Vanessa: There is a lot of talk in the sustainability movement about the need to work across silos and build bridges laterally instead of focusing on specific issues. Information sharing process and connectivity is a big part of that. If felt like the Boston Tree Party was a perfect physical expression of what we are trying to do on that level. We want our network of Somerville Delegations to be an expression of our collective missions.
Brad: We have an ongoing, ever growing collaboration with the other Delegations. For instance The City of Somerville and Groundworks have collaborated doing tree planting events around Arbor Day. Somerville Climate Action has been doing their own Arbor Day celebration- the climate change focus meshes with our ongoing initiatives. The City of Somerville has placed a lot of emphasis on climate initiatives and tree planting initiatives. Here were three circles seeing an increasing amount of overlap. It didn’t take much to bring together what was already there.
Jamie: We saw The Boston Tree Party as a great opportunity to create different points of access for healthy foods to the community. The Somerville network demonstrates all the different players involved in food access, community health, sustainability. We signed up immediately. Fortunately because Shape Up Somerville functions under the city of Somerville we work closely with the Parks department. Groundworks and Somerville Climate action grew out of our community’s need; we saw much of our work overlapping. We have great synergy.
Arn: Our partnership was natural and may develop into something bigger – here is the potential building block for becoming a much stronger and integrated program.
-What do you foresee participating in the Boston Tree Party meaning for Somerville?
Vanessa: The excitement about it is opening up doors about thinking about our urban environment differently! Starting to redefine what a city looks like and what it’s supposed to look like. We usually think of buildings and hard surfaces but there’s more and more interest in growing gardens. Somerville used to be orchards before industrial resolution – there’s a thread there in terms of the history.
Also, New England has a culture of being town-centric. We don’t always think regionally. Another brilliant part of the project is that Somerville will feel a part of something larger–a psychological togetherness–building relationships across networks. It makes it a very systemic project for addressing environmental, social and economic issues.
Arn: Somerville has a great reputation for partnerships and networks. The driving force is community – then it takes administration to recognize it and provide sponsorship and funding. Our community is supported by the mayor and his desire for all of what is happening in the community to thrive. He wants to increase the tree canopy by 20%. He is really pushing for healthy eating programs. When you look at the economics and amount of available funding and you see everybody making cut-backs, you don’t see this mayor doing that. I haven’t seen him taking money away from these programs: Park redevelopment, healthy eating school programs, etc. — the parts of the community that are building blocks.
Somerville is really changing the way we think about things. The Obama administrations is recognizing that. They brought the mayor to Washington to speak for Michelle’s Let’s Move campaign. In many ways it’s modeled on Shape Up Somerville.
-What does planting heirloom apples mean to you and the community?
A: There were orchards everywhere once upon a time with a variety of apple variations. It’s a great symbol of our area’s rich history.
V: An education opportunity to speak about the agricultural system. People have forgotten where their food comes from and how it’s connected to diversity and biology.
B: Heirloom trees through cross pollination are in the end increasing the longevity of all apple trees not just individual trees. We can start to create a network that leads to sustainability for a long time – a broader network that will make our delegation and initiatives much stronger.
-What do you have in store for your planting party?
Brad: Each group is going to be doing planting on an individual site in Somerville, forming a triangle within the city. Groundworks will do a party on Saturday April 30th at the Blessing of the Bay boathouse in Somerville, right near the Mystic River. That event is going to be part of larger riverfest. On that same day in the same location, we are going to be doing river clean up, a garden raising event, and a bike donation day. The Boston Tree Party Planting will be part of a larger celebration the day after Arbor Day and not too long after Earth Day. We are really excited about meshing with these other events in a spirit of cross pollination. People will get to float among all the different events. We think we’ll get higher participation than if it were just one event.
A: The planting will now be a part of Somerville’s larger Arbor Day celebration. Arbor Day will be celebrated with a walk going from Foss Park through the city of Somerville to the Mystic River. The walk is going to be designated with signs–we are thinking of planting the apple trees at each end of walkway!
-Lastly, what is your favorite kind of apple?
Vanessa: Golden Russets – I grew up in France. I have a memory of my grandma having crates of apples that she would put in the basement to cool store them. She would forget about them. I have a memory of the smell of those apples and their unique taste. That’s hard to find in supermarkets. It would be so great to have apples that taste different! And making it a central experience to have these apples in our lives again!
Brad: Cortland apples. I found that of the many apples that I’ve eaten and cooked with, Cortland is the more reliable and flavorful.
Jamie: What a fun question! This week I am loving the crisp and delicious Braeburns from Apex Orchards (Shelburne, MA) that I picked up at the Somerville Winter Farmers’ Market on Saturday.
Arn: That’s a tough one! Everytime I have an apple, I say I like this one better then this one. When I was a kid we had a tree in our backyard! Macintosh is a good cooking apple. My wife makes really good apple crisps with them. But really I like an apple that has a little more fiber or bite to it. I’ll go with Gala. Gala is my favorite!