Posted by Jake Bourdeau
Mr. Craig Lapine spoke to the Rotary Club about his organization, Cultivating Community. Cultivating Community is a food-based non-profit organization, which combines the synergies of community challenges with local food-based solutions. For instance, Cultivating Community was instrumental in starting the Youth Growers program which helps children that may have a hunger need to work over the summer to learn how to grow healthy food for themselves and for their neighbors. The Youth Growers Program is in its 19th growing season.

Mr. Lapine said that communities may experience challenges that may be disconnected from each other, and Cultivating Community has been successful in providing solutions to the challenges by putting food production in the charge of local people. An example of this synergy is the Refugee Farm Training Program, whereby refugees may have limited ability to buy food or produce food, and they start working and training on leased farmland to produce and grow food for themselves and for sale. The goal is to be productive in the community, and remove themselves from the potential for poverty.  

Believing that access to healthy food is a human right, and the ability to produce food is bound up in human DNA, Cultivating Community is helping people to learn to produce their own food and to put food production in the hands of the people.

Another program they support helps people with limited economics or interest in growing food, team up with farmers with a robust quantity of food. Cultivating Community helps run a series of farmer training programs, and they helped run a mobile food bus, which allowed farmers to sell direct to consumers in some economically-challenged areas, and also allows the buyers to use funds like SNAP to obtain healthy food options. 

Cultivating Community is managing the City of Portland’s Community Garden Program where eleven (11) community gardens help residents with limited access to garden space, and sometimes limited income, find a way to share public space and to grow food locally. While there is a waiting list to get a garden plot, Mr. Lapine said there is turnover, and one could usually obtain a plot within the second season. 

Another program they support is an asylum-seeker CSA: This is subscription agriculture and every week the person receives a box of vegetables for their subscription. The CSA helps farmers get guaranteed money for the growing season and helps reduce the risk of farming. 

Cultivating Community has partnered with other well-known organizations, like St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston, the Good Food Bus, the Locker Project, and the Good Shepherd Food Bank. They currently rely on over 1,500 volunteers to help run the programs and help the community.  If your values align with their goals, Cultivating Community would welcome your efforts as well. You can check them out at: