“Food is the call of home,” says Nikki Makarutsa, a native of Zimbabwe, who was able to curb her homesickness in 2004 when she began farming with the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project.
New Entry, a partnership between Tufts University and Community Teamwork, Inc. was started in 1988 to help immigrants and refugees find farming opportunities on three farms in Dracut.
In 2005, it grew to include World PEAS (People Enhancing Agricultural Sustainability), a Community Supported Agriculture program through which people can purchase weekly “shares” of locally grown produce, opening up a market to the farmers for their crops.
It started with 15 shares a week; it has blossomed to 415 shares, grown by three dozen small farmers. They also provide fresh produce to three senior centers, summer feeding programs and a transitional living center, as well as sell $23 shares for $10 each to 150 low-income families in the area.
On Wednesday morning, they celebrated the opening of their new distribution center at 200 Crosby Street in the city’s Back Central neighborhood. The warehouse space provides them with a double loading dock, and a better location than their previous headquarters – a “circus tent” at Richardson Farm in Dracut.
Those in attendance included Mayor Patrick Murphy, Assistant City Manager/DPD Director Adam Baacke, Economic Development Director Theresa Park, Sean Devendorf from Tufts University Friedman School and CTI Executive Director Karen Frederick.
How did they end up in Lowell? The group mentioned in their newsletter they were looking for space. The call was quickly answered by Baacke and Park, who helped World PEAS find their new home.
“I fell in love with it,” New Entry Director Jennifer Hashley said of the old mill space.
Mayor Patrick Murphy said he was pleased to see World PEAS setting up shop in the Back Central neighborhood, where his family first settled coming from the farms of Ireland to work in the mills.
“It’s good to see that this mill is going to benefit low-income and immigrant workers who want to grow their own business and rediscover that sense of home,” Murphy said.