Urban Agriculture Center Springs Up in Union Square

Like many people in Somerville, I love the idea of urban agriculture–growing my own food, perhaps having a couple of chickens or even keeping bees. But it can also be intimidating to know where to start with those projects, what you need to be successful and what to do when something goes wrong. That’s where Relish, a brand new urban agriculture center located in the heart of Union Square comes in.

The brainchild of Union Square Main Streets Executive Director Mimi Graney and MaryCat Chaikin, who runs both the Winter Farmers Market and Union Square Farmers Market, Relish plans to open its doors to the public on June 1. The main focus will be on hands-on classes and workshops for kids and adults on any topic related to urban farming.

“We went through a few different ideas before we settled on this,” Chaikin said. She added that the center will fill a big void in the region, which has no similar resources for people interested in doing urban agriculture. “People are wicked excited.”

Relish Shop Outside

People have grown food in Somerville for decades, but with the passing of the new urban agriculture ordinance last fall, many residents have shown interest in doing things like producing their own food and keeping chickens. Graney and Chaikin noticed that it was difficult to know how to get started with urban agriculture and get the supplies needed to do things like build raised beds or a chicken coop. So they set out to provide a resource for the community with Relish.

Adult classes will be offered on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings on topics ranging from container gardening and making the most of your harvest to maple sugaring and beekeeping. Prices will vary depending on the class length and materials required, but will start around $45. While most classes will be single-session, some will be done in a series.

“You can take classes and have a community. You’re not alone,” Graney said. “I think the whole urban agriculture ordinance is sort of the key that’s giving people the push to do it. We want to demystify the whole thing.”

Relish Jams

In addition to the adult classes, Relish will have a big component that caters to local children. There will be week-long half-day classes offered during school breaks and the summer that take a broader view of urban agriculture. Some of the focus will be on traditional topics like chicks and chickens, but there will also be workshops on felting and printmaking. The goal is to impart skills for productive, hands-on living. The classes are priced at $205 per week per child.

Relish also plans to bring the first 4-H Club to the area. It will start with kids in kindergarten through grade three who will participate in the Cloverbuds program. They will take care of an adopted rabbit (pictured at right), do container gardening and learn to prepare healthy snacks. Having the resources of 4-H behind the club will allow it to participate in local fairs and the kids will be able to attend annual camps.

Class registration for Relish’s first workshops just opened. You can sign up for them and to help at a painting party this Sunday, May 19, to get the space ready for opening day on June 1, which coincides with the first day of the Union Square Farmers Market.

Relish Shop Cutting Boards

P.S. The best way to get involved with Relish, whether it’s helping to get the space ready, signing up to attend or teach a class or suggesting a product for the shop, is to sign up for the group’s email newsletter.

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