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In Nashua, one group is trying to nurture residents’ curiosity to grow their own food

Courtesy
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ReGen Roots
Volunteers work at the annual ReGen Roots Farm Day in May.

Andrew Morin was 5 years old when his father gave him his first tomato seeds. He enjoyed the experience of seeing vegetables grow so much that he has dedicated his life to encouraging others to do the same.

With a group of New England friends, he left his career in law in 2017 to found Regenerative Roots, an organization based in Nashua. They manage 15 acres at two community farm sites in Hudson and Weare, where they provide free land to refugees, new and beginning farmers, and other community members, which they can use to cultivate produce for their own consumption or sell. Participating farmers grow around 15,000 pounds of food each year, Morin said.

Through a program called the ReGen Roots Seedling Share, Morin’s organization also supplies Nashua residents with the resources and support needed to grow their own food at their own homes.

This spring, they distributed 1,500 seedlings grown by Nashua High School North students to around 200 community members. They expect to harvest around 6,000 pounds of tomatoes and peppers by the fall.

Morin said they chose peppers because they are easy to grow and tomatoes because they can be versatile in different cuisines.

“It seems something quite a lot of people can enjoy across socioeconomic backgrounds and races,” he said.

Courtesy
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ReGen Roots
Among the participants of the RenGen Roots community farms are people who immigrated to New Hampshire from Africa and Central America.

ReGen Roots circulate the seedlings at food drives; once someone receives one, the organization follows up with ongoing support to foster successful cultivation. Morin plans to distribute some of the vegetables harvested through the program at food drives this fall, in collaboration with Dartmouth Health and Club National. Morin said the funds from the sale of the vegetables would benefit Nashua Children’s Home and the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter.

“This system adds resiliency by involving many more people,” Morin said. “It creates a greater sense of community and deeper compassionate human relations because they can get the feel-good moment of giving back a little.”

Morin said he hopes the initiative can help the many Nashua residents who live in food deserts, lacking access to fresh food within a mile. He’d like to see city officials work to close these gaps by focusing more on growing food locally and setting up orchards at public parks.

“There's a lot of either underutilized public parks or open spaces owned by governments and municipalities that could be utilized for that,” he said.

RenGen Roots is planning on growing 2,000 to 3,000 seedlings next year.

“Even if it is not technically summer,” Morin says, “the program kind of starts the growing season in the urban agriculture setting.”

You can find more information about the program here.

Courtesy
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ReGen Roots
A volunteer distributes seedlings at a food drive in May.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.

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