About soshartford

Grand Aspirations is founded on a powerful and innovative method – being solutionary. The Summer of Solutions expresses the values, follows the principles, and utilizes the strategies of this solutionary method. During the Urban Farming Internship program, young people in Hartford work together to draw on the assets each of them already have and work together to advance personal competence in this method, build a community around it, and enact it in the broader world.

From Summer of Solutions Hartford in Hartford, CT.

Summer of Solutions Hartford

Produce Tales from the Wesley Colbert Zion Street Garden

Because our participant summer program delayed the start of our growing season, our team didn’t begin planting until June.  Still, by the time mid-summer came, our garden was already producing regularly.  At first our veggies came in slowly, supplying some cherry tomatoes for salads and hot peppers for spicing up our team’s chili.

By the end of August, our team’s beds were overgrown with cherry, grape and plum tomatoes, beans and peas, salad greens and radishes.

With our team meals no longer taking up the bulk of fresh produce, we celebrated harvest season with the opening of the Zion Street Produce Stand.

We believe in the power of community agriculture to work against an unjust food system that limits the right to eat well with the ability to pay.  Offering our produce to neighbors at no cost not only allowed us…

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In the Twin Cities: a visit from State Representative Karen Clark

By Twin Cities Summer of Solutions participant Lee Samuelson

On the second to last day of Lynne Mayo’s permaculture project, we had the special privilege of meeting with Karen Clark, the state representative from the neighborhood.

She did not originally intend to run for office, but has gotten elected every 2 years since 1980. She has been an activist in the anti-war movement, anti-nuclear, and pro-affordable housing movements.

The central theme of the legislation Karen Clark presented was people’s “right to know” about the presence of toxic chemicals.

Rep. Clark helped pass a workers’ right to know bill. As a result of her efforts, material safety data sheets have to be posted in workplaces. Now, numerous states have copied the bill. When union members at a facility were found to be sterile, it motivated grassroots pressure to overcome resistance from the chemical companies.

In addition to workers, families also have a right to know. They had to take Bisphenol A out of baby bottles because it was an endocrine disruptor. She talked a lot about public health and childhood lead poisoning. Even dust from paint in old houses cause irreversible damage. Kids are also in danger from arsenic.

Karen Clark wears more hats than the legislative one. She is a central volunteer for the Women’s Environmental Institute and teaches Holistic Health at St Kate’s. Wearing both her legislative hat and Women’s Environmental Institute hats, she mapped out the toxic sites in Phillips.

What they found was that there was a closed pesticide plant in East Phillips that was releasing chemical pollutants all the way to the aquifer. Residents had been dealing with the cumulative health effects of the lead, mercury and arsenic. These included hypertension, asthma and heart disease.

Soil tests are required when lead and arsenic poisoning are found. Soil tests used to be state subsidized. But, in the name of cutting costs, we have to pay for it now. Our host Lynne Mayo wanted to get the soil from the city compost pile tested and it would cost $82. It is an injustice to ask low-income people to pay for the service. For example, the Hmong farmers needed soil testing but it was prohibitively expensive. Rep. Clark has also done some soil remediation on her 100 year old home.

Rep Clark’s perspectives do not come out of a vacuum but draw a lot from her personal experience. She promoted getting alternative medicine subsidized because she is a cancer survivor. Karen Clark’s parents were sharecroppers for rich but stingy California Landlord, which “taught her a lot about who runs things”.

Summer of Solutions Hartford

Our first flowers started to bloom!



And our basil was ready to harvest so we picked the leaves


And made pesto


Our zucchini plants were huge and ready to pick. Have you ever seen such a large and beautiful zucchini? (or a cuter kid?)


With all of our gorgeous zucchini, we made zucchini muffins and taught the kids that vegetables can be delicious!


We also had lettuce, radishes, peppers, and tomatoes ready to harvest


lots and lots of tomatoes!


So we took our tons and tons of vegetables and ate a lot of them off the vine because they were too delicious to bring inside. Of the vegetables that survived, we made a salad that was 100% grown and picked by us.


Everyone had a fun and delicious week at the Annie Fisher School garden. No vegetables survived.


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Summer of Solutions Hartford

Annie Fisher-

The Annie Fisher team started off the week with introductory lessons to our garden for the summer school students, who were ranging from age 3 to 10. In every section, the kids had a look at and learn about the plants growing in our gardens, as well as building a list of gardening rules by themselves! In addition to spending time with the hyperactive yet lovely kids , we now follow a brand new schedule of watering and taking care of beds around the school to make Annie Fisher as beautiful as possible.

This Tuesday and Wednesday, we encouraged and instructed the students to harvest basils to make their own pesto. The overheated weather suddenly became so pleasant and interesting, with kids running around sniffing, cutting, as washing basils. The only downside was that, according to the kids, the pesto doesn’t taste that good. Well….

And what were…

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Summer of Solutions Hartford

So much has happened in Hartford since Summer of Solutions Hartford kicked off on June 15th! Now that I’ve had time to upload some photos, I’d like to take you through the story of our program, 3 weeks in:

Chapter 1: Training Week

We had a Training and Orientation Week from June 15th-22nd to orient our participants to the program and train them in important solutionary skills. For the first two days, we were hosted by Hartford Areas Rally Together and joined by Summer of Solutions Pioneer Valley. Together we learned about the green economy, environmental justice, and how our solutions-based work can change the game.

On Sunday we said goodbye to our friends from the Pioneer Valley and they went off to make great garlic scape pesto.

For the next five days, we worked at the Trinity Office of Community Relations. Some of the best sessions of the week…

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cross-posted from soshartford.wordpress.com

Summer of Solutions Hartford

(The following is a blog post written by participants Tara, Drell, and Joe on the Monday following Training Week.  Since then we’ve added a heat wave to our list of weird weather experiences!) 

The weather in Hartford has been pretty ridiculous lately. Last week it was over 100 degrees for a couple of days, so we weren’t all too keen to be in the sun. Unfortunately we didn’t get to plant, but we spent the time inside getting to know each other through games like charades, wink wink murder, and we sang together.

On Friday, though, the weather changed. We were getting ready for our first potluck when it started pouring. Water came up past the sidewalk on Broad Street, and streets around Hartford County were closed. We were pretty happy, though, because our premature pollinator garden has been sitting out in the sun, in addition to over 100…

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Check out this post from Summer of Solutions Hartford!

Summer of Solutions Hartford

We’ve welcomed many new neighbors and volunteers to the garden this May.

As you may have seen, April was a busy month in el Jardín de Zion St. With the help of Public Allies, our neighbors, and Hartford Boy Scouts, we doubled the size of the garden by building 60 new raised beds. These beds will allow 60 more neighbors to grow food together!

But raised beds are pretty useless without healthy soil, so we had a lot of shoveling to do before the new boxes would be ready for action!

That’s why we hosted two workdays last week on May 12th and 16th with YEAH Hartford, Public Allies, and many neighbors and volunteers. I wanted to share some photos from the week so you could see the great progress we made.

Thanks to everyone who came out to help!

Public Allies after a long day of shoveling    …

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el Jardín de Zion St is Full of Life! SoS Hartford prepares for the garden season

El Jardîn de Zion St has lay dormant for months, through a Halloween snowstorm and an unseasonably warm winter. Everything but kale and a few hardy greens have long since flowered and been folded into beds for compost.

But this spring the garden is full of life again as volunteers and neighbors prepare it for a productive summer.

On a rainy Friday evening in March, our program leader team met with some neighbors at the Park Street Library branch to plan for the new season. Then on April 7th we had our first community workday. We cleaned the lots, mowed the grass, and helped neighbors plant in their raised beds (seeds courtesy of John Scheeper’s Kitchen Garden Seeds and the Perennial Harmony Garden Shop!)

Sorting Seeds in my Living Room

Last summer, we had a waiting list for raised beds until August, so this spring we decided to focus on expanding el jardín de Zion St to accommodate as many neighbors as possible. On April 21st we participated in Global Youth in Service Day and hosted Hartford Boy Scouts and Public Allies in our garden. Together we built 35 raised beds and got started filling them with soil (courtesy of Flamig Farm!)

The next day was Earth Day, and we celebrated with Public Allies and more volunteers by hosting another workday at the garden to build the next 25 raised beds- which would bring us to our goal of 60 new beds- or doubling the growing capacity of the garden. Despite fears that we would be rained out, we finished 23 before the rain got bad. We would have kept going, but we ran out of screws! (My dad finished the last 2 in our garage at home).

Now both lots are full to the brim with beds. Our next step is to line and fill them all with healthy organic soil!

Join us for our next workday on May 12th 10-2 to shovel shovel shovel and get those boxes ready for planting! We can’t wait to see them full of life this summer ❤

“Green Stuff”


Each day of the online voting campaign for the Health Justice CT Challenge, Summer of Solutions Hartford is posting new videos to show voters what our work is all about and why we should win $10,000.

You can vote for “Health Justice in the Garden” every day until March 16th: http://www.healthjusticect.org/challenge-voting

Today’s video is a series of clips from Kids’ Week- a free summer camp that our team ran last August.
 We had 18 campers ages 3-13, which is quite a task! We had a ton of fun doing arts and crafts, playing on the playground, cooking, and learning in the garden. My favorite part was a series of activities we did with plant botany. First, Joe taught the kids about plant structure and function. Then, each kid did a drawing of a plant and showed how it ate, drank, and soaked up sun. That afternoon, we got out the chalk and decorated the driveway of the community center with an imaginary garden.
The next day, Claudine taught our campers about nutrition and healthy eating. Then she lead them through the garden on a nutrition scavenger hunt to find all the ingredients for a healthy meal.
On the last day, we painted a big mural with room for each kid to paint their own plant.

Photos from Kids’ Week:

I’ll let some of our campers tell you the rest.

You can vote for “Health Justice in the Garden” every day until March 16th: http://www.healthjusticect.org/challenge-voting

Health Justice CT Challenge Update

Click Here to Vote Now.  Click the “Click here to vote” link and Vote for “Health Justice in the Garden.”

Click Here to Sign up to Vote Daily.  Click continue to agree, fill in your email and get started!


Voting Results: At the end of the fourth day of voting, Summer of Solutions Hartford remains in close second place.  Voting results have shown that our supporters have been the most consistent in voting daily, but we have not yet achieved the number of voters reached by other organizations.  Reflecting this trend, we won the most votes on days 2 and 4 of voting, while the organization in first place won the most votes on days 1 and 3.

What does this mean? : We will continue to rely on our core of daily voters to support us by voting every day.    We are confident that by continuing our daily voting campaign, we can continue to pull in a steady number of votes.  We also plan to make a special effort this weekend, when we believe we will be able to reach more voters than a larger organization.

At the same time, we need to reach out to a larger audience.  We will continue our efforts to reach as many voters as possible, and we ask for your help.  If you are reading this and have not yet signed up to vote daily, there is still one week of voting left.  We also depend on your support to reach new voters.  While you can make a big impact for our campaign by enlisting others to sign up, you can also have a large effect by sending the voting link — healthjusticect.org/challenge-voting — to as many people as possible and encouraging them to vote for “Health Justice in the Garden.”


What we could do with $10,000:

1) Provide stipends to Program Leaders and Participants working Full-Time to bring community gardens and community programs to the Frog Hollow and surrounding neighborhoods.

2) Cover the construction costs of over over 60 raised wooden beds and over 2,000 Square Feet of Growing Space.