Friday, October 29, 2010

Food Project Lease Renewal TABLED - I Smell a Rat! Oh....Sorry Councilors, didn't see you there.

As you no doubt are aware, the School Committee had the Ingalls School farm on the agenda.  It was placed on the agenda as discussion due to an abutter blaming the neighborhood's rat problem on the farm. She also claims it breeds vandalism and gang activity. Farms tend to do that after all....Um?

The meeting began with two councilors stepping up proudly to the microphone to state their opinions (as fact) so that they can look like they are doing something about the "rats."

Councilor Trahant recommended they kill the farm (with a heavy heart.. don't forget the heavy heart part). Then Councilor Cyr got up with the same message. None of them had any facts, just assumptions that the farm meant more rats.

FALSE: Councilor Cyr tells us that the Lynn Director of Public Health MaryAnn O'Connor says that the rats are there because of the garden.

TRUTH: Cyr was corrected in the meeting. The Mayor and other committee members have spoken with Ms. O'Connor. She says that if the garden were not there, there would still be the same rat problem.

As a matter of fact, John Ford had a study in his hand by professionals that came to the area from Boston and ruled out the farm as a cause of the rat problem. They found several other areas of the neighborhood to blame including uncovered trash, dead shrubs, etc.  OK, case closed, right? Let the farm continue to provide:

- 30,000 pounds of food per season
- fresh local produce for people on WIC and Food Stamps
- food for My Brother's Table
- 45 paid summer jobs for our youth
- Curriculum in the Ingalls School
- Produce for our Downtown Farmer's Market
- Produce for the CSA shares

Let that all continue right? Well, maybe not yet. Read on...

Charlie Gaeta of the Housing Authority who was once in support of closing the garden. Now, after seeing the facts from The Food Project and other studies done, has reversed his decision. It was clear Cyr and Trahant had not done that due diligence.  Ford clearly has all the facts. What the hell is going on?

I think my favorite quote of the night was when Cyr was going on and on about how big the plot of land was. He said, "It's almost like a farm!"   Ummmm... Cyr? It is a farm! Why are you here again? Ingalls is in Trahant's Ward. GO away! Cyr then went on to say that it shouldn't be at the Ingalls School, it should be in Lynn Woods! LYNN WOODS???? You going to bus the kids there? And what part of the woods do you want to rip up for this, Cyr?

Rick Starbard then chimed in with a few points. He goes on my awesome list along with John Ford and I mean that. He knew the facts. He knew that the last thing rats want are the vegetables.

Maria Carassco needed time to digest all the information coming at them. I think the councilors did the trick in confusing the council from the facts they had at hand. Spirito quickly jumped to compromise land once the opposition started talking.

J. Harrison the Director of the Food Project for the North Shore was so clear. There is a rodent problem in all US Cities right now. A lot of factors are leading to this. Farms don't seem to be one of them. The Food Project has been on the land for 7 years. The first time they ever saw a rodent on the farm was 2003. They immediately took steps to eradicate the problem. They brought in expert pest removal folks to bait the perimiter. This year, the farmers have noticed ZERO damage to the produce from rodents and none of the bait was eaten according to the pest removal company. The rats DONT LIKE the garden. I actually think the rats might be gaining some political clout and that's what this is all about. I think the rats might be trying to get a nice empty plot of land to play on. Veggies are yucky. I spoke with a rat in the area this morning out in front of Ms. Puello's house. He said, "While we like veggies, the people at the Food Project are so evil with their traps and bait and effective solutions to getting us to stay away, we'd much prefer to see the farm shut down."

The oppositions main points are all false.

She says there are rats. I've just told you the pest removal company says Nope, you're wrong.

She says there is vandalism. The wall near the garden used to be full of tags. The Food Project painted it. It has been tagged once in the 7 years.

She says there are gangs hanging out. If that's true, it's a police problem (and we don't think it's true). It used to be a haven for fights and gangs when it was empty. The Food Project now goes in to Ingalls and teaches all 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classes about the land. The kids, and now the community, really respect them and love that they are there. This is incredibly effective education. Respect for the city and the land is a big issue in this town.

The Mayor offered a compromise. Raise the fence height from 4 feet to 10 feet. Put locked gates on the entrances, Add lights, camera and try a new form of rat repellant outside of Ms. Puello's house. Ms. Puello said she just wants the farm closed. Wow!

Maria Carassco voted to table to digest all of the information.

I'm going to end this post here, but there's more to come after I catch the video on Apparently after a lot of us left (as we thought it was over), they let a few more people speak.

Our petition is up to 101 signatures. We need all of your support. Please sign today to keep Ingalls School Farm alive and well. The principal of Ingalls School was amazing at the meeting last night. She gets how important this is to our kids and our education system. Why take that away from the kids? It just doesn't make sense. Especially when you see that it won't solve the problem.

Message to the School Committee. Our Councilors do things ALL THE TIME that do not result in fixing the problem. Don't make the same mistake. I urge the School Committee to only listen to the facts and vote to extend The Food Project's lease. Compromise is not necessary when the opposition has no valid point.



  1. I thought it was Donna Cappola who seconded Cassaco's motion, but the tape may prove me wrong. A lot of people seemed to be stunned by this motion. It effectively ended debate/testimony, preventing a Food Project youth from speaking. Fortunately, the mayor suspended rules and allowed the young man to speak later.

  2. I could be wrong. I'll take it out until I see the tape.

  3. The videos will be on my account before I'm able to post them on LH. I can't access blip, FB, etc from school, but I left them uploading this morning. I think it's easy to find them by connecting through any of the other posted videos.

  4. Great post Corey - thanks for all you do to advocate for the best possible outcome. Our community is lucky to have you!

  5. Then the fence and cameras shouldn't exist, either. I'm not so sure it's a reasonable compromise to give in to one person's craziness. It's sad that she's like that, but probably worse to encourage it.


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