'Urban' farmers agree to 10-year lease for town land


Right now, there's not much to see at the end of Paul Court, where Warren's fledgling Community Farm and Gardens have sprung — just open fields, some cultivated, and a wooded area that's dark, shaded and damp. For Bleu Grijalva, it's perfect.

Mr. Grijalva, the executive director of the non-profit New Urban Farmers, will spend the next decade working two acres of town-owned land at the community farm growing berries, establishing an orchard, producing honey and even starting a mushroom operation. Just as importantly, he and other said, he'll be spreading the gospel of dirt to Warren's young.

The Barrington resident, who founded the Pawtucket-based non-profit as a way to teach sustainable agriculture to urban residents and provide locally grown produce, was the only person to meet a recent town deadline to submit proposals to use the town-owned farmland commercially. The Warren Town Council agreed Tuesday night to lease his organization two acres of land at the farm for $500 per year per acre.

Melissa Linhares Spurr, who helped found Warren's community farm and helped develop the town's request for proposals, believes Mr. Grijalva's proposal will be a great fit for Warren. With the council's unanimous approval, Warren is the first municipality in the state to lease land to a farmer.

"It's really exciting," she said Tuesday, prior to the meeting. "There's so many possibilities. If we could do this on a small scale and be successful, it would be a great use of this land."

Mr. Grijalva's New Urban Farmers cultivates land in urban Pawtucket and also has plots in Seekonk, but the organization is running out of room. The fields aren't big enough to satisfy demand for his produce, "so he's looking for more space."

His vision for farming, too — small, local, sustainable, done organically — fits with the town's vision, Ms. Linhares Spurr said.

"The big appeal with someone like Bleu is he brings a lot of expertise here," she said. "The mission is also to try to incorporate a lot of kids into it, so kids are getting an exposure to small scale farming in a sustainable way, and he already has a lot of these programs in place."

As a non-profit, New Urban Farmers carries its own insurance, so liability is not an issue on the property. Mr. Grijalva has proposed paying the town $500 per acre per year for the land.

The only other people to submit a bid for the use of the land was a Boston couple who missed the town-imposed deadline.


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