Upham's Corner Online

The Food Project - A Private Tour

First in a Series - Meet the Team
Posted: Monday, September 20, 2010
Nancy Conrad

The Food ProjectThe Food Project (TFP) is a visionary experiment in urban farming. Muller Mirville is a 16-year-old youth who wants to be a math teacher "when he grows up."

Two years ago, quite by chance, they met.  Muller liked The Food Project work immediately and they've been teammates ever since.

This is the story of The Food Project as seen through the eyes of Muller Mirville.

The Food Project
Muller lives in Upham’s Corner and attends the Urban Sciences Academy, a part of West Roxbury High. 

A couple years ago a counselor pointed him to The Food Project for a summer job. Now he works there full-time summers. When school's in session, he gets to do related activities like cooking for shelters.

He's enthusiastic. He loves talking about the kids and the outreach, how he gets to lead, motivate and teach others and the sense he has of making a difference in the world, one child at a time.

Muller took us on a tour of The Food Project sites in Roxbury.
  • The Urban Learning Farm
  • The Shirley Eustis mansion orchard
  • The main production farm
  • An abandoned greenhouse they just acquired
  The Food Project   The Food Project
  The Food Project   The Food Project

The Food ProjectDo you know who Secretary Kathleen Sibelius is? 

Muller tells about the time she came to visit the project and he gave her a brief tour of their main urban farm.

Then Muller told us they had visitors from Australia, Arizona and Wellesley College -- just to name a few -- to learn about urban farming.

The Food Project kids get to travel as well. Recently a group went down to Atlanta for a convention.

Agribusiness - large scale farming, cold storage and distribution - is the invisible big brother behind almost all produce sold everywhere. The organic farmer-type who personally guarantees product quality is in the minority.

Muller depicted an image of organic quality and we found ourselves feeling a bit ashamed at our lack of knowledge.

Imagine a well seasoned farmer (Muller) taking us on a tour of his fields. The farmer’s eye is astute and can see essential and distinctive differences in the plants.
For us, the uninitiated, it all looks green and nameless.
Imagine the organic farmer who knows and cares about the soil as a source of nutrients to generate healthy crops.
All we know is how to go to the hardware store to buy a bag of fertilizer.
Imagine the urban youth (who had known only concrete and asphalt under his feet) magically transformed through daily physical work in the fields -- turning the soil with a pitchfork, planting seeds, weeding, checking the crops, harvesting and selling the produce. 
Meanwhile we're lucky if we can remember to water the plants.
Yet almost more important than anything else is this: On-the-job training - how to grow the farmer’s "black gold" -- compost. Muller first showed us the compost bins filled with discarded produce and later the pile of incredibly black and rich soil it had created.
“No,” shout the organic gardening gremlins, “Don’t throw it down the garbage disposal. That’s the makings of GOLD.”   Bzzzzzzzzzzz

These are the faces and voices we heard in Muller’s private tour of The Food Project. These are the feelings and images he evoked in sharing his Food Project life with us.

You wouldn't dream the average 16-year-old could make such a difference!

The Food Project

That was a lot to pack into a 90 minute tour. By the time we were done, the urban gardens we ordinarily pass by with barely a thought had taken on new energy. We can still hear our conversations with Muller, his enthusiasm and his caring ways.

Perhaps Muller's newfound dedication to organic urban growing is a sign of hope and of good to come in our world.

What We Learned from Our Tour – the Details

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