At this time of year in Central New York, planting season is little more than a fantasy — unless you are Emily Moschowits ’16, founder and executive director of Utica Greens.
When the last danger of frost has passed, Moschowits and the community partners she is engaging will be ready to get their hands dirty. Utica Greens is a new nonprofit organization that aims to help provide low-income Utica residents with fresh local produce.
The plan also is to teach the residents about urban farming and local foods, from growing their own to learning to prepare it.
Moschowits started Utica Greens in August with a Levitt Social Innovation Post-Graduate Fellowship, one of three given out in 2016. It’s a new award that enables graduating Hamilton College seniors or recent graduates to develop ventures to address persistent problems in disadvantaged communities.
Since late last summer Moschowits has been busy with, among other tasks, building partnerships with local organizations and recruiting established community gardens and gardeners to become part of the project.
In January Utica Greens plans to hold its first cooking classes, geared to families who participate in a county program that provides assistance to low-income families.
Utica is home to a large population of immigrants, and Moschowits recently spoke to 100 or so refugees about signing up to have their own beds at a Utica Greens garden. She has big plans and a wide-ranging vision.
“In the future we hope to work with local farmers and other organizations to bring refugees to the surrounding agricultural areas to grow their own food on farms,” Moschowits says. She was interviewed for a story about Utica Greens on Utica ABC affiliate WUTR on Jan. 18.
Across the globe in Ethiopia, another of the three fellowship winners, Tsion “T” Tesfaye ’16 has launched CareCraft, signing up the first six participants in her project.
CareCraft supports women with epilepsy and helps them to earn a living. Tesfaye, who is from Ethiopia, says in that country people with epilepsy are stigmatized and unable to get the support they need.
"While it's still early in the process, we're very pleased with the quality of the work T and Emily are doing,” says Levitt Center Director Marianne Janack, who is also a professor of philosophy. “They are implementing their projects in a measured and thoughtful way and learning a great deal as they do so. We are inspired by their passion, creativity and commitment to their communities and their work."
The third Levitt fellowship went to Andy Chen and Leonard Kilekwang, both Class of 2016, for their project Technosafi, which is a free, cell-phone-based method for disseminating critical health information in Kenya. That project is just getting underway.