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Inclusion First: Diversity in Somerville Local Movement

Sep 07 10:10 am

By Liana Fedele

 

Number of SLF business members in Davis Square? 39.

Union Square?  53.

Magoun Square and East Somerville? 11.

(Numbers taken from A Local’s Guide To Somerville)

 

At the outset of my summer internship with Somerville Local First, somebody could have mentioned Winter Hill or Magoun Square, and they may as well have been talking about somewhere as distant as Timbuktu.  My three years as a student in Somerville had made me moderately aware of Davis, Ball, and Teele Squares, but not much else.  Settling in for a three-month stint as SLF’s Member Management Intern led me to a Somerville more diverse and intriguing than I ever imagined.

As my knowledge of Somerville grew, so did a project that’s been critical to my entire summer: increasing the diversity of SLF’s member base. Diversity might appear at first glance to be an empty buzz word muttered by college admission boards and corporate sensitivity handbooks, but to the local movement, it is of utmost importance. We’re Somerville Local First-not Union Local First, Davis Local First, or any other variation on this theme-and as such we must try to represent every angle of Somerville possible. To do this, I would choose to focus on geographic diversity across the ‘Ville, increasing SLF’s presence in East Somerville.

YUM-the-welcome-project

Try another side of Somerville on for size!

My “summer of diversity,” as I like to call it, started with a collaborative project. Working with The Welcome Project, one of SLF’s nonprofit members that seeks to support immigrant families, and its YUM initiative came naturally since Winter Hill and East Somerville have a heavy concentration of Somerville’s immigrant-owned restaurants (YUM’s focus). Casual meetings with immigrant business owners spread the local love and support. Vinny of Vinny’s Ristorante, a decades old East Somerville establishment, climbed on board the local train, proudly declaring Somerville as home to his business and his life. Many other business owners expressed a similar sentiment, a desire to intimately tie one’s business identity to its location.

This collaboration with YUM gave way to individual outreach that moved beyond immigrant-owned restaurants and focused on all of Winter Hill and East Somerville. Of course, the nature of being a small business owner does not always make it easy to devote time to the local endeavor. The word business itself implies as much; business owners are busy.  Between serving customers and clients, balancing the books, and managing the whole joint, there’s not much time left to branch out to a wider audience of potential clients. Additionally, the nature of being an immigrant small-business owner can often be even more isolating. Regardless of service offered, goods sold, or language spoken, all of the businesses I visited wished to serve a broader range of Somerville customers. Suddenly, this whole diversification project took on a whole new meaning. It became clear that not only was my original goal of diversifying members important, but also that diversifying clientele was key to reaping the benefits of an inclusive local movement.   

This is where SLF, ‘Villens, and, most importantly, you come in.

Why is it that the local movement seems to lack a presence that’s uniform across all of our neighborhoods? I can’t offer an exact explanation for the existence of a numerical inequality between Davis Square and Magoun Square. What I can offer is a request for your action, action that’s guaranteed to help bridge this gap. It’s known as the ancient art of exploration.

As community members of the ‘Ville, we must remember that Somerville is far more than just the sum of its parts. To support our city and its local movement is to embrace Somerville as a unified whole. When you take all the neighborhoods of Somerville and put them together you end up with a bustling and diverse business community to rival all others. Let’s get out and explore Somerville from every corner, street, square, and neighborhood possible. Let’s explore with a kind of gusto that will leave no local stone unturned. Now that’s what local pride is all about.

Filed under: Local First
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Fabricado en Somerville: My Introduction into Somerville’s Homegrown Movement

Jul 20 5:02 pm

- Danielle Kennedy, Web & Editorial Intern

When I was a kid, I had a love affair with Spain. I had one of those brief childhood fascinations with growing up to be something very specific and peculiar – in my case, a flamenco dancer (which I consider at least somewhat more practical than my younger brother’s aspiration to become a penguin at the time). I loved everything about them – the swirling, ruffled dresses, the elaborate hair ornaments. Most of all, I loved the beautiful, handcrafted wooden fans brandished so elegantly by the female performers. So when I learned of my grandparents’ upcoming trip to Europe, which included a sojourn to my beloved Spain, I naturally insisted that I HAD to have a Spanish fan and I’d never want for anything again (until my next phase, of course).

The source of all the trouble...and a new realization

The source of all the trouble...and a new realization

Imagine my dismay, after receiving my long-awaited treasure, I noticed the small etched lettering on the glossy wooden panel: FABRICADO EN TAIWAN. I had seen enough “made in…” labels on other products to know that this meant my fan was, in fact, not Spanish. My juvenile way of handling this betrayal was to subject my grandparents’ to the dreaded silent treatment for the better part of a week, much to the chagrin of my mother. All things were eventually forgotten, of course, as grandparents possess that special quality, otherwise found only in puppies, that prevents you from staying mad at them for long.

Amusing though this anecdote may be, I bring it up because I consider this incident my first brush with the concept that it actually mattered where my where my belongings came from. Since I had no purchasing power at that age, the significance didn’t resonate with me as much until later, but still, the seeds were sown. What does it mean when a region outsources production of its signature goods? The idea really began to sink in when I was old enough to discover what more the city had to offer over the tired chains in the shopping malls where I loitered in my youth, and even more so when I moved to the Boston area to live on my own for school. Becoming part of this community – living here, working here, making friends here – has inevitably made me increasingly invested in its wellbeing. I support the initiative to buy local because I want my community to thrive as a distinctive location with quality goods and services to offer my fellow residents.

This kid knows what to do!

This kid knows what to do!

As the new Web & Editorial Intern for SLF, I am so thrilled to have the chance to be able to help Somerville work toward these goals while indulging my other love, writing. During my time with SLF, I will be managing content for our blog and social media. Believe me, I have a whole lot of opinions and a whole lot to say about them. But I don’t want my job to be only about what I have to say – I want to hear all of your opinions! So, dear readers, I implore you to speak up: post in the comments section about what you would like to see covered in the blog over the next six months or message me through the SLF Facebook page or Twitter. This is your chance to be a part of our blog and to contribute your ideas!

Spring Has Sprung: A Wonderful Night at the Foundry

May 10 12:47 pm

By Katie Riedman

Spring Has Sprung Networking Event

It was only 6:15 when I walked into the Foundry on Elm for Somerville Local First’s Spring Has Sprung Networking Event. And while the party had only started 15 minutes earlier, the Somerville community was already a few sample cups deep in socializing, munching, and good old fashioned networking.  At one end of the room, Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project set up shop, offering guests a selection of their quirky beers.  At the other end, MS Walker highlighted an array of fine wines from the classic pinot to an adventurous zinfandel.  And in between these two sampling stations were the familiar, and not so familiar, faces of the many villen’s who made it out to celebrate. Not to mention, the delicious hors d’oeuvres provided by the Foundry’s Executive Chef.

Among the crowd floated SLF members Somerville Cleaning Company, YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City, Recover Green Roofs, Centering Touch Massage Therapy & Bodywork, Union Square Main Streets, Truly Good Design, Union Square’s Grand, and SLF Community Members—just to name a few.

As I waited in line to sample one of Pretty Thing’s unique beers, I caught up with one attendee. She had just arrived from work, and although she didn’t know many people at the event, she was eager to meet the other faces who representative and supported SLF.  Making my way through the crowd, I stopped to hello to a few of the SLF board members who introduced me to the Recover Green Roofs crew. Why did they stop by the Foundry that night? To catch up with friends, check out the venue, and support an event that brought the community together.

Social Networking

One newer SLF Member decided to check out the event in order to expand his network, connect with other members, and promote his business. A group of SLF Community Members said they attended because they’ve enjoyed previous SLF events while others attended simply to welcome in spring. Some guests came as plus ones, twos or threes, while some flew solo to sample the Foundry’s delectable dishes. A few couples were even on date night. However, by the end of the evening, the unanimous reason for attending wasn’t the delicious flatbread pizza. It was to join together and support the work of Somerville Local First.

Well after the event ended, there was a small crowd still mingling and catching up with old friends. When I asked one of the remaining guests what they thought of the event, he replied there is no better way to greet spring than by being in a room, surrounded by people who share a common goal and passion— to engage business and community leaders in building economies that are green, local and fair. With that, Somerville Local First has taken one step closer to strengthening the unique community of the ‘Ville.

Somerville Local First: Not Your Average Internship

Mar 30 3:17 pm

by Katie Riedman

From Northeastern University to the streets of Somerville

From Northeastern University to the streets of Somerville

Spring has finally arrived—despite the occasional snow flurry—and that means several things for all the Northeastern University students in the Greater Boston Area. First, it means spring semester will be over in one month (until we go back to summer school)! Second, a good majority of us are spending more time stressing out over our March Madness Brackets than exams and homework. And lastly, it means interview time for the Fall Cycle of Northeastern Co-ops. As I am currently on co-op, only one of these three things is applicable to me—March Madness Bracket— but I’m here to offer a little supportive advice to all the prospective co-ops out there.

I remember shifting through endless pages on the Northeastern co-op website, finding the perfect internship only realize it was for work study only or secretly in Santa Monica, California. Yes, it is true that finding a co-op that screams your name is hard to come by, but I’m here to give you one piece of advice: during your internship search, don’t discount part-time unpaid positions. I know what you’re thinking; my parents won’t pay for my Netflix account while I’m on co-op so I need to make some income. Well I have a solution: put down the remote and tighten that money belt because the amount of real life hands on learning you can gain from a co-op such as the Marketing Intern Position at Somerville Local First is much more valuable than being able to watch all six seasons of Lost.

SLF - Not your Average Internship

SLF - Not your Average Internship

The three co-op/internship positions SLF is offering for the Fall 2011 co-op cycle will be sure to challenge your perception of what a job should be like. The unique unstructured nature of this co-op encourages you to make it your own by setting learning objectives and closely working with Joe Grafton to learn and be involved with things that interest you. Rather than watching the clock count down till 5, you will be involved to something you’re passionate about. For example, my first day at SLF, Joe asked me to prepare five goals I would like to achieve by the end of my internship. One of them was to learn more about blogging and how it is an effective marketing strategy. Well here I am writing my second blog. Additionally, through this co-op, I’ve been able to develop my own work style, contribute to projects that I’m proud to call my own, and get invaluable hands on experience that no pay check could replace.

So as you’re applying, keep this in the back of your mind and think about what you’d like to gain from your internship. And if you feel like a position with Somerville Local First is calling out your name, find the co-op listings and more information on the Northeastern co-op website or apply by sending your resume and cover letter to Joe Grafton at [email protected]

‘Villen in the works

Feb 01 10:47 am

by Katie Riedman

About 4 months ago when I began my search for a spring internship, I found myself scrolling through pages of gofer jobs at law firms and libraries with descriptions reading “daily responsibilities include running the dish washer, sending faxes , and making coffee.” And while I am quite good at doing the dishes and I love a good cup of coffee, I felt my intern experience needed a little more substance. After a few weeks of discouragement, I stumbled upon a marketing internship at Somerville Local First. The SLF job description sounded motivating and fun and after doing my research, the company description sounded moving and exciting and I wanted to be a part of it.

Before moving to the greater Boston area, I grew up in a Seattle suburb where going green wasn’t a trend, but a lifestyle and most of my friends had worm bins in their backyard. Needless to say, moving to Boston was a huge transition. I love living in a new city and getting to explore a new part of the country. However, I still missed the comforts of home and felt that something was missing.

Now 4 months later, I’m going into my 3rd week at SLF and I already feel like a part of the Somerville family. The city itself has a Seattle-esque atmosphere and offers the vibrancy and variety that I miss in Boston.  And the opportunities I’ve been given within my internship have broaden my perspective and allowed me to participate in the community. Currently, I’m working on a Public Service Announcement video that will capture Somerville’s local businesses and connect them to the community. Next on my agenda is the annual Coupon Book that offers a lot of great promotions that will be sure to entice a Somervillian into checking out a new place or going back to an old favorite. And even though it’s not until June, I’m already excited to start planning for our Somerfun festival.

I still have 6 months of my SLF internship to go and I’m looking forward to learning more about the community, the organization, and taking on all the future projects to come.

Tufts & SLF: You Should Get Together More Often

Aug 13 1:52 pm
by Rachel Oldfield

 

I first heard about Somerville Local First through their job posting for a summer intern. Intrigued at the combination of “Somerville” and “internship,” I decided to look into it. First I was amazed that I had never heard of this nonprofit right in my backyard (being a Tufts student and having lived here for 3 years), much less one whose goal and business it was to be active in my community.

As I’ve gotten to know and understand the comprehensive SLF mission, I cannot help but continuously make connections in my mind with SLF and the Tufts community. While at other schools Greek life dominates campus, at Tufts, students are dashing off to do community service initiatives at a similar rate. Tufts students wax poetic about saving the world and “getting involved in the community” much more than the latest show of Jumbo athletic prowess (no offense athletes, you’re all really talented!). There is definitely a certain community engagement ethos that exists here that is cultivated by the school.

Tufts - A great partner for SLF

But seriously, in many ways it’s almost as if SLF and Tufts were meant for each other. Beyond just being another university (although you might call it the first) to jump on the green bandwagon, in so many ways Tufts is built on a commitment to community betterment and development. Maybe it has something to do with the historically bad town-gown relations from on to off the Hill, but everywhere Tufts oozes the ethos of active citizenship; we even have a whole college devoted to “building stronger, healthier, and safer communities” that aims to have students “share a commitment to actively engaging” in these spaces. Although I guess I can’t say this value of local engagement is universally shared by all Tufts students, faculty, partners etc, there’s no denying that it’s there and, in my opinion, sets Tufts apart from many other colleges.

If you’re reading this blog post I’m going to assume that you know a little something about the work SLF does. But if not, head over to our website – in a nutshell you’ll learn that SLF “…works to build a sustainable local economy and vibrant community here in Somerville, MA … by supporting locally owned and independent businesses and promoting sustainable economic development.” It seems obvious that SLF and Tufts are in many ways working towards the same end goals: improving our community and being proactive about getting involved to accomplish positive change.

Let’s go back now to when I saw this job posting and had never before heard of SLF. What’s going on, why is there not more collaboration between Tufts and SLF, and why aren’t Tufts students and initiatives rushing to support our community-based efforts? Is it the fact that Tufts students can be guilty of paying lip service to the idea of community service but get caught up in the “Tufts bubble?” Informed but unsure how to deal with SLF because it is unclassifiable as a singularly environmental or political organization? Logistical difficulties in turning passion to action on both sides?

Whatever the reasons why, I still strongly believe that a closer relationship between these two entities has the possibility to make great positive steps for all. The lack of synergy right now is only a reminder of just how much a singular community has to offer, and how we can’t stop working to bring all elements together to effect change.

So Tufts, meet SLF. SLF, Tufts. Go.

Filed under: Local First
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Help Intern Julia Make Friends With Vegetables

Aug 04 11:48 am

by Julia Stimeck

A course on food security is what really opened my eyes to the local movement. I wanted to get involved to take power away from big companies who do scary things with seeds and cows and corn. Although it took a Tufts class to bring these issues to my attention, the more I looked around, the more it made sense. When was the last time there had been any cows grazing at the intersection in my town we still call “Cow Point?” Why do food ingredients sound more like they belong in a science lab than in my kitchen pantry?

I responded to my fear by searching for alternatives, and trying to convince my housemates to join a CSA with me. While some considered the idea and others balked at the price, one made the strongest argument of all. “Julia,” she reminded me, “you don’t like vegetables.” It’s true! I have a long history of ignoring everything green on my plate. How am I supposed to break free of the corporate giants when Pop-Tarts and Easy Mac make up two of my main meals of the day?

Nevertheless, I put the date of the first Davis Square Farmers Market on my calendar. I would prove my housemates wrong! I would eat vegetables, and I would like them! So on the first day, I took my shopping bags, I went to the market, and I bought…nothing. If I don’t know how to eat vegetables, I certainly don’t know how to cook them. For the next few weeks, I continued to marvel at shoppers who were confidently weighing out vegetables I had never seen before. I was jealous of their shopping bags full of colorful bounty, while all I had was a block of cheese or bar of chocolate.

These savvy shoppers clearly had knowledge on their side, but I had the internet, too. A few Google searches later, I found out what was in season and how to cook it. I wrote myself a shopping list and even made some impulse purchases on summer squash and heirloom tomatoes. My final preparatory step was to call my mom and ask for more cooking advice. I finally began chopping, sautéing, baking, and generally pretending I knew what I was doing.

The meal wasn’t perfect, but my housemates claimed to enjoy it (not that it’s hard to get people to say nice things when you’re giving them free food). The important thing is that I’m over my fear of the food. Me and vegetables aren’t best friends yet, but I can definitely make room for them next to the Easy Mac.

Readers - Help our Intrepid Intern Julia Shift her Shopping to More Local Produce - Comment Here With Suggestions For Her

A Word From Your Local Intern

Jul 25 12:10 pm

by Karrie Larsson

Hi!

My name is Karrie and I am one of three interns working with Somerville Local First this summer. Recently I met up with the other two interns, Julia and Rachel, over at Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square for some good old-fashioned co-worker bonding. Surrounded by fine Italian cured meats, we grabbed lunch and discussed our shared love for all things local; it was a splendid afternoon, indeed.

I am no stranger to Dave’s. In fact, I sometimes feel as if my friends and I single-handedly funded their recent expansion. In case you are unfamiliar, Dave’s offers a tremendous selection of homemade pasta, gourmet and artisan specialty foods, as well as unique wines.  But most importantly, they make a damn fine sandwich. All of the ingredients are extremely fresh (it’s in the name, after all) and well paired. Not to mention that the workers behind the counter, most of whom are tattooed and muscular, are definitely the most badass panini makers around. While I normally opt for the classic Caprese or the Savory Chicken #2, I decided to try something new: the Artichoke and Arugula.  As expected, phenomenal – crusty bread, flavorful veggies and mozzarella, topped with a light lemon pesto.

the Artichoke and Arugula at Dave's

After wolfing down the sandwich, Julia, Rachel, and I started talking about why we got involved with SLF and what we are looking forward to this summer. As Tufts students, we’ve all developed a love for the area over the past several years. Somerville has a great, distinct character that is fueled by its many independently owned business. We also expressed a shared interest in learning about this growing national movement to buy local – what it means for the environment, the economy, and the community.

Ultimately though, we are simply really excited to be a part of SLF and the team of truly awesome people who make SLF possible. The organization has come a long way since its beginning just two years ago and we can’t wait to help push it further forward – whether through working on this lovely website/blog (my job), expanding and diversifying the member businesses (Julia’s job), or promoting them within the Somerville community  (Rachel’s job).  We hope that you will continue helping us grow too!

SLF interns Rachel, Julia, and Karrie

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