Hot Mama Chronicles Recap: Patricia Spence, President/CEO, Urban Farming Institute
I recently spoke with Patricia Spence, who is the President and CEO of the Urban Farming Institute. She talked about her love of nature. Her earliest memory of food were of her grandparents growing and canning food. She remembers being outside in the summers and spending time with her grandparents in Wareham. She grew to love camping when she was in school.
Spence's journey to UFI was not linear. She has worked in sales, for Boston Public Schools, WGBH, Xerox and is someone who likes to fulfill a need. Spence heard about the position at UFI from a friend. One key point she made is that what you do does not lead to your purpose.
The Urban Farming Institute is about growing food but also people shared Spence. She watched the changes in people by being in the dirt and learning about the process. UFI services Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester along with surrounding communities and has over an acre of land. She has engaged this community that includes local farmers, herbalists, families and individuals. They provide so many services, including a training program, farm consultant services, building awareness on the process, and answering questions from the community.
Throughout the pandemic, UFI has offered programming virtually. Spence is keenly aware of the importance and responsibility of land. She was a part of those who were advocating for Article 89, which allows the commercial land to be used for farming. When you talk about legacy, it is important for UFI to own the space. Spence is in the middle of a $1.5 million dollar campaign so they can invest and own the land. She is constantly working on ways to engage the community.
Spence shared how her mom wanted to grow okra in the garden. She grew it and picked it off of the plant. Her mom was filled with joy over picking the okra. She grew blueberries, tomatoes and other plants at her place. Experiences like that have inspired Spence in her work through UFI's mission. She spoke about needing to find rest during these difficult times. She is piloting a program where she is sending 20 leaders to the Berkshires. The program is call Rest, Relax, Restore, Rejuvenate. She is hoping to make this program an annual thing.
Spence talked about whether hot mamas are made or born and did not believe in placing hot mamas in a box. She is looking forward to continuing the Capital Campaign, a bustling programming calendar featuring the 2022 Urban Farming Conference, Food Day, and Farmstand Fridays. She closed out the conversation with encouraging our audience to find joys, ensuring that you do the things that are important to you and having the time do your passions.