HomeBrowseAdvanced SearchAboutHelpContact

Southside Community Land Trust records

Historical note

Located in South Providence, Rhode Island, Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) is committed to the belief that city dwellers are entitled to a healthy environment. SCLT's community gardens produce food and the opportunity for better nutrition and greater self sufficiency. These gardens provide open and healthy urban space, transform blighted vacant lots, and offer recreation to individuals and to families. SCLT's educational programs work to link critical urban environmental issues, such as lead poisoning, water conservation, open space preservation, and community development, with agriculture. Above all, Southside Community Land Trust exists as a place where members of the community can learn to rediscover their relationship with nature and with each other.

In 1981 the Southside Community Land Trust was created to help the residents of South Providence grow their own food. Debbie Schimberg, the founder and first executive director of SCLT, moved to south Providence after graduating from Brown University. She noticed a lot of abandoned houses and empty lots and worried that residents would eventually be compelled to leave due to gentrification.

At the time, the community was experiencing the first of many immigration waves from Southeast Asia and Central and South America, and many African-American transplants from the southern U.S. had moved to the neighborhood. This diverse group had something in common—many were experienced subsistence farmers who had grown up in a farming culture. "I thought that if we put those two things together—the vacant land and the experienced farmers—it would be a neat way for people to use the land productively," Debbie explains.

Fast forward 25 years. Among its accomplishments, SCLT has turned approximately five acres of formerly vacant lots into community gardens, expanded its farm operation to 50 preserved acres in Cranston, established the Broad Street Farmer's Market, and developed a successful Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. Along the way, SCLT has grown, donated and sold hundreds of pounds of organic produce, helped 15 schools start their own gardens and garden clubs, hosted countless numbers of young people at City Farm's Children's Garden, educated volunteers about urban environmental and local food issues, and assisted in the start-up of seven new minority-owned farm businesses.