Salt City Harvest Farm is a project that links Northside Community members with land that can help sustain them. It started when the Letcher family of Manlius donated 36 acres of farmland along Fyler Road in Kirkville, to be used by people served at the food pantry at the Franciscan Church of the Assumption, 812 N. Salina St. The idea is that families would be able to help work the land, growing vegetables and other produce. They plant, weed, water -- and then take home some of the harvest.
This mission evolved when members of the Syracuse Northside community started to volunteer at the farm. Refugees new to the country often find it hard to aqcuire fresh produce specific to their home countries. The Letcher family and organizers saw this as an opportunity to assist a community that would otherwise be overlooked.
Collaborators in the project include RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Self-Empowerment), Brady Farm, Brady Faith Center, SUNY ESF, Immaculate Conception Church, the North Side CYO (Catholic Youth Organization), the Onondaga County Health Department, Interfaith Works, and Women Transcending Boundaries.
The state University College of Environmental Science and Foresrty assists with technical support in terms of what can be planted at the farm. That’s especially critical because Spano expects many of those using the farm to be refugees, from places like African and Asia. ESF helped with figuring out what would be able to grow in a Northeastern United States climate.
Brian and Teresa Letcher decided to make the land donation after their experience growing vegetables on the plot last year and donating some of the produce they grew to the food pantries.
In 2015, a RISE received a $100,000 three year grant. During the three year grant New Americans attend ESL gardening classes, gardening 101 classes, and hands on gardening classes taught by an urban agriculture educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Onondaga County. The participants have already started an incubator garden at 120 Seward Street on the North Side of Syracuse. This is where the participants learn hands on gardening tailored to the Syracuse growing season. During the second year of the program participants learn about marketing and selling produce and have individual plots of land at Salt City Harvest Farm and some will remain at the incubator garden. The participants also sell produce through the Brady Farm CSA and at the Farmers Market. By the third year of the program participants continue growing food on individual lots at Salt City Harvest Farm and at community gardens. Particpants who are interested learn how to write business plans and acquire loans to start their own farm.
In 2018, Salt City Harvest Farm is proud to be running a community farm, incubator farm, apple orchard and vineyard. Community members and volunteers help out within all parts of this ecosystem which provides a wide range of agricultural skills specific to the Northeast United States.