AOA Startup Grant 2017

Tivoli Park Peace Farm

Startups2016 Tivoli Park Peace Farm invasive plants

Project: Tivoli Park Peace Farm, a sustainable urban farm and grazing program in Albany's Tivoli Park.

Who: Melissa Parade

Short bio
My name is Melissa (or Missy!) Parade. I moved to Troy from Connecticut six years ago, after attending UConn for college. After college, I spent a year working on a goat farm while doing vocational instruction for adults with traumatic brain injuries. I took a month and a half of summer to walk through Tennessee, Virginia, and Pennsylvania on the Appalachian Trail before moving to Upstate New York for a graduate program in Cognitive Science. I studied human vision and walking behavior in the Perception and Action Lab at RPI for five years, but left shortly before completing my doctorate degree. I was unsatisfied and so left school. I stayed in Troy for the incredible community that I have found

Over the past year, I've learned incredible things about myself, the world, and agriculture. I have worked for a bakery, a doctor's office, and a farm. At Lime Kiln Farm in Coxsackie, I was immersed the ongoings of a small, diverse farm. I spent my time in Coxsackie in the garden and with the animals; I learned to care for goats, cows, chickens, and sheep. Lime Kiln Farm is just recently open to sell their dairy products!

Around the same time that I left school, a friend purchased a house in South Troy, where I now live with seven like-minded young adults. We share food and are working towards broader collective-ownership models, while improving the house and pursuing personal projects. Most recently, we have brought four hens and two chicks to live in a chicken coop built primary with materials salvaged from demo at the house. Please visit!

I cannot help but feel that I have been blessed by the house and community that I live in. This summer, I have become involved as a shepherd for an intensive grazing program situated in Tivoli Park, an underused park in an underserved neighborhood in Albany and have begun to feel the swell of support that I am surrounded by.

This is the project, which I call the Tivoli Park Peace Farm, that I would direct the grant funds towards. For now, I am employed to lend a hand with home restorations while doing all I can to bring the Tivoli Park Peace Farm to life.

A description of the proposed project
The Tivoli Park Peace Farm is made possible from a grant from the DEC and administered by the city of Albany. The goal of the grant is to revitalize the neglected Tivoli Park in the underserved West Hill and Arbor Hill neighborhoods of Albany. The grazing program is a part of the grant that targets invasive species growth. The city is funding the sheep, barns, winter hay, and medical needs. Infrastructure improvements in the park have already begun.  My job is to care for and graze the sheep in the park, as well as build a model for a sustainable urban farm. I cannot describe how thankful I am for this opportunity, so I will express my gratitude by developing the farm in a way that serves the needs of the surrounding ecosystem and neighborhoods.

Startups2016 Tivoli Park Peace Farm sheep

The ecosystem, in its natural condition, contains an array of wetlands, meadows, and forests. Following a century of neglect, the water quality has deteriorated and the land has been overwhelmed by invasive vegetation. The two water bodies, Tivoli Lake and the Patroon Creek, are largely inaccessible and obscured. The grazing program will minimize invasive species growth and revitalize the soil health In coordination with the city, I will work towards building a landscape that cleans the park's water and supports a healthy and diverse wildlife community.

(The plants in the photo at the top are phragmites, an invasive species that the sheep will be grazing, in front of the Tivoli Lake.)

The West Hill and Arbor Hill neighborhoods are historically impoverished and underserved. The park is little-known, under-maintained, and underused, but ripe for meaningful public use. So as the city makes the park more accessible through improvements to the entrances, trails, and general infrastructure, the Tivoli Park Peace Farm will be developed in a way that meets the needs of nearby residents. The park and farm will be a space for healthy outdoor recreation and peace-of-mind, as well as a hub for youth programs, sustainability and agricultural education, volunteer opportunities, and community gatherings.

With help from Gary Kleppel, a professor of biology and farmer who organized this opportunity, I am pulling together the sheep, herding dog, and barns this fall. I hope to spend the upcoming months getting comfortable with the sheep, getting to know the neighborhoods and their needs, and learning from the amazing network of farmers, activists, and public servants in the Capital District. In the spring, the sheep (who will first stay at the city's farm in Normanskill) will be brought to the Tivoli Park Peace Farm.

Do you want to help? I want you to help! Please do not hesitate to contact me (at melissa.parade@gmail.com) to share ideas, information, resources, or support.

How would the grant money help?
With funds from the All Over Albany grant, I would purchase chickens and build their coop, participate in agricultural workshops, and prepare gardens for the spring. I hope the gardens can be maintained and enjoyed with help from nearby residents.  I have dreams of bringing in pigs by the end of next summer. These additions are important steps towards the diversity and profitability of the farm, improving the viability of the urban farm model. Moreover, the grant money would support the farm's early outreach programs, including education, art, and food events.

Such additional funding will support early progress towards the broader vision of the farm as an engine for eco-system restoration and community engagement. I have big dreams and a lot of patience. Without rush, I hope to pull input, involvement, and other resources from the incredible community we have developed throughout the Capital District.

In return, we can carefully build a public space for sustainable agriculture, environmental stewardship, and healthy, peaceful community activity.

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