I’m a freelance writer based in Madison, Connecticut. I write stories about people, and how food, recipes, farms, and growers create community, connection, and shared history.

An urban farm embarks on its first season, determined to serve its community

When Hameed and Ayo Bello moved to Springfield, they quickly realized access to healthy food was limited for people of limited means. They set out to change that. STATES OF FARMING: First in a series of occasional stories looking at BIPOC farmers in New England. By Jocelyn Ruggiero Globe correspondent, March 23, 2021 When Hameed Bello moved to Springfield to attend Western New England University in 2015, he and his wife, Ayo, quickly noticed what the Massachusetts Public Health Association identified in 2017: that Springfield — which has the second-lowest per capita income in Massachusetts — is one of the state’s most severe food deserts, where low-income residents struggle to easily access fresh, healthy foods. The Bellos regularly saw residents on public buses hauling groceries from Walmart, constrained by the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority’s three-bag rule. Hameed started to occasionally drive his elderly neighbor to the store. “If they’re not at the age where they can walk and carry those bags home, they have no access to that food . . . then when you do get to the store and you want to buy organic, it’s really, really expensive. They’re faced with — do I eat organic for one meal? Or do I go to a bodega and buy all this other food for the same price and eat for three meals?” The couple soon got involved with the Springfield-based food justice organizations Gardening in the Community and the Springfield Food Policy Council. Their outrage at the inequity grew until they asked, “How can we be a part of the solution?” Their answer? Agric Organics Urban Farm. Read Full Article

Exploring the many colors of Connecticut’s Last Green Valley

By Jocelyn Ruggiero, Globe correspondent, October 14, 2020 There are few activities as New Englandy as a meandering autumn drive through a magnificent canopy of yellow, crimson, and orange, and there are few areas better suited to this as the stretch of countryside that runs from Northeastern Connecticut to South Central Massachusetts. Designated by Congress in 2014 as “The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor,” the 1,100-square-mile swath is so named because, in a nighttime aerial or satellite view, it is singularly dark, bookended by the brightly-lit sprawl between New York and Boston. More than 84 percent of its 707,000 acres are forest and farmland. Replete with quaint 18th- and 19th-century town greens, homesteads, churches, and mills, in Connecticut, it’s home to 171 properties and districts listed in The National Register of Historic Places. Connecticut state historian Walter Woodward calls the region a “still-beautiful, still-rural, history-proud, and heritage-rich old New-England getaway.” Read Full Article

On the Coast of Maine, Women Chefs Thrive

By Jocelyn Ruggiero, Globe correspondent, August 1, 2016 KENNEBUNK, Maine — Chef Rebecca Charles walks me through the first floor of her new restaurant here, in the throes of renovation. Splotches of spackle adorn the walls, and the air is filled with the aroma of freshly cut birch from a just-delivered bar. Piles of lumber and gallons of paint are stacked in the corners, and a new fireplace facade leans up against the old. She leads me up a flight of stairs to what will be the main dining room, Pearl Kennebunk Beach, scheduled to debut in the spring of 2017. Despite the heavy coats of black paint on the walls and the thick layer of dust that covers the wide-plank pine floors, it’s easy to see the future space through her eyes, which shine as she describes her plans. The massive wood-burning fireplace, she tells me, is the “single most important reason I bought the place.” The more-casual part of the restaurant, the downstairs Spat Oyster Cellar, inspired by the oyster cellars of New York at the turn of the last century, is set to open next week. Read Full Article

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