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