Virginia Organizing Helps UACC’s Gardens Grow

Posted by on Jun 21, 2019 | Comments Off on Virginia Organizing Helps UACC’s Gardens Grow

Virginia Organizing Helps UACC’s Gardens Grow

If you missed the sign out front, you could easily mistake the Charlottesville office of Virginia Organizing as just another residence on this quiet tree-lined street of modest homes and neatly trimmed lawns.  Passersby might never guess that inside is an organization, 24 years strong, committed to fighting for fairness and equality across the social justice spectrum.

Michele Mattioli celebrates her 20th year with Virginia Organizing where she serves as the Special Projects Coordinator. She explained, “We are community organizers and we work on social justice and environmental issues by involving people who are directly affected by the issues, so that they can raise their own voices to make the changes in their communities that they want to see.”

That work includes developing local leaders and dismantling racism as important components of their overall mission. One big win for VO was a statewide affordable housing campaign that freed up almost $400 million dollars at the Virginia Housing Development Authority. That money was distributed to communities across the state.

Another aspect of Virginia Organizing’s work is to accept grants and donations, and provide administrative support, for 42 Virginia organizations. By helping facilitate these groups as non-profits, Virginia Organizing allows them to focus on their missions. The Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville is one such organization.

In the early 2000s, the community garden landscape in Charlottesville was notably sparse, but by 2006, the local food movement was gaining traction. UACC evolved out of a community-based urban farming initiative that began in 2007. While UACC was still germinating as an organization, Farmer Todd Niemeier sought out Virginia Organizing for the administrative expertise needed to grow the farm.

UACC came to Virginia Organizing with a powerful social justice and environmentally oriented mission making it an easy decision for VO to take on UACC as a partner organization. They formed a Joint Plan of Work to further UACC’s growth, in the garden, and as an organization.

Speaking of her time spent volunteering at the Friendship Court garden, Ms. Mattioli said, “… UACC and Todd really did a miraculous job of building community in the way that people are hoping can happen at Friendship garden.” And of Farmer Todd, she recalls, “He was masterful at involving people and being so respectful and helping people get out of their comfort zones with each other and all of that. Fantastic.”

Ms. Mattioli closed with a list of long-term goals for VO, including the dismantling of racism, economic equity, and better care of the planet. For the near term, she noted that growing the organization to better cover the state could “…achieve a kind of tipping point and make things happen in a big way.” That’s the kind of vision that can help organizations like UACC grow food, and so much more.