A Growing Festival in the Mill City

The harvest is a time of celebration.  Each fall marks the culmination of a growing season with what every farmer hopes is a bountiful amount of crops.

Since 2012, Mill City Grows has celebrated the end of its growing season with an annual Harvest Festival.


The first ever Harvest Festival in 2012 at Rotary Park


Mayor Patrick Murphy at 2012 Harvest Festival (photo credit Jen Myers)

The first Harvest Festival was held on Saturday, September 29th, 2012 during the mayoral term of Mayor Patrick Murphy at the Rotary Park Garden in Lowell’s Back Central neighborhood.  Rotary Park is the site of the very first Mill City Grows community garden.   In 2010, City Manager Bernie Lynch instituted the City Manager’s Neighborhood Initiative.  The Neighborhood Impact Initiative,  as described in Room 50, was overseen by neighborhood planner Allegra Williams. 

The initiative utilized interdepartmental strategy and existing resources in a selected neighborhood each year aiming at a concentration of improvements that will improve the physical environment, enhance public safety and enrich the quality of life in core neighborhoods.    As part of the City Manager’s 2012 Neighborhood Initiative, the city partnered with Lydia Sisson and Francey Slater of the upstart nonprofit organization Mill City Grows to redevelop it into a 9,000-square-foot urban farm.

Founded in 2012, Mill City Grows fosters food justice by improving physical health, economic independence and environmental sustainability in Lowell through increased access to land, locally-grown food and education.  The organization has since grown (no pun intended) to now consist of seven community gardens and dozens of partnership gardens with local schools and community organizations.


Bernie Lynch and Theresa Park digged Lowell at the 2013 Harvest Festival (Photo: Jen Myers)

The first two Mill City Grows Harvest Festivals in 2012 and 2013 were beautifully captured in the original Room 50 blog.

After the first three editions were held at Rotary Park, Harvest Festival had outgrown its roots and soon moved to the North Common.  North Common, the fourth Mill City Grows Community Garden located in the Acre Neighborhood of Lowell was dedicated in the summer of 2015.


Francey and Lydia at the 2015 Harvest Festival–held at its new home of North Common

Images from Harvest Festivals Past:



Saturday October 13th will mark the 7th annual Harvest Festival at the North Common.  This free family-friendly event showcases Lowell’s growers and farmers and highlights cultural harvest and food traditions! Guests can enjoy food demonstrations, hands-on craft activities, tours of Mill City Grows’ beautiful North Common Community Garden, local food trucks and food vendors, a farmers’ market. New this year is the first Mill City Grows Healthy Food Resource Fair.

The event will take place rain or shine from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.


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