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Mill City Grows harvests crops

Service Learning

Service learning gives students the opportunity to work with community organizations, tackling real-life issues, and gain course credit in the process.

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Farmer Takes a Stand

Lydia Sisson, founder of Mill City Grows Photo by Kevin Harkins


Food is unfair in America. A head of organic broccoli costs the same as a fast food value meal. Poor families are forced into poor choices.

Lydia Sisson, a commercial organic farmer, saw this. She came to UMass Lowell looking for a better way. “I felt detached from social justice issues,” she says.

“UMass Lowell gave me the professional transition, the time to create a project around food justice and the community connections to make it happen.”

While she studied the economic and social development of regions, Sisson launched Mill City Grows, a nonprofit dedicated to fresh food for all. Today, she oversees a 3.5-acre farm, four community gardens and eight mobile markets — all within the city of Lowell, Mass. 

Mill City Grows produces nearly 30,000 pounds of fresh, local produce every season. Thanks to partnerships with federal assistance programs, it is affordable. 

In a city of 110,000, where 75 percent of schoolchildren qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, that’s a healthy impact.