Meet Providence, RI Urban Farmer: Jessyloo Rodrigues

As a city dweller, one doesn’t often look around and smell the roses. You are raised to walk with a planned destination in mind and keep your blinders on through the hustle and bustle of urban life. However, it’s individuals like Urban Farmer Jessyloo Rodrigues that make cities and their communities feel differently about their surroundings. I had the honor of meeting with Jessyloo at Pearl Farms in Providence, RI to hear more about what she’s doing for the Southside community and learn about what she’s growing in these gardens.

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For those who aren’t familiar with the term Urban Farming, according to the United States Environmental  Protection Agency (you know it as the EPA) it’s “City and suburban agriculture taking the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space.” For many communities that are food deserts (meaning that they don’t have a grocery store within a mile of their community), it’s a great way to bring fresh and healthy food into a community. For many, it’s a way to bring life to empty urban plots, involve the community in something bigger and also in the long-term educate and help minimize chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

Jessyloo, our local Urban Farmer, is helping to bring this powerful movement to Providence. She is a vibrant person with an unforgettable personality. She opened up the gates to Pearl Farms and gave me a great walking/eating tour of her herb garden. Surrounded by the busyness of the Southside, you close the gates to Pearl Farm and you can’t help but feel relaxed. I mentioned this to Jessyloo and she called this sensation”Shinrin-Yoku.” This in Japanese means “forest bathing.”  Studies have shown that being exposed to nature has very positive benefits on our nervous systems. So after you read this, go get outside and take it all in!

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Jessyloo grew up with a mom that loved to garden and had a green thumb. Outside of flowers, Jessyloo liked the idea of growing food and herbs right in their backyard. She thought how great it would be for a garden to look good but also make you feel good. This absolutely resonated with me because I do think food can be amazing medicine.

Jessyloo attended Green Mountain College in Vermont and learned all about herbal medicine. As an original Rhode Islander, she moved back to Providence to try out Herbal Medicine and give back to the community. She said that some pass by Pearl Farms and think it’s an abandoned lot. Through events and her welcoming personality, she is connecting the community with her herbs. Her hopes are that the garden and herbs bring good energy to the community. The farm is on half an acre and it’s right behind the urban art community center, The Avenue Concept. Previously, it was an organic vegetable farm and now it’s a  working medicinal herb farm for the Parcel Apothecary that Jessyloo runs.

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As we walked around the garden plots, we saw garlic, dead nettle and collard greens. I asked her about herbs that are good for the GI tract and she showed me quite a few that were sprouting at Pearl Farms. Some include:

  • Dandelion – We see dandelions everywhere and even in urban communities. But as Jessyloo mentioned, we often see this plant as a weed. However, dandelions are great for soothing an upset stomach and relieving constipation.
  • Fennel – This plant has been used for centuries for its health benefits.  Each 1-cup serving provides 2.7 grams of fiber which is more than 10% of what you need each day.  Fennel is also classified as a Carminative herb which has essential oils that help the stomach relax and stimulates movement in the digestive system. In many cultures, roasted fennel seeds are consumed after a meal as a digestive aid. 
  • Angelica – The medicinal uses of this root can be identified back to Ancient China. The herb was said to “…purge the body of any negative influences such as heat, clamminess, dryness, and cold on the skin.” Today, the roots are used for headaches, an anti-inflammatory, pain reliever and for many many other things.
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IMG_5274Jessyloo offers an Herbal CSA which includes herbs and a collection of tonic herbal extracts. Below is a sample of the most recent CSA assortment. She sells them at farmer’s markets or you can pick-up by appointment.
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I was super interested in how Jessyloo is using herbs for cocktails. She grows tonic herbs which can be used to make delicious beverages right at the farm’s tonic bar (see picture below – not a bad bar view, huh?). She can curate herbal cocktail recipes and can bartend at private events.
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You can find upcoming events that Jessyloo is running here. Don’t miss out!

Spending some time with Jessyloo reminded me to really stop and take a look around my city. Imagine what an empty plot can become for your community. Learn about what that “so-called” weed could potentially do for your body and every so often, just stop and breathe. Wishing you all a Spring and Summer full of forest bathing.

Thanks again Jessyloo!

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