When Paul Santucci was featured as one of the Rhode Islanders of the Year in Rhode Island Monthly, the Slaters of Chepachet (in photo) reached out to him to offer their land so God’s Little Acre can expand. They were willing to give him about half an acre, and they’ll do longer season crops like beets and butternut squash. He hopes to be able to get at least another 5,000 pounds out of the plot.
Growing fresh vegetables is part of Paul Santucci’s DNA. His father owned a produce company, and thirteen years ago, the financial planner and his wife considered buying a farm but reluctantly decided against it. Then he found out his parish, St. Philip in Greenville, was building a greenhouse and saw a documentary through the Rhode Island Community Food Bank about community gardens. “I just listened to the voice of God in my life, and that’s what I felt He was saying to me. This is the farm that I think I was supposed to have.”
With help from Adler’s Construction, they started a community garden on a quarter acre of land at St. Philip and called it God’s Little Acre. It began to supply organic produce to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. Now Santucci, right hand man Bob Sarli and volunteers help grow and harvest about 4,000 pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, squash, peppers and other vegetables each year. They also get help from Jaswell’s Farm, which Santucci says supplies about a tractor-trailer’s worth of produce a year. From July through October, Santucci delivers the vegetables to the St. Philip Pantry, Mary House and Mathewson Street Church in Providence.
People really appreciate the fresh food. “There’s a huge misconception that people are taking advantage of the system,” he says. “I’m a very conservative guy but at the end of the day, there’s a ton of mental illness and there’s a ton of people that have very low wages. They may be working two jobs and they just cannot afford it.” There’s pride in Santucci’s voice when he notes that 20 percent of the food the Rhode Island Community Food Bank distributes is fresh fruit and vegetables that it buys or that’s supplied by one of its six community farms.