On Norfolk Street, just a block from Blue Hill Avenue in the heart of Mattapan, sits the headquarters of the Urban Farming Institute (UFI), an almost decade-old enterprise operating five farms in neighborhoods just south of Boston. Its mission: to develop and promote urban agriculture, engage residents of Mattapan, Dorchester, and Roxbury in growing food, and build a healthier community.

The person overseeing this ambitious undertaking is Patricia Spence ’76, UFI’s founding president and CEO. Spence recalls how UFI’s founders first approached her in 2014 about heading up the fledgling nonprofit. She had held numerous senior-level positions throughout her career, both in the corporate sector—in marketing and sales for Xerox and Digital Equipment Corporation—and in the nonprofit sector, at WGBH and the Boston Public Schools.

Spence smiles as she describes the founders’ pitch to her about the position. Having recently orchestrated the passage of legislation that allowed for commercial zoning for urban agriculture, “they were looking for someone who could kind of juggle it all,” she says. “I’m the person you bring in when you’re trying to do something different. That’s kind of where I sit in the world, so here I am.”

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