Climate action with Eastie Farm’s Kannan Thiruvengadam

East Boston is a vibrant neighborhood with rich immigrant culture. Now, that history and opportunity are being threatened by climate change as sea levels rise, people move inland and housing costs go up. 

All three of East Boston’s new section eight affordable housing projects have been built in flood zones. “Right now,” said Boston-based climate activist Kannan Thiruvengadam, “[the residents] may not know that at some point, FEMA will require them to pay flood insurance. Will it still be affordable then?”

Kannan Thiruvengadam, who grew up a farmer’s son in India, is a Boston-based climate activist who has called East Boston home for 25 years. Thiruvengadam serves on a number of local, city and state-wide sustainability initiatives, from the Boston Conservation Commission to Climate Ready Boston to the New England Green New Deal Roundtable – to name a few.

At the forefront of his work is a commitment to making climate action both accessible and relevant. To do this, Thiruvengadam proposes solving the problems of today, particularly the problems faced by those most at-risk and who are often left out of the conversation.

“The right way to work on something like climate change, which for the most part people see as a problem of tomorrow,” he says, “is to engage with the problems that people suffer from today.”

Thiruvengadam is the founder and director of Eastie Farm, a small urban farm built on a vacant lot at 294 Sumner St. in East Boston. The community garden has helped combat climate change in small but powerful ways and has helped foster community resilience and secure food accessibility and justice. Though many of the initiatives born out of Eastie Farm may seem ultra-localized, that is exactly what makes them effective, says Thiruvengadam.

Looking forward, there is more to come from this climate and community leader. Eastie Farm is expanding, with a greenhouse being built at 6 Chelsea Terrace, East Boston. Construction began on Wednesday, Feb. 16. The greenhouse will open to the public on Sunday, March 20, for the spring equinox, and a May Day celebration will take place at the same location on Sunday, May 1.

All programs and events at Eastie Farm are kid-friendly and dedicated to the small awakenings that can happen when people break bread in nature with community members. Just last year, Thiruvengadam explained, there was a 3 year old who pulled a carrot out of the ground at Eastie Farm for the first time in her life. “She was shocked,” Thiruvengadam laughed, “to see that the carrot was attached to a plant and it was dirty.” She had eaten and enjoyed carrots many times before, but for the first time got to see where it came from. 

“That’s the kind of revelation you can have when you actually connect with earth that nourishes us all. So that’s the idea, to bring people to a space where you can breathe and enjoy the open space, which is hard to have in urban environments.”


To learn more about the issues confronting East Boston today, tune in to “What’s up Eastie?” – a Zumix radio show hosted by Thiruvengadam:

To learn more about Eastie Farm programs, CSA shares and opportunities, go to:



This video is a part of a climate justice series produced in Jody Santos’ course “Video News Reporting and Producing” at Northeastern University. Over the course of the semester, students will be producing news packages addressing climate and transit justice within Greater Boston.

Editor’s note: This was updated to reflect more information regarding Eastie Farm’s events.

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