There are thousands of acres of abandoned lots in New York owned by the city. At the corner of Sutter and Rockaway Avenue in Brownsville, Brooklyn, across from a large public elementary school, sits an 8,000 square foot lot, currently full of weeds and trash. I want to transform this lot into a urban teaching farm that will beautify the land, educate local youth, and provide a source of fresh produce for the community.
After getting in touch with the right people in various city agencies, I have successfully secured permission to develop the lot into a school garden, if I can raise the funds necessary to build it. Once built, the garden will act as a living classroom for students at nearby public school, PS 323. Teachers will write curriculum to be taught outside, utilizing the garden atmosphere. There will also be a summer program for a core group of students who will act as garden stewards, tending the garden and helping to distribute vegetables throughout the neighborhood.
The images you are seeing in our video are of another garden in Brownsville, established by Slow Food NYC, where I worked this past summer. I led a group of about 100 young students in farming and food explorations. The reaction from the local community to the farm and summer camp was overwhelmingly positive. As neighborhood residents learned about the garden, some would stop by to ask for habaneros and collard greens to make hot sauce and pig tail stew. I really cherished this simple and unexpected engagement with the community. My experiences with Slow Food NYC and my partnership with them make me feel especially well-equipped and well supported in starting this new garden.
Brownsville is a traditionally under-served neighborhood with statistics near the worst in the city on heart disease and diabetes. An enormous cluster of project housing abuts the garden site. Fresh produce is hard to come by at local markets and delis. The hope is that educating the students at PS 323 about food, health and nutrition will instill in them an awareness about how they eat and will inspire many of them to become lifelong healthy eaters.
Backers of this project will become a part of the team, helping us to fund and construct the new farm. It’s an opportunity to learn first hand about the process of growing produce and raising livestock, all without leaving New York City.
This fall and winter we will continue to raise funds and plan out the garden. We will begin to weed and clear the lot of trash. We will design the layout of the garden and make a list of materials to buy in the spring.
As soon as the snow thaws in the spring of 2012 we will begin construction of the raised growing beds and truck in new soil and compost. We will install our water system, take down the chain link fence and install a sturdy, yet attractive iron fence.
The three most essential needs are water, soil and fencing. These are also the more pricey elements, but they are one time expenses. As soon as these three elements are in place we will sow seeds/put in seedlings, plant our flowers, perennials, and fruit trees, and put in our chicken coop. These will be the basic elements of our functioning garden. With these elements in place, we can begin to teach classes in the garden by May 2012.
With any extra funds, we will install benches, put up a tool shed, and design and construct our outdoor classroom (a big gazebo). Check out all of our great rewards on the right!
Yes! We have received a generous $5,000 grant from Slow Food NYC. Thanks also to the following partners for their in-kind donations: GrowNYC;Grow to Learn, 61 Local, Sixpoint Brewery, One Drop Foundation, American Community Gardeners Association.
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