Crown Heights resident Sade Bennett is just one of many Brooklynites benefiting from a growing initiative to create gardens in Brooklyn’s food deserts. Through her work on a single-acre farm, the 25-year-old has learned how to grow and cook produce, bringing her closer to goals of bettering her health and community.
Bennett has also received job training and a stipend — which she used to buy a bicycle.
Known as the NYCHA Farm at Red Hook, the plot where Bennett works is a demo for a new multimillion-dollar public-private initiative created by Mayor Bill de Blasio called Building Healthy Communities, the Wall Street Journal reported. The program will increase green space and produce production in 12 underserved communities by creating urban farms, expanding existing gardens and establishing farmers markets.
Funding for the new program is already committed into the millions. Consumer-goods company Unilever has committed $4.1 million to the initiative, and both the New York State Health Foundation and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund have pledged $500,000. The Department of Parks & Recreation Community Parks Initiative will also serve as a source of funding, among other agencies.
The farms are slated for NYCHA sites in Canarsie, Brownsville and other communities deemed to have relevant levels of obesity, diabetes, crime and population density.
Produce grown on the farms will be donated to NYCHA residents for the price of their volunteer time or donation of kitchen compost.
The program adds to the growing trend of urban farms city wide, with many private programs already up and running. Added Value, the youth empowerment and urban farming agency that co-runs the NYCHA Farm at Red Hook Houses, also runs the Red Hook Community Farm at 580 Columbia Street.
There’s also the world’s largest commercial rooftop soil farm at the Navy Yard’s Brooklyn Grange, which Brownstoner toured in July, as well as Greenpoint’s Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, making Brooklyn no newcomer to growing its own produce.