Posts Tagged ‘east new york farms’

Some of you may remember the posts from my time at East New York Farms! last year… a place that meant so much to me and youth that blew me away with inspiration. Now I want to share some words directly from them, in line with the current theme of sharing stories from black and brown farmers and communities involved in food issues here on the blog!

Thanks to a dear friend, French photographer Hugues Anhes,  who filmed and put together some clips of my time with the youth and our interviews with them, I can share one of the first clips with you all – check it out below!

East New York Farm, BRK NY 2010 from Hugues ANHES on Vimeo.

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Many of you have been following my Color of Food series on Grist.org, in fact that’s how some of you found my blog! But for those that haven’t, I wanted to share the complete series here now that the season has ended along with my articles there.

See below for any articles you may have missed!

The Color of Food

In search of black and Latino farmers in the sustainable food movement

6 Oct 2010

In search of black and Latino farmers in the sustainable food movement image I’m stuck on this concept of blending contrasts. It may have to do with being the only brown girl I know interested in farming (although this really shouldn’t be a contrast at all); or maybe it has to do with going from D.C. political advocate to farmer-girl overnight.

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Hitting the Big Apple’s food-justice buffet

26 Oct 2010

Hitting the Big Apple’s food-justice buffet imageAdded-Value’s website says its mission is to grow a “just food system” and empower youth, so I was a little surprised to walk onto the farm and see no signs of this. For the most part, the farm seemed to be a commercial operation catering to restaurants and a Community Supported Agriculture program and market serving a wealthier, white consumer base…It’s become clear to me that the lack of  direct involvement by community members in some of these projects is the first problem with this movement.

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Food justice: It’s not black and white in Detroit

18 Nov 2010

Food justice: It’s not black and white in Detroit imageThroughout my journey I have found that white folks still fill most of the paid jobs at many food justice organizations and even urban farms that promote and support farmers of color. What does that matter? Some say it doesn’t, as long as the intention to get the work done is there. Others argue that the black community should be leading the fight. I stand somewhere in the middle. (Go figure.)

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Chicago has got it growing on

15 Dec 2010

Chicago has got it growing on image“In under-served communities there is often an undercurrent that things are owed to us. In a way they definitely are, but we owe some things to ourselves,” said Kern. “When I talk about farming with black youth, slavery comes up in the first 20 minutes, but the only reason I know anything about agriculture is because of my grandma. She had a garden in her backyard, but she didn’t do it for fun; she did it because she had to. Growing was her empowerment.”

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Postcard from the first annual Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference

30 Nov 2010

Postcard from the first annual Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference image

Gary Grant spoke to those of us who don’t live in the South about how alive racism still is there, especially for farmers. He painted a clear picture of how some of these regional USDA offices have Confederate flags and lynch nooses hanging on their walls. That sends an undeniable message to any black farmer walking in the door asking about why their loan is delayed.

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Brightening up the dark farming history of the Sunshine State

3 Jan 2011


It’s actually fitting that the end of my farming and food justice journey for this season has brought me to Florida. It is where I grew up and is home to my family, and it’s also home to many farmers of color that have emigrated here from the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The only problem is that some of the employers in these agricultural areas of Florida apparently think they’re the Spanish colonizers of 1565 … meaning slavery is OK in their book.

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Before I highlight the third cool project I’ve worked on here in Brooklyn (see the other two here and here), I wanted to also share that I discovered a 4th thing I didn’t expect to while farming in Brooklyn –I may be slightly allergic to bees.

I always rolled my eyes at people who freaked out about bees flying around them (except those people who were allergic, I guess they have an excuse –it could kill them; we all saw the movie My Girl), but now I may just be one of those people afraid of such a tiny bug with such a tiny stinger, ’cause this is what happened to my hand after getting stung!

So, on to the third and final post of this series…

Build a Greenhouse!

One of the East New York residents that works with ENY Farms wanted to be able to extend her growing season through the winter, so we helped her be able to do that by building a greenhouse in her backyard garden. There are all types of greenhouses and ways of building them, but this one was a basic pre-cut design. I wouldn’t recommend it because it doesn’t seem as sturdy (think strong winter winds and heavy snow) but it should do the trick. A greenhouse works just like our ozone layer, trapping heat from the sun’s rays inside to heat up the interior, while also protecting the plants inside from the winds and weather. A lot of gardeners and farmers also use greenhouses to get a head start on the season by starting seeds inside in early spring when it is still too cold to plant in the ground, and then transplanting the seedlings into the ground when it warms up.  That’s all folks.


Check out a few photos here!

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I love that it is only 6 o’clock on a Tuesday and I am already in my NYC apartment (and by my I mean the friend’s studio I am crashing), listening to John Coltrane and cooking up some Cuban food.  Back in my D.C. nine to five days I would have just been wrapping up at work, not due home — and nowhere near dinner being ready — for another two hours.  Now I’m home, showered, errands run, and am about to sit down to eat with a glass of wine.  Man, it’s good to be a farmer. 🙂

So far I have worked with some great people and accomplished three major things I didn’t expect to do in the middle of Brooklyn.  I am going to keep the suspense running though and only post one of those three things at a time.  So today, here’s the first dope thing I’ve learned to do in BK:

Beekeeping:  Working with Bees & Honey – I never imagined I’d find myself right across from a corner store, in an empty lot-turned-garden, in east Brooklyn, wearing a beekeeper’s netted hat, jumpsuit and elbow-length gloves.  But that’s where I found myself today while learning how to tend to a beehive with thousands of bees in it.  Here’s my mini-lesson on beekeeping: Bees take pollen from flowers to make honey inside their beehive, they build that beehive using beeswax, they usually find their own natural structure to build within (logs, tree trunks, etc) but beekeepers can build or buy boxes for them to build their honeycombs in.  They build, they make honey, we check up on them (to ensure the Queen Bee is happy and healthy) and then harvest honey!  You only need a few things to check the hive: protective gear (because you will be chillin’ with literally thousands of bees swarming around you); a smoker, which is just a device that blows a little smoke into the hive to calm the bees down while you mess with their home (smoke makes them think there is a fire and so they go into “save mode” and start eating as much honey as they can which gives them a kind of food coma…like it’s Thanksgiving); and finally a tool that helps you pry open the hive and pull out the honeycomb frames (because those bees are serious about sealing up their honey).

Easy peasy!  Who knew you could have 70,000 bees as pets and make your own honey right in the city?

SLIDESHOW >>> Check Out the Photos!!

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I said goodbye to West Virginia after 6 wonderful weeks and, after getting stranded at the train station out there,  the next leg of my adventure started by hitching a ride back to D.C., and then hopping a bus for $9.50 to my next stop: New York City.

Just a slight change of scenery.

Arriving in NYC was surreal.  Once you’re in this city, you’re undeniably in this city.  One hint is all the effing people.  I am always blown away by how this city functions and runs non-stop with so many people  living in it.  It’s fascinating. There are skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, constant activity on the streets, and dope street performers in the subway stations.

Another clue upon my arrival that I was far from the apple orchards of West Virginia were things like finding myself on a bench next to a crazy Rastafarian preaching to no one, seeing a man carrying a live turtle onto the subway, and having my waitress at a sushi restaurant apologize for the delay but she was “just feeling loopy from the five saki shots” she had just taken.  These things can only happen together in the span of 24 hours in New York!

I have been discovering the hidden gems of the city though and I am in love with these neighborhoods already.  In an effort to get in as much varied farming experience as possible before the growing season ends for the year, I came here to learn and work with a few different urban farms in Brooklyn for the next two months.

One farm, run by Added-Value, is in a neighborhood of Brooklyn called Red Hook, which used to be the main shipping port for New York.  This farm takes up about 3 acres directly across from the city’s giant Ikea, and is growing amazing produce for a local market, CSA and brings in local high school kids for youth empowerment and education.

Another farm is in a very low-income neighborhood of Brooklyn called East New York. East New York Farms! has a strong community and youth-focused program with a community-run market, educational workshops and support for the 60 community gardeners in the neighborhood (more than any neighborhood in all of NYC).  This is where I will be spending the majority of my time!

The last farm I will be working with is called Eagle Street Rooftop Farm and is in a yuppy/hipster neighborhood of Brooklyn called Greenpoint. They are setting a good example of green roofing though and are growing food for some local restaurants and local community members. They also have an educational program as well, and the sweetest view of the city I have seen yet.

I will miss the quiet and beauty of the country, but so far I am already finding that peace and serenity by doing yoga in the park in the middle of Manhattan with hundreds of new yorkers, and finding beauty in the  farmer’s markets of Harlem, the cultural festivals of Brooklyn, and the youth gardens of East New York.

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