6th Day CSD-17

Field trip!! Off to 3 urban gardening projects in Brooklyn. The tour is called ‘City farms’. I call it urban allotments. I think using the word ‘farm’ is exagerating, they really are just gardens to grow vegetables and fruit. I might be rural-biased here, coming from a rural area where nearly everyone grows something in their garden. But never mind, it was interesting and nice to be outside, see some greenery and have good chats with enthusiastic (young) people.

But let me first give you some (shocking) background info on the lack of access to healthy, affordable foods in New York. In 2008, 3 million New Yorkers were affected bya supermarket shortage. Out of 11,600 food retailers in the city, only 550 were traditional grocery stores selling healthy, affordable food. Most (10,000) are bodegas or small corner shops (selling little fresh foods). I find this astounishing, coming from the UK where you’ll find small Tesco stores all over the place in cities. We started paying attention to the signs on these bodegas and you rarely (never?) see the words ‘fresh’ & ‘vegetables’ together. You might see ‘fresh meat’ or ‘frozen foods’ or ‘vegetables & fruits’. Food sold in these shops is mainly processed and overpriced. This city has a massive number of ‘fresh food desserts’ which I just find mind-boggling.

The Bed-Stuy farm grows vegetables for sale at a local weekly market and for giving away to poor families. Young people are engaged in paid interships and learn to grow and cook with these vegetables. The Hattie Carthan community garden has vegetable plots used individually by 60 locals. They’ve just constructed a polytunnel for communal use and are planning to have a weekly farmer’s market alongside the gardening area. We had an amazing lunch and it was nice to sit beneath trees, although I wondered about the lack of fruit trees in this large garden. The East New York farms was a pretty amazing 0.5 acre garden. Their youth leadership programme is strong (again paid internships). I thought it was interesting that they measured their success over the past 10 years in not having any interns killed or become pregnant.

A very nice day and the weather was perfect; a good antidote to sitting in a dark UN building.

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