The organization that I am volunteering with is a community garden in Bed Stuy/Stuy Heights area of Brookyln called 462 Halsey Community Garden. I chose this organization because it is community-driven and places an emphasis on supporting local residents. Coming from a very small town, this is an issue that is important to me. Now that I am living in Brooklyn, I want to contribute to the neighborhood in which I live, as well as feel a part of a community. I live two blocks away from this garden, so I felt that it was a great opportunity to take advantage of and hopefully contribute to the sustainability of my neighborhood.
462 Halsey Community Garden is a collaborative space that is dedicated to serving and educating the community in areas of education, agriculture, healthy living, community pride, and community ownership. Their goals are listed as:
● To grow food and forge new community bonds and relationships through mutual hard work
● To offer neighborhood youth a place to develop and grow through hands-on learning and involvement
● To share knowledge on healthy and sustainable living for all residents and to foster a cooperative
● To encourage food, social and environmental justice through practice, awareness and advocacy
● To increase access to locally grown food
An important aspect of this garden is that many of the area’s residents are living on a lower income. This, combined with the area’s lack of readily-available produce from grocery stores (coined a “food desert”), makes the garden a valuable economical and social asset as well as an environmental one. The garden gives residents the same access to local, healthy produce as many other neighborhoods with more affluent residents.
The garden was co-founded by Kristen Bonardi Rapp and Shatia Jackson. Shatia Jackson, a native resident of Bed Stuy, grew up in her family’s brownstone several houses away, which had been in her family for generations. The lot where the garden currently resides had been empty for all of her childhood, and she wanted to turn it into a space that the community can utilize. Kristen Bonardi Rapp was a new resident to the neighborhood with her family, and was looking to learn about and engage with the community’s history.
The group 596 Acres, which connects individuals with organizations to transform unutilized empty spaces into community areas, reported that in 2010, in a cumulative area of less than two acres, community gardens across Brooklyn produced 90,000 lbs of vegetables. The impact of this is truly astounding when considering multiple factors. Not only is it more economical for residents to grow their own produce, but the energy impact of consuming local foods is considerably less than purchasing those which are transported to grocery stores. In the face of climate change, growing food locally poses less of a risk to the consumer. They will not have to experience the risk of product shortages, and possible inability to purchase them because of price increase. Sure, the crop yield can still be affected because of local climate, but there is considerably less uncertainty when people are growing their produce first-hand.
462 Halsey Community Garden uses recycled materials whenever possible, and strives to minimize their environmental impact through rainwater collection and composting. Composting is collected all throughout the year. This minimizes food waste in the area. Excess food can be recycled/composted to aid in the growing of more fruits and vegetables, thus fostering a sustainable system. The garden adheres to organic growing processes and chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are never used. Chemically treated wood isn’t used for the garden beds, as well. This level of awareness allows for a safe growing space that in no way pollutes local ecosystems.