Sunday, July 10, 2011
Real life FarmVille Brooklyn - borough has more farms than any other, giving access to healthy food
Forget the trees. More farms grow in Brooklyn than any other borough.
Community-run plots are springing up in poor neighborhoods better known for bodegas and fast food, bringing fresh and affordable produce to the places that need it most.
In parking lots, schoolyards and even between apartment buildings, Brooklyn farms have sprouted up this year like never before.
"People are planting farms wherever they can find space," said Stacey Murphy, founder of the Youth Farm at the High School for Public Service on Kingston Ave., in East Flatbush. "Brooklyn's got more farms because there's room for them and people are motivated to do it."
The Secret Garden Farm in Bushwick opened in May - between two apartment buildings on busy Linden St. About half of all sales come from food stamps.
"We aren't here for the trendy residents," said farm manager Kendall Morrison, 47, of Bushwick. "We're here for the neighborhood folks."
Tarah Auguste, a nurse from Bushwick, visits the market on Linden St. every week to buy vegetables for her family.
"In this neighborhood you only have a couple of options for food and most of them are questionable," said Auguste, 33.
"I love the fact that I'm digesting natural food."
The Youth Farm at the High School for Public Service transformed a vacant schoolyard into a colorful 10,000-square-foot farm. Also, in a school parking lot in Bensonhurst, another farm will open next spring.
The new farms join four older farms in Red Hook, East New York and Bed-Stuy that are doing more business than ever.
They grow everything from collard greens to tomatoes and sell their goods at markets during the harvest season of May to November.
The farms and markets are good news in neighborhoods where healthy food is hard to come by, said city Health Department assistant commissioner Dr. Aletha Maybank.
Seven out of 10 central Brooklyn adults are overweight or obese and 45% of kids are in the same boat, she said.
"People don't have enough access to healthy food," said Maybank. "These farms are helping to change that."
With more farms and markets taking food stamps, more residents of low income neighborhoods are willing to shop at them, she said. Four years ago, only four farmers' markets in Brooklyn accepted food stamps. Now there are 18.
At East New York Farms, about 60% of the 70,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruit sold at the farmers' market each season are paid for with food stamps.
"I'd rather spend my money on healthy stuff than unhealthy supermarket products," said Janet Brown, 42, a skin therapist who lost 26 pounds this year in part, she says, because she's eating more fresh produce from the East New York farm.
"Many people in this neighborhood are obese," said Brown. "Now they have healthier choices."
View Larger Map
Sources: NY Daily News, Youtube, Google Maps