To our Friends and Supporters,
The first snows coated the farm last week, signaling for us that it is time to slow down, reflect, and appreciate the season that is coming to a close. We’ve experienced so much this year as a community, both positive and negative, and yet I sense that this is just the beginning of change to come. East New York is at the intersection of many current policy issues: affordable housing, police reform, school improvement, food security, and environmental restoration. The East New York Farms! Project has worked for the last sixteen years towards making our community healthier, more livable, and more responsive to these issues.
In addition to growing food, our youth interns are learning about social change and playing a role in it. We discussed redlining and urban disinvestment in our summer workshops, and how similar patterns of demographic change played out in Ferguson. We met with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to discuss opportunities for young people, joined the Peoples Climate March, and hosted a Youth Food Justice gathering for 10 groups from across the Northeast.
This year we celebrated many successes of our Youth Program alumni. Celeste Leandry received the Just Food McKinley Hightower-Beyah award for her commitment to urban agriculture, community leadership, and social justice. We also saw six recent alumni start college in every corner of New York State, and saw others start or continue careers as teachers, nurses, parks police, and chefs.
Our Gardener Assistance program has increased its reach: we distributed plants, compost, and supplies to 70 gardeners, held 26 workshops for the community, and sold produce grown by 48 gardeners at our market, while four other gardeners ran their own stands. We helped rebuild 40 garden beds at the Louis H. Pink Houses, and have laid plans to start a community farm there to build positive relationships and improve healthy food access.
Our markets continue to be a hub for health, community, and good food. We held 39 markets in all weather, crowned a new “Pepper Boss”, started outdoor Zumba classes, and held monthly arts events highlighting Brooklyn artists. Youth and adult community educators gave 84 cooking demonstrations throughout this year East New York and Brooklyn featuring local and seasonal ingredients, and two mini-grant recipients started free cooking classes.
Our work was covered by Al Jazeera, The New York Times, BKLYNR, and AM New York. We are also not immune to yellow journalism from the New York Post, but we responded with truth and clarity, the community rallied on our behalf, and Grist took note.
This year United Community Centers celebrated 60 years of organizing for change in East New York, and it is clear that our project is as relevant as ever. If our work resonates with you, I would encourage you to make a donation or consider becoming a “60 for 60” monthly sustainer. Most importantly, I encourage you to stay engaged in your community and support grassroots groups committed to change around issues that are important to you, as I truly believe that they are leading the way towards a better future.
East New York Farms!