Urban gardening gains momentum in a pandemic – News-Herald

Catherine Ross

New York (AP) — A collection of vacant lots and other unused lands in Bronx, gardeners from low-income areas have come together to create more than 12 “farm hubs” that coordinate community gardens and harvests.

Some years ago, some discovered that their small gardens could work together to grow enough peppers to mass-produce hot sauce. To be precise, Bronx Hot Sauce is the profit from sales reinvested in the community.

During the pandemic, the Bronx farm hub once again proved its power and produced health-promoting crops such as garlic, kale and collard green.

“The secret is how we can learn from the pandemic and truly improve our resilience,” says Raymond Figueroa Rayes, president of the New York City Community Gardens Union.

“When the pandemic broke out, urban agriculture went into a super-productive mode. People are dignified to wait for that kind of charity because the incoming (food) donations are not enough in terms of quantity and quality. I knew there wasn’t one, “he says.

Farm hubs are part of a national urban horticultural movement aimed at empowering poor rural residents by encouraging the cultivation of fresh food.

Areas with little access to healthy, fresh food (both urban and rural) are called “food deserts” and tend to have a high incidence of other illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. .. In cities where many consider this phenomenon inseparable from deeper issues of race and fairness, some community leaders prefer terms such as “food prisons” and “food apartheid.”

Ron Finley of Los Angeles has been at the forefront of urban horticulture for many years. He sees gardening as both a therapeutic and rebellious act.

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money,” says Finley, who runs the non-profit Ron Finley Project. “It’s not just about food, it’s about freedom. It’s our revolution and our ecological.”

Finley grew up in south-central Los Angeles and had to drive for 45 minutes just to get fresh tomatoes, he says. His efforts to revitalize communities through gardening include planting vegetables on abandoned parkways and other unused lands and teaching audiences around the world online classes on their ability to grow food. It is.

Millions of Americans live in neighborhoods where healthy eating options are not available. The same area is the attraction of packaged foods available at fast food restaurants, drug stores and convenience stores.

“Drive-through kills more people in our community than drive-by,” says Finley. “I want people to go back to reality, touch the soil and regain some of what was stolen. Sow and multiply. It’s a currency. It’s a valuable resource. It’s empowering. It’s more than food. “

In Bronx, Karen Washington, who has spent decades promoting urban agriculture, said it was about “food justice.” (She helped coordinate the pepper cultivation that led to Bronx hot sauce. The company they worked with, Small Ax Peppers, now produces pepper grown in communities in Queens, Detroit, Chicago, Auckland and other cities. I use it to make hot sauce.)

“Health food is a human right along with clean water,” she said.

Washington, a member of the New York Botanical Gardens board, works with neighbors to turn vacant lots into community gardens and deliver affordable fresh produce grown on community gardens and northern farms to weekly farmers markets. We supported the launch of the city farm market. Bronx.

She co-founded Black Urban Growers and helped establish the Black Farmer Fund with the goal of providing access to capital for black farmers and entrepreneurs.

COVID has had a huge impact on people who want to grow their own food. Washington said more and more people are growing food on the terraces and gardens of cities across the country.

“It really became more urgent in the early stages of COVID before the vaccine came out, especially if you’re fighting the virus in areas with high levels of diabetes and obesity, you need to start a healthy diet,” says Washington.

Figueroa-Reyes agrees.

“Forks said we had to go into these unused spaces and grow food,” he says. “There is a joint effort to organize farm hubs with the idea of ​​further growing immunity-boosting foods and delivering them where they are most needed.”

Through the Bronx Green Up Program, the New York Botanical Garden has long provided technical support to community gardens. When a pandemic occurred, we worked directly with the community’s farm hubs to step up our efforts. Hold biweekly zoom meetings to help solve problems, share resources, and distribute crops. We offer over 10,000 herb and vegetable saplings.

“We worked with longtime community partners early in the pandemic and realized that food insecurity has always been a big problem in Bronx,” says program director Ursula Chance.

“Now there is definitely more interest in community gardening and more urban farming space,” she says.

Urban gardening gains momentum in a pandemic – News-Herald

Source link Urban gardening gains momentum in a pandemic – News-Herald

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