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ENYF Retrospective Case Study
Transcript of ENYF Retrospective Case Study
Aley Schoonmaker Kent John Ameroso
Ana Aguirre Perry Winston
Georgine Yorgey Salima Jones-Daley
ENYF faced a
in April 2006 when
the shipping container in which we stored all of our market supplies was removed and compacted by the NYC Department of Sanitation
, in preparation for development of housing on the lot at New Lots and Barbey Streets. The
Executive Director of LDCENY said she received a letter
from the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) saying that the lot would be cleared and that she shared this with the ENYPG members, but no one, including LDCENY staff members, remembered receiving this information.
UCC took on the primary responsibility
for raising the nearly $10,000
replace all of the supplies.
dealt a deep blow to the relationship
between UCC and LDCENY,
who were the
main "on the ground partners," with Pratt
and Cornell acting more as advisers.
However the partnership continued, and the LDCENY negotiated with the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for the farmers market to be able to continue to operate in the lot at New Lots and Barbey through November 2006, as construction would not start until that winter.
Later in 2006,
HPD approved LDCENY's proposal to develop affordable housing on this site,
with a plan to eventually include ground floor retail space for a food cooperative and a plaza for the farmers market.
Salima Jones-Daley, the Market Manager on staff at LDCENY, took maternity leave in November. Georgine - rather than an LDCENY staff member - took over responsibility for completing end of season market tasks. This highlighted the degree to which UCC had become the organization ultimately responsible for and committed to making sure the work of ENYF got done.
Also in Fall 2005, the
Institutes of Health granted funding
for a proposal developed in
partnership between Mount Sinai
Medical Center and the ENYPG,
with LDCENY as a subcontractor.
The grant would fund the
of a food cooperative
in East New
York, an idea conceived at a
neighborhood food summit organized
by ENYF in 2004.
By 2005, UCC staff were concerned that there was a
lack of accountability
within the ENYF partnership, with two main concerns, a) that LDCENY was not delivering on its commitments as the lead organization and host of the Project Director, and b) that LDCENY's Executive Director rarely attended ENYPG meetings, but did not fully delegate decision-making on ENYF matters to the LDCENY staff who did attend meetings.
Feeling like the
collaboration was at a crisis point
, Georgine asked Alison Cohen of Heifer International to facilitate a meeting with all of the ENYF partners.
When LDCENY's Executive Director indicated in this meeting that she
perceived LDCENY to be in charge of long-term planning and strategy, and UCC to be responsible for carrying out the work,
UCC worried that the partnership could not be saved.
Partnership with Heifer International
After about a year of planning meetings with ENYF staff & gardeners and Heifer staff, in 2004 we entered into an official partnership with Heifer International. This was the
first significant source of funds for the project that went through UCC
, not LDCENY, and Georgine was the main contact on this grant. A unique aspect of this funding was the degree of capacity building support that Heifer offered.
A committee of gardeners decided to use Heifer funding to
create the Backyard Exchange
revolving loan fund, one of ENYF's first structured programs for gardeners that existed separately from the youth program. This innovative adaptation of Heifer's "Passing on the Gift" requirement helped pave the way for similar set ups in other Heifer-funded projects.
Heifer funding also made us
part of the Heifer Project Partners network
, through which we attended yearly meetings with peer groups in our region. Georgine described this as giving us a chance to learn from other groups, "
ourselves seriously, and realize what we know."
Heifer staff also helped us implement a participatory evaluation and planning process with members at the end of each year - a process we tweaked but maintained many years past the end of our Heifer partnership.
In 2000, the market experienced significant growth.
Tracking him down at a conference organized by Just Food, Aley managed to recruit
Mike Rogowski to join as a vendor
, which vastly increased supply and variety at the market.
The same year, LDCENY succeeded in lobbying the city to
clear and re-pave the market site
and fix the surrounding sidewalks.
How did we get here?
Working with a large network of community-based organizations, a team from Pratt led by Perry Winston organized community forums to ask residents
"What works in East NY? What doesn't work?" and "What do you want to see in 10-15 years?"
set the tone for the programs that developed and become a core value of the East New York Farms! Project.
Perry Winston noted that at the time, the Pratt Center for Community and Environmental Development "existed so separately from Pratt Institute for so long. It had its own funding, and made for a much more equal partnership than dealing with a tiny Office of Community Relations at university that might have one staff person. It was more like a non-profit dealing with another non-profit."
These responses, coupled with Pratt's mapping technology, highlighted the
abundance of community gardens on formerly vacant land in East New York
, more than any other neighborhood in New York City. These gardens were largely on city-owned vacant land and registered through the Green Thumb program. A
large population of young people
, and their potential to be involved, was also cited as an asset.
Soon after, Perry Winston from Pratt met John Ameroso of Cornell University Cooperative Extension
at a presentation where John emphasized potential income per square foot from urban agriculture.
A core group of organizations -
the East New York Planning Group
- continued meeting with the idea of
further developing these resources - gardens, gardeners, and youth
- to meet East New York's need for income generating opportunities, fresh food and services to address health problems, safe public spaces, and educational programs for youth.
Pratt Institute for Center for Community and Environmental Development (Pratt)
- Experience in urban planning, staff
specifically dedicated to fundraising with knowledge of large
Local Development Corporation of East New York (LDCENY)
- Expertise in supporting entrepreneurs to develop their
businesses, and permission to use a city-owned vacant lot
New Lots Avenue and Barbey Street.
The East New York Planning Group
core partners continued meeting
after the community forums, interested in the idea of a program that would help gardens increase production, offer employment for youth, and create a vendors market for urban growers and other local entrepreneurs. An important question at the time was of course how they would fund this.
In 1997, an associate at Pratt saw a Request for Proposals from the
Hitachi Foundation for "Resource Use in Community Development."
Giuliani administration had just announced its plans to auction
off all under-utilized city-owned land - including
. The East New York Planning Group seized on this opportunity to argue that community gardens were resources at-risk, and that by helping gardens grow more food and educate young people, they would be seen as more valuable. Pratt staff wrote the majority of the grant, with input from other partners.
...And the East New York Planning Group got the grant! Among 10 grantees, theirs was the only urban project.
$250,000 over two years
was granted to LDCENY and divided fairly evenly among the seven planning group partners, who were then tasked with actually starting a program.
The grant was received in April 1998, but actually doing something took some time.
By Fall 1998, eager to show some concrete progress, the group decided to hold the first market
on the sidewalk at New Lots Avenue and Bradford Street.
who had recently taken over an abandoned garden to convert it into the
Herbal Garden of East New York
, sold her produce along with John Ameroso of Cornell, who sold produce from a Cornell site in Staten Island (Gericke Farm). David Crutchfield of ENY Urban Youth Corps assisted, acting as a market manager.
Johanna and John set up the market one more time that year.
The next year (1999)
Johanna and John remained the only consistent vendors
, selling at first on the sidewalk in front of what is now the UCC Youth Farm (then a mostly undeveloped vacant lot).
Aley Schoonmaker Kent, an intern through Cornell, spent the summer assisting Johanna in her garden and trying to recruit other gardeners. Aley and John regularly made 5:00am trips the Bronx Terminal Market on Saturdays to buy produce to resell in order to bolster supply at the market.
, organized by ENY Urban Youth Corps, involved youth assigned in groups of two to work with a specific gardener on a regular basis.
By the fall, LDCENY officially obtained
permission to use the lot at New Lots Avenue between Barbey and Jerome Streets for a vendors market
, though it was filled with rubble and construction debris. To obtain permission, they needed to emphasize a "vendors market" never mentioning gardens, as the local Councilwoman at the time did not support gardens.
Looking back on successes and challenges from the year, the East New York Planning Group
decided to restructure the remaining Hitachi funds to hire a full-time staff member
to coordinate a more structured youth program and to do more work with gardeners.
By this time, Green Guerillas had left the collaboration to focus their city-wide work to fight the loss of gardens to private developers. ENY Urban Youth Corps had been cut out of the partnership because their main staff member engaged in the project was not consistently participating.
Former Cornell intern Aley was offered this
new full-time Urban Agriculture Coordinator position. The position was based at UCC
, because UCC was close to the market site, had experience with youth programs, owned a van for bringing youth interns to gardens, and because of the opportunity to invest more time in further developing the garden in the 1/2 acre lot next to UCC.
East New York Farms!
Roles of East New York Planning Group (ENYPG) partners as of 2000
United Community Centers (UCC)
- Hosted an Urban Agriculture Coordinator, a full-time staff member tasked with organizing a youth program to assist gardeners and to develop the vacant lot next to UCC into a productive urban farm, and with recruiting gardeners to participate in the market
Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development
- Provided a link to urban planning resources like mapping technology, drawing up site plans for gardens and a proposed permanent market site
- Informally took on roles of facilitation of the overall collaboration, and identifying and writing several grants
Cornell Cooperative Extension
- Provided technical expertise in market-orientated sustainable food production, through conducting workshops and individual site visits with gardeners
- Provided a summer intern to assist the Urban Agriculture Coordinator at UCC
- Was very active in the market - both selling produce from Gericke Farm and making trips to the Bronx Terminal Market to bolster supply of produce at the market
Genesis Homes/Help USA
- Recruited youth for the internship program at UCC
- Initially staff were very engaged, even making trips to the Bronx Terminal Market to buy produce. But as the main Genesis Homes staff liaison became increasingly involved with a local Assemblywoman who had interests in seeing other development happen where the market was operating, their role faded.
Local Development Corporation of East New York
- Hosted a part-time Market Manager, responsible for market day operations, recruitment of vendors who were not gardeners, and market outreach
- Negotiated with City agencies to operate a market on the vacant lot on New Lots Avenue
- LDC Deputy Director served as the Project Director for East New York Farms!, working 25% time on the project
- Referred entrepreneurs to the farmers market as part of their ongoing small business development work
Support from the
New York Foundation
Merck Family Fund
New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
, and a 3-year grant from the
US Department of Agriculture Community Food Projects
grant program sustained East New York Farms! (ENYF) in the years after the Hitachi Foundation funding ended.
Pratt and LDCENY did most of the grant writing, with LDCENY serving as the fiscal conduit.
vegetable farmer Alex Kravets joined
as a vendor, bringing more variety and volume to market. Aley and John could finally stop making early morning trips to the Bronx to buy produce to resell.
The same year, distribution of
Senior FMNP coupons began in East New York
, in addition to WIC FMNP, and had a major impact. Customers began lining up outside the gate before the market opened, and
sales increased 400%
Aley described this as the first year it felt like a
With 20 interns engaged in a
more structured youth program
, ENYF was able to offer
more structured help to gardeners
, in exchange for a hand-shake
agreement that they would sell at the market
at least three times in a year.
The youth interns also advanced the process of
turning the 1/2 acre next to UCC into a productive garden
. Since 1995 staff at UCC and volunteers from the neighborhood had been working on cleaning up the lot, on their lunch breaks and on weekends. With staff specifically dedicated to this project, the development of the garden sped up rapidly.
Georgine initiated some key changes to bring
more structure to the youth program and gardener support
Drawing from the model established by The Food Project in Boston, we created a stronger ladder of responsibility for youth by
adding "returning intern" positions
, establishing more clear evaluation structure in which youth could lose and earn back portions of their stipend based on performance, and adding content and structure to our curriculum.
During this time, the ENYPG was going through serious
structural growing pains
With some large grants coming to an end, particularly the USDA Community Food Projects grant, the group was
running out of money
to pay salaries for core staff, including Georgine. The full-time VISTA position at UCC, which had by then become integral to running the youth program, was ending as well.
Looking at these prospects,
Georgine and Sarita started to write grant proposals,
seeking to fund two full-time positions at UCC. We started by looking at who funded peer organizations, and attending some trainings at the Foundation Center.
The funders who approved our requests were
mostly private foundations based on New York
(including the Independence Community Foundation, Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, and Lily Auchincloss Foundation).
This was the
first time UCC had taken such a significant role in fundraising.
Two staffing changes in 2005 shifted the roles of project partners.
Ojeda Hall-Phillips, Deputy Director of LDCENY, who had also served as the
ENYF Project Director since 1999, left LDCENY.
Lacking funds to pay for time spent on ENYF, LDCENY did not assign anyone to this role after Ojeda left, and the
role functionally shifted to Georgine at UCC
, who had already begun fundraising and managing finances in addition to her previous responsibilities.
Another significant staffing change came in Fall 2005 when
Georgine Yorgey, planning a move to Seattle, announced her departure.
Jonah Braverman as Urban Agriculture Coordinator
in February 2006. Jonah had interned with ENYF for a few summers, placed through John Ameroso at Cornell.
Georgine left in March 2006 and Sarita became the Project Director
Despite these challenges, ENYF continued to grow.
The market experienced some setbacks in 2005 when we lost our regular fruit vendor, Toigo Orchards, (due to labor issues as they described it), and the release of Senior FMNP coupons was delayed until late summer. But a
feature in the Daily News
and the participation of Red Jacket Orchards helped
sales recover and exceed 2004 sales
With all new equipment, 2006 was a great year for
A new fish vendor, Nick Manzione
, added to the
diversity of products, and we entered into
first full season accepting Food Stamps/EBT as part of
a pilot program
of the Farmers Market Federation of NY
and the NY State Department of Agriculture and Markets.
East New York Farms!
Roles of East New York Planning Group partners by end of 2006
- Hosted an Urban Agriculture Coordinator, a full-time staff member tasked with managing the UCC Youth Farm, providing training and assistance to gardeners, and assisting with the youth program
- Hosted a part-time Market Manager, responsible for market day operations, recruitment of vendors, and market outreach
- Hosted a full-time Project Director & Youth Program Director, raising and managing funds, leading development and implementation of the youth program, and supporting the Urban Agriculture Coordinator and Market Manager
- Served as an adviser on urban planning issues as needed, and provided a link to resources like mapping technology
- Remained the informal convener of the ENYPG, scheduling and taking notes at meetings
- Provided technical expertise in market-orientated sustainable food production, primarily through conducting a series of workshops with gardeners, and assisting with larger projects at UCC Youth Farm, like installation of a hoop house
- Occasionally participated in the market by dropping off produce from Gericke Farm for UCC youth interns to sell
Genesis Homes/HELP USA
No longer involved - attended no meetings after 2003
- Referred entrepreneurs to the farmers market as part of their ongoing small business development work
- Secured permission from the City for the vacant lot at New Lots and Barbey to be used for a market
- Led development of the East New York Food Cooperative, a project of the ENYPG related to but separate from ENYF
After approaching us in 2006, in April 2007 the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development
officially transferred a 1/2 acre lot
at New Lots & Georgia Avenues to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation's
Green Thumb program
licensed UCC to use the lot to create an urban farm
with local residents.
To maximize ownership by local residents, we decided to use only a portion of the space to farm with our staff and youth program, and to engage a group of community residents to farm the rest of the space. Members chose the name
Hands & Heart Garden
With construction of affordable housing underway on the lot at New Lots & Barbey where the market operated from 2000-2006,
we secured a permit to block off Schenck Avenue between New Lots and Livonia Aves
on Saturdays from June - November, even though we had been told that closings for consecutive Saturdays were very hard to secure.
With this in mind, we filed our permit early, obtained letters of
support from gardeners, vendors, youth interns, and customers,
and sought help from partner organizations, like Grow NYC, that
had strong connections with the Mayor's Office.
The market thrived in this new location!
Because we were adjacent to the UCC Youth Farm, we could utilize this space for farm tours, volunteer events, and children's activities on market days.
new sources of funding
USDA Community Food Projects
grant, a grant from the
Project for Public Spaces
(through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation), and a grant from the
J.M. Kaplan Fund
- enabled us to hire
two new part-time staff
We hired a
Farm Manager (David Vigil)
to manage the UCC Youth Farm and allow the Urban Agriculture Coordinator to spend more time working with gardeners given the addition of Hands & Heart Garden. This also expanded our capacity to host tours and volunteer groups. We also hired a
(Jessica Dias) to assist with fundraising.
By mid 2007, after years of dwindling participation, LDCENY's role in ENYF ended, and
ENYF officially became a program of UCC
. With Perry Winston's departure from Pratt the same year, meetings of the East NY Planning Group also ended.
The expansion of ENYF, at the same time that funding for other UCC programs was shrinking, initially posed some challenges. In 2003, there was one person at UCC working on ENYF, and by 2007, there were five (2 full-time, 3 part-time) in a fairly small office.
Because of its origins as a partnership project, not a program solely of UCC, ENYF was often seen as fairly independent by community members, media, and sometimes funders. It took some time for ENYF to find its place as a program of UCC.
a few staffing changes
from 2008 to 2009.
After Tanya Mercado left her position in 2007 (after about 18 months in that role), we had 3 different part-time Market Managers through 2009.
Jonah Braverman left his position as Urban Agriculture Coordinator, and
took over this role.
's part-time position as Farm Manager expanded to full-time, and our engagement of volunteers, schools, and after-school groups grew.
We had to let our part-time Development Associate go when the funds raised could not meet the extra expense of having this position. Raising and managing all funds for the ENYF project went back to being the responsibility of the ENYF Project Director.
In 2010, with a new grant from the
USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program
, we were finally able to turn the Market Manager into a full time position, and hired
who had been a member of ENYF since 2009.
With this expanded role, we were able to produce a community cookbook, recruit new vendors, and host more market events, including starting a partnership with a new local organization, Arts East NY
In 2008, we opened a
second, smaller market on Wednesday afternoons
at Hands & Heart Garden. Customers had been requesting a weekday market for years, but it was not until 2008 that we had sufficient staff and production to start one.
Eventually, ENYF started to receive wider recognition.
In 2008, we received a
Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award
from WHY Hunger, and a
Samuel Peabody Award for Community Activism
from the Citizens Committee for the Children of New York City.
We were also
featured in the NY Times
and on PBS' Bill Moyer's Journal.
In 2010, with a 3-year grant from
the New York Community Trust via the Community Experience Partnership
, we were able to expand our focus on three significant ways
Partnerships & Networks
As urban agriculture gained exponential popularity, and issues of food and health were increasingly recognized in the media,
opportunities for partnerships and being involved in networks seemed to crop up everywhere. Some started and fizzled, others lasted longer.
needed to start choosing partnerships and networks carefully
, and to more sharply define who we were - choosing, for example, not to sell any substantial amounts of our produce to high-end customers (restaurants, events, etc) outside of our community, because our focus was on access for East New York, where there was still great unmet need and demand for fresh, affordable produce.
opted out of a lot of city-wide network meetings and tabling events
, to focus our limited time on doing deeper outreach within our community, reminding ourselves that our mission - and expertise - was not primarily to promote sustainable agriculture as a concept citywide or nationwide, but to make sure that quality of life was improved in East New York through community engagement in urban agriculture.
In 2010 Dr. Christine Porter, who learned about us through Cornell graduate student Megan Gregory,
invited us to join
as a partner on an application to the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for the
"Food Dignity" project
When funded in 2011, the Food Dignity partnership enabled us to expand our under-utilized Backyard Exchange Program into a
, and hire a part-time Community Organizer to facilitate this new program.
We continued to tweak and refine the youth program -
for all youth and for "returning interns" in particular by
expanding their leadership roles and training
With some new funders like the Levitt Foundation, we were also able to
expand the program
from 20 to 24 internships.
During this time, we initiated
several important youth program improvements
- Enhancing curriculum, including more opportunities for youth to cook food they'd grown
- Adding "externships" that engaged alumni in working at peer organizations
- Having interns who served as "crew leaders" prepare for 15 min before their workshifts
- Taking 3rd and 4th year youth interns out of weekly group summer workshops, in order to offer them college and career workshops, and to create a media project with them
In 2009 we stopped calling our monthly meetings "Market Meetings" and started calling them
recognizing that not all of the people who wanted to be involved in ENYF participated heavily in the market, and that meetings focused on market operations and planning were better held on market days when our upstate farmers could participate. With our core programs running fairly smoothly, we could
begin to invest more in engaging the energy of many different East New Yorkers
who were interested in using food to create a healthier community.
Around the same time we also started referring to the people who participated actively in ENYF as
, primarily because the terms "youth, gardeners, and vendors" no longer covered all of the ways that people were involved.
In our efforts to keep improving our support for adult members, and make their time engaged with ENYF "worth it" for them, we started
adding more specific content to our monthly meetings
, sometimes through workshops like "Recruiting Volunteers" or topics focused more on strengthening connections between members like "Cultural Sharing Potluck."
Through this time, we continued
to adjust the supplies we offered to gardeners and the ways we distributed them, the ways we gave technical assistance, and the ways we gathered input from members.
We also established a staff rotation to more consistently make phone calls to members before meetings, whereas we had done this sporadically before. All these changes resulted in
increased attendance at our meetings and workshops
Late 1800s, Early 1900s
1960s - 1980s - Community gardening in NYC
These policies and ones like them led to huge amounts of vacant lots in many cities nationwide.
was founded in NYC with a mission to reclaim vacant lots and create gardens to revitalize communities.
1977 marked the start of the
USDA funded Urban Gardening Program
through Cooperative Extension Service (in New York City, through Cornell Cooperative Extension).
NYC's GreenThumb Program
started to offer leases to gardens that were formerly "squatters,"
and was expanded in 1979 by a Community Development Block Grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. This enabled GreenThumb to offer gardeners not just leases but also some basic supplies and training.
A significant amount of housing was redeveloped in East NY through several programs, the largest of which was the
Nehemiah Housing program through East Brooklyn Congregations
remained a problem, as East New York suffered the highest murder rate in New York City.
Still, a recovery had begun by the early 1990s,
and it was during this time that the
Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development applied for a grant through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Outreach Partnerships Center.
They proposed to do community based planning in five NYC communities, including East New York.
Late 1800s, Early 1900s
East New York was one of the last parts of New York City that had production-oriented farms.
The town of New Lots (which now forms the central area of East New York) was one of the major vegetable producing areas for the entire city of New York.*
People of color, mostly Black and Puerto Rican, started to move to East New York in significant numbers. At the time, East New York was a primarily white immigrant (Jewish, Italian, German) community.
This set off a period of
in the 1960s and 1970s, during which white residents fled to other areas, including the newly-developed suburbs in Long Island.* These developments generally excluded non-white residents.
In 1960, East New York was approximately 80% white, and by 1967, white residents were less than 20% of the population.*
Though Black and Latino families moved in, it was not enough to replace all of the residents who left.
With so many homes and buildings vacant, properties values plummeted.
More homeowners and landlords rushed to sell, and arson became a serious problem, much of it by landlords who hoped to collect insurance money from their buildings.*
East New York suffered substantial neglect from city agencies, and saw a decline in the quality of public services like libraries, schools, transportation, and fire services. This strategy was called
and was employed by New York City's Housing Commissioner Roger Starr who envisioned cutting public services in areas that had already lost significant population, thereby encouraging the remaining residents to move, and then discontinuing services to these areas all together and reducing the City's costs.
Vacant properties and vacant lots where buildings were demolished or burned down became a
for drugs and violent crime
From report "Resource Use in Community Development," by the Hitachi Foundation, July 2003
Midway through this market season, after a year of lobbying from the ENYPG, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets
began distributing Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) coupons
through Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Centers in East New York
- they did not previously distribute coupons here because there was no farmers market.
Johanna Willins, Adell Oliver, Leila Jamison, Eliza Butler, and the UCC Youth Farm became the
first urban growers certified to accept FMNP in New York State.
These women, many of them members of the East NY Gardeners Association,
formed the committed group
who showed other community members that the market was there to stay.
2002 brought new opportunities and transitions.
Aley left UCC to take a position at Heifer International, and
was hired to replace her as
Urban Agriculture Coordinator
. Before transitioning, Aley had hosted visits from Heifer staff, who came from Chicago to tour urban agriculture projects in NYC.
, based at LDCENY, George Clark, was replaced by
who interned at LDCENY in early 2002 and worked with Just Food and Mike Rogowski to establish a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA ) program.
In summer 2002, ENYF established a partnership with Just Food to host an
to organize and expand the CSA. The position was initially based at LDCENY.
By 2003, when the first VISTA finished her term and a second VISTA
was placed, this position had been switched to UCC to provide some much needed help with the UCC Youth Farm.
We also established a
"Share Table" for gardeners
, where they could drop off produce to be sold by our youth program. Proceeds were then shared between the gardeners and the youth program. This change made it
possible for any gardener to participate in selling at the market
in some way, even if they only had a small amount of produce, or could not stay at the market to sell.
When Salima returned from maternity leave, she shifted to working on the new food cooperative, and
a new part-time Market Manager was hired - ENYF youth program alumna Tanya Mercado
Because there were no other staff at LDCENY doing consistent work on ENYF, and because the funds to pay her came through grants received by UCC,
Tanya was based at UCC. However
she was technically an employee of the LDCENY
, at the insistence of their Executive Director.
During this time, the youth program was also constantly evolving, as we were enhancing curriculum, developing the UCC Youth Farm, and more frequently engaging in national networks of youth food justice organizations like Rooted in Community and the Food Project's BLAST network.
Sales of urban grown produce increased substantially from 2004 - 2006
, both because of more gardeners participating, and because of the
increasingly consistent participation of Marlene & Denniston Wilks, and Marlene's sister Pauline
. With growing experience in Jamaica, they added significantly to the volume and variety at the market, introducing
Caribbean specialty crops
that were hard to find elsewhere.
They were already looking for more growing space by 2006 when the
NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, with the progressive leadership of Holly Leicht and Jessica Wurwarg, approached us about converting a 1/2 acre plot of vacant land
at New Lots and Georgia Avenues into an urban farm.
Having by then developed expertise in youth leadership development, this move engaged us in more intensively
, particularly in helping the members develop a structure, by-laws, and a board. We quickly realized that we had a lot to learn in this area
Over the next few years, Hands & Heart grew into a
productive garden, and also experienced significant struggles
, including conflicts between members, issues of sharing space and power, and the skepticism bred from lifetimes of witnessing and experiencing discrimination, corruption, and deception.
more open set up
(compared to our previous spot inside a fenced-in lot) made the market feel more like a street fair.
And we bought a sound system, which turned out to be a great investment.
With good food and good music, right next to our own urban farm, a public library, a park, two daycare centers, the subway and three bus lines,
the market on Saturdays felt like the kind of quality of life we wanted to create for East New York.
Market income in 2007 was 19% higher than 2006, with a big jump in sales from urban gardeners,
largely thanks to increased growing space at Hands & Heart garden, and
total sales exceeded $100K for the first time.
One interesting example was a partnership among community-based markets linked with urban farms in Brooklyn called "Brooklyn's Bounty," that lasted a couple of years, but ultimately dissolved.
One problem was that each community partner was fundamentally local and rooted in their own community, and lacked the capacity to lead a borough-wide effort. Eventually, it also seemed that these peer organizations did not bring such different skill sets or resources for a long-standing structured partnership to make sense.
After the formal partnership ended, former Brooklyn's Bounty partners continued to work together as needed in less structured and possibly more useful ways.
New York City Community Gardens Coalition
In anticipation of the 2010 expiration of the legal settlement between New York State and New York City that temporarily preserved many gardens in 2002, we became more directly involved in the New York City Community Gardens Coalition.
Being engaged with NYCCGC enabled us to stay updated on, and to influence, policies affecting community gardens.
Expanding support to gardeners by...
Training Community Educators by...
Strengthening inter-generational relationships by...
focused support for elder gardeners
(over 60 years old) who comprised the majority of gardeners we worked with;
- Supporting gardeners in East New York who were growing food
even without a specific agreement to sell at the market
, recognizing that growing food for yourself or giving it away is valuable too;
- Explicitly going beyond technical agricultural assistance to include things that we had previously done sporadically, like
helping gardens to host public events, recruit new members, and create membership structures
..partnering with Just Food to offer training for community members who are passionate and knowledgeable about food and health to build their teaching skills.
Community Educators were then deployed to make presentations and conduct cooking demonstrations at community events, health centers, senior centers, and more.
This program, coordinated by our new full time Markets and Outreach Coordinator,
vastly expanded our outreach capacity
, and created a
new way to engage local residents
who care about the issues we work on and want to be more involved in ENYF, but did not necessarily want to garden or vend at the market.
training for both adults and youth
, and creating more opportunities for members of all ages to spend time together during work and social events.
We combined this with new youth program funding to hire another full-time staff member, Daryl Marshall, who had been involved with ENYF as a vendor and volunteer since 2008.
This enabled us to expand the youth program, for which we regularly received over 120 applications, to hire 33 youth each year.
Be a learning organization
This begins with taking the time to learn what assets already exist in the community, and what needs really are, before initiating a project.
Then create a culture where feedback and participation are constantly invited and considered, both in structured and informal ways.
This may result in slower growth via small but significant adjustments to core programs. This can help to ensure that growth is genuinely driven by community members, and is sustainable. Explaining this approach to funders may be difficult, given the tendency to want to fund substantial new initiatives, but can lead to deeper impact.
Having staff matters
...especially full-time, long-term staff. Being able to recruit and retain committed staff makes it possible to be a learning organization.
We engage community members, and we recognize that there are limits to the time they can commit. We consider it a victory to have to staff to help community members turn their ideas into reality.
Furthermore, staff of a small organization like ours often need to demonstrate great commitment and flexibility, and have a very diverse set of skills, or willingness to constantly learn and do new things.
Use crises and transitions to build strength
Throughout our history, crisis points turned into opportunity. For example, we started our project at a time gardens were under attack by the Mayor, and government funding for urban gardening was shrinking. Our market also flourished during a year in which we had to replace all of our supplies, and we were later able to obtain a street closing permit that we were told might be impossible.
Some key staff transitions forced us to make beneficial changes to our partnership and staffing structures.
"Both/and" is powerful
By combining program elements that are more often pursued separately, we have been able to strengthen our programs and achieve greater impact in our community.
This has included, for example, working intensively with youth AND adults; managing our own farm AND providing assistance to other growers; building food access for low-income residents AND generating income for our local vendors; striving to create concrete improvements in the lives of East New Yorkers AND valuing the less tangible relationships and networks built.
Know who you are
Knowing who we are - including who we are accountable to, what our strengths are, and what our capacity is - helped us ensure that we run quality programs driven by our mission.
This has included choosing not to pursue certain partnerships or opportunities, even funding opportunities, that did not seem likely to advance our mission.
Download more detailed PDF version here
While a program that relies too heavily on one or a couple of individuals may not be sustainable, the commitment of a few individuals, especially in the early stages of a new idea or program, can motivate the participation of others.
This early participation, when the potential "benefits" of participating (like earned income or better access to fresh produce or a connection to a positive community of people), are not yet realized, can attract others who are waiting to participate until the benefits are more clear.
Partnerships are complicated
Which does not mean they are not worth pursuing, but that they should be carefully considered.
We've found that there must be a willingness from each partner to go beyond their role as needs arise. This commitment must be supported by the leadership of each organization. Partners should bring a diversity of skills and resources, such that every partner has a clear sense of what they offer and what they gain from participating.
Partnerships may need to change or dissolve as a project matures.
What helped us along
Government programs aligned with our mission, including grant programs, food assistance, and land use policies
Funding models that enable us to adjust to changing circumstances and be accountable to our community first, such as multi-year funding and general support
Rising local and national awareness of the importance of health and environment
Housing development programs in the 1980s and 1990s that repopulated East New York and encouraged home ownership
Outside advisers or perspective at key points
What made things harder
The cumulative impacts of racism and discrimination, and lived experiences of deception and exclusion, and the challenges this poses for collaboration
Poverty, and living in a historically-excluded community, and the many ways in which it complicates people's lives
Misaligned government policies, including policies that make healthy food a harder choice to make
Private or public funding models that take a narrow view of issues like youth development, obesity prevention, or community organizing
United Community Centers (UCC)
- Community organizing and youth development experience. UCC's office was also adjacent to a
1/2 acre vacant lot.
Cornell University Cooperative Extension (Cornell)
- Experience working with groups on urban agriculture projects citywide.
Genesis Homes/Help USA
- Experience working with vulnerable youth and families
East New York Urban Youth Corps
- History of youth programming and working with gardens through their Success Gardens program, mostly for beautification, not specifically food production
- Experience in grassroots organizing with gardeners and gardens citywide, and using gardens as a way to revitalize communities and reclaim vacant land.
Case study prepared by
Sarita Daftary-Steel, former East New York Farms! Project Director, United Community Centers; and Suzanne Gervais, Ph. D Nutrition, Sr. Extension Associate, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University
as part of the Food Dignity Project.
Food Dignity is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68004-30074 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Map of Brooklyn circa 1912, accessed from www.ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com
Article segments from "The Levittown Legacy: Segregation in Suburbia?" by Kyle Sabo
From "A Synergism of Plagues: "Planned Shrinkage," Contagious Housing Destruction, and AIDS in the Bronx," Rodrick Wallace, January 1988
Photo by John Ameroso
Block party on Schenck Avenue, with new Phase I Nehemiah Homes (left) and older row houses (right). Photo by Eliza Butler
From "Issues and Opportunities in East New York: A Report on the Envisioning Forums and Development in East New York"
GIS map of gardens in East New York
Perry Winston, from Urban Omnibus interview
Clearing weeds from the vacant lot on New Lots Avenue between Barbey and Jerome Streets that would house the market
John Ameroso talking with a graduate student in front UCC Youth Farm in early stages of development
Green Gems Garden on Glenmore Avenue. Photo by John Ameroso
Johanna Willins and David Crutchfield on the first day of the market. Photo by John Ameroso
East New York Farmers Market in late 1999, on New Lots Avenue between Barbey and Jerome Streets. Photo by John Ameroso
Aley Schoonmaker Kent and Johanna Willins selling in the lot on New Lots between Barbey and Jerome
Teens from UCC's programs spreading wood chips in the lot that would later become the UCC Youth Farm
Youth interns Phillip Scott and Marcus Fuller at Herbal Garden of ENY
Youth interns with Cornell intern Jonah Braverman at UCC Youth Farm
Youth interns Anthony Rosario and Tamara Gonzalez harvesting at UCC Youth Farm
Mike Rogowski (left) and his staff at the market
Customers at Alex Kravets' stand
Customers waiting to enter the market, 2001
Customers using Senior FMNP coupons on a busy market day, 2001
Mike Rogowski (second from left) and Alex Kravets (right) with customers at the market
Georgine Yorgey planting with youth intern Verniccia Ford
Salima Jones-Daley with her husband at the market
Sarita Daftary with a CSA member
From the Linewaiters' Gazette, November 24, 2005
UCC Executive Director Ana Aguirre with Tanya Mercado. Tanya also attended the UCC Daycare as a young child.
Customers buying fish at the market
Marlene Wilks, Pauline Reid, and Denniston Wilks with their produce
Youth interns Warren Ottey and Jason Thomas checking beehives at UCC Youth Farm
UCC Youth Farm in 2004
ENYF youth interns and staff with other members of the Food Project's BLAST network at the 2005 Community Food Security Coalition Conference in Atlanta
Hands & Heart Garden before development
Gardeners marking out beds
Gardener Annie Wyche checking her plants
The market in its new location on Schenck Avenue in 2007
Returning interns practice teaching skills
Interns practice talking points on compost
Youth interns at a city-wide hearing on community garden legislation
Deborah Greig leads a seed-starting workshop for gardeners
David Vigil leads Via Campesina delegates and WHY Hunger staff on a farm tour
Marlene Wilks (middle) and Sarita Daftary (left) with WHY Hunger Director Bill Ayres at the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award Ceremony
Ana Aguirre and Sarita Daftary with youth interns Joemi Regalado, Louis Rivera, Sharnay Procope, Shuaibu Kenchi, and gardener Joyce Dixon at CCCNY Award Ceremony
Volunteer Theresa Arnold hosts Story Hour at the market
"Something Positive" performs at the market as part of Arts East NY Summer Saturdaze programming
New vendor Lyeta Herb
Gardeners Annie Wyche and Rose Darden practice basic carpentry skills
Community Educator Kele Nkhereanye
Youth intern Ashley Pena and gardener Jeanette Ware interviewing each other
Markets & Outreach Coordinator Janelle Nicol and intern Damian Pendelton
Staff, youth, and volunteers enjoy a lunch that the youth interns prepared with produce from their farm and the market
Youth program alumnus Roy Frias presents at a meeting in Alabama as part of his externship with WHY Hunger
Crew leader Navindra Boodhu explaining the day's tasks
Members talking at "Cultural Sharing Potluck"
Long-time ENYF member Gemma Garcia. Gemma received a mini-grant to scale up her honey production and start an ENY Beekeepers Cooperative
Community Organizer & Youth Worker Daryl Marshall with youth intern Kalia Monlyn
This case study was designed to cover the period of time up to 2011. Visit www.eastnewyorkfarms.org for current updates.
"The Dead Zone," shot from Snediker Avenue looking northeast towards Hinsdale Avenue, Spring 1990. Photo by Perry Winston
Clearing the lot next to UCC with volunteers from the neighborhood. Newly developed Nehemiah Homes can be seen in the background.
Linder, Marc and Lawrence S. Zacharias. (1999)
Of Cabbages and Kings County: Agriculture and the Formation of Modern Brooklyn.
Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. p. 36
Thabit, Walter (2003).
How East New York Became a Ghetto.
New York: New York University Press. pp. 42, 45, 47, 65
*Brady, James (1983).
Arson, Urban Economy, and Organized Crime: The Case of Boston
. Social Problems, Volume 31, No. 1. and Thabit, Walter (2003).
How East New York Became a Ghetto.
New York: New York University Press. pp. 80
Music from the album "Source of Goodness" by M. Salieu Suso