Throughout New York City’s five boroughs, there are thousands of acres of city land sitting completely empty. One such lot sits across the street from P.S. 323 in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Once filled with weeds and trash, the 8,000-square-foot lot is currently being transformed into a lush educational student farm by teacher Nora Painten. Painten successfully raised more than $24,000 through Kickstarter to help fund the farm, which will have a chicken coop, bee hive, outdoor classroom, and dozens of vegetables and herbs. Over the next month, Painten is hosting volunteer days to help bring the farm to life.
Last summer, Painten worked at a different garden in Brownsville started by Slow Food NYC. The response from the community was overwhelmingly positive and she wants to continue that in the new, larger space. The Brownsville Student Farm Project will be a living classroom for the teachers at P.S. 323, who will write outdoor curriculum to use the space. A core group of students from the upper grades will act as garden stewards, tending the crops and distributing vegetables throughout the neighborhood.
Currently, Painten is building the farm, getting it ready for a spring planting. The lot was completely bare, without even a water line, and much of the money raised through Kickstarter went to installing the proper water piping infrastructure, as none previously existed. GrowingCities is working with the Farm to design and build out certain elements of the space, like the planters, gazebo, picnic tables, and benches. The Farm needs all the help it can get, and Painten is looking for help to build these elements throughout the next month.
A prototype of the bench planters the Farm is building
While the lumber has been donated, they still need the tools and man power to build the pieces, so if you have power tools, construction skills, or just the strength to lift heavy things, join the Farm on the volunteer days: March 4, 10, 11, 17, 24, and 25. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Brownsville Build” if you plan on joining them.
Painten hopes to start teaching classes in May. “Brownsville is a traditionally under-served neighborhood with statistics near the worst in the city on heart disease and diabetes. An enormous cluster of project housing abuts the garden site,” writes Painten on her Kickstarter page. “Fresh produce is hard to come by at local markets and delis. The hope is that educating the students at PS 323 about food, health and nutrition will instill in them an awareness about how they eat and will inspire many of them to become lifelong healthy eaters.”