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Fall Harvest At Brownsville’s 20,000 Square Foot Farm

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BROWNSVILLE – A community that harvests together, grows together. In Brownsville, the urban farming network continues to expand, week after week – as more local residents continue to visit, shop for produce, and eat at one of the biggest farms in their neighborhood.

Over 50 Brownsville community members stopped by Project EATS Harvest Festival at the Marcus Garvey Apartments’ 20,000-square-foot farm on Saturday. The festival featured live jazz by local-band Jimmy Hill and the All-Starz, a cooking class demo with a nutritionist, face-painting for kids, and the newest addition to the Project EATS farm: a cubicle-style café.

This is the second year the non-profit organization has hosted the festival since 2015. After taking a hiatus last year, the organization is more determined to leave their footprint (or green-print) on the Brownsville community.  

Longtime Brownsville resident and Project EATS farmer Johnnie Vickers helps a festival-attendee pluck a carrot from one of the dozen raised beds, as he gave tours of the farm throughout the day. (Lea Ceasrine/BKLYNER)

“If a bug doesn’t touch it, don’t eat it!” he said.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve sat outside in Brownsville,” said Marcus Garvey resident Law Loadholt, as he took a spoonful of homemade carrot, lentil, onion soup, sold for only $3 at the farm’s new cafe. He walks by the farm at 300 Chester Street all the time but says he never knew visitors were allowed to drop in.

A young boy orders food at the new makeshift farm café market which will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays 11:30-5:30pm (Lea Ceasrine/BKLYNER)

Given that only 4 out of 10 Brownsville residents live within walking distance of a grocery store (according to NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development), the existence of urban farming in the neighborhood allows residents to access affordable produce in proximity for $1-2. They can be purchased with EBT and “health bucks” coupons given by the NYC Department of Health.  

Yet, even after several years of operating three farms in Brownsville (the other two are solely for food-production and student farmer-training at 210 Amboy Street and 239 Herzl Street), the agriculturists at Project EATS have struggled to gain the attention of the local community.

“It has to be a relationship built. When things come up in neighborhoods like this, there’s a disconnect. They walk right by the farmer stands and go to the supermarket,” said Jamel Evans, a Project EATS community outreach member.

“If people have $5 for vegetables, they’ll go buy a box-deal at Popeyes instead,” Loadholt said. As a vegetarian of a few years, he wishes more people in the community were more open to healthy-eating.

“Behavior-change is hard to understand. I can’t come with brie and prosciutto because nobody eats like that here,” said Anagha Rai, the Project EATS nutritionist with the “Farmacy” program – which gives Brownsville healthcare patients prescriptions for healthy food. On Saturday’s festival, attendees learned how to make a leafy green salad with apple dressing, all farm-grown, as Anagha gave cooking demos.

“People finally communicate how much cheaper it is,” said local Brownsville resident, Patti R., biking outside the greenhouse where the Project EATS team harvests every week – from picking their fresh produce to cutting, threshing and cleaning it

Our goal is to grow as much food possible per square foot for the local community,” said Matt Lindner, Director of Partnerships and Operations at Project EATS.

The café is currently in pilot-mode but Project EATS founder Linda Goode Bryant says it will be open Tuesdays and Saturdays in addition to the weekly farmers market on the same days.

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