Brooklyn, New York
The East New York Farmers Market, sponsored by East New York Farms! (ENYF) was established in 1999 to provide fresh food as well as economic opportunity for the youth and elderly of this poor, crime-ridden section in eastern Brooklyn. In a section of the city where access to healthy food is scarce the seasonal, once a week market which consists of several community gardeners, upstate farmers and one fisherman has become a popular gathering space for community residents.
The neighborhood of East New York has the largest number of community gardens in the entire five boroughs of New York. Many of the gardeners are elderly women who are motivated to work in these gardens as much for the social experience as for ability to grow healthy produce for themselves and their families. These gardens are so prolific that they often produce too much for the gardeners’ personal consumption so the connection to the market provides a much needed retail outlet where they can sell produce to their neighbors while earning some money.
For the neighborhood’s youth, EYNF operates a nine-month, paid internship program in which teenagers are given the opportunity to learn about agriculture at an urban farm in a hands-on atmosphere. Youth interns also help manage the market and interact with the elderly community gardeners helping to set up display tables, trash cans, and signs. They run their own produce stands and perform customer counts and surveys. At the end of the day, the youth break down and clean up the market space. On some days the more experienced youth also collaborate on cooking demonstrations. Rooted in high standards, this pro¬gram provides employment in an area of high youth unemploy¬ment and fosters leaders in the community.
In 2007, ENYF was able to acquire a second piece of land which doubled the size of their urban farm. The community gardens and youth-run urban farms were then able to accommodate 22 new gardeners (18 of which were immigrants) who produced $18,000 in produce over the growing season, increasing market sales by 20%. Working together the neighborhood has created economic opportunity for two sections of the population that are often overlooked, the youth and the elderly, while also providing healthy, fresh food for all members of the community.