When I was living in Ithaca, I was part of a graduate student group called New World Agriculture and Ecology Group (NWAEG). One of NWAEG at Cornell’s members, Megan Gregory, learned about about an innovative urban farming group through her research project in NYC, The Garden Ecology Project. In collaboration with local food justice groups, NWAEG at Cornell (a graduate student group) invited two youth interns and a staff member from East New York (ENY) Farms in Brooklyn to head up state and share the secrets of their success with us in s series of events on urban agriculture and food justice that we called “Urban Harvest”. ENY Farms has recently been profiled in the NY Times and is one great example of what people and communities are rolling up their sleeves and doing while other parts of the food movement are doing a lot of talking according to Erika Nicole Kendall’s recent article in Salon, America’s Food Debates are Just White Men Talking. Also, ENY Farms was also just featured in one of my favorite radio programs, Story Corps, with a series of interviews of urban farmers and food justice advocates in East New York. You can listen to all of the interviews on the ENY Farms YouTube channel.
Central NY’s food justice movement has been growing in recent years through individuals, churches, and non-profits like GreenStar Co-op. The movement has developed partnerships within Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension most notably through the Whole Community Project, Gardens 4 Humanity and Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities. We invited members of these projects to sit on a panel with our visitors from ENY Farms.
The next day, Southside Community Center hosted an all day event, Youth in Urban Agriculture and Community-Led Economic Development, and invited the community to come and hear about ENY Farms’ progress in creating the kind of food system they want to see. Youth interns from ENY Farms and Cornell students and Ithaca community members facilitated a visioning process where the community laid out the desired positive changes in the food system. Fun fact, our neighbor in Ithaca remembered when Eleanore Roosevelt came to town to the opening celebration of the Southside Community Center’s new building in 1938.
Updates: David Vigil is now the Director of ENY Farms, and although the Ithaca community misses her (a lot!) Kirtrina Baxter is doing food system work in Philadelphia.