Planting a Seed, Growing a Community

 Planting a Seed, Growing a Community

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Worm manure is high in protein.

That is but one of the interesting facts learned on recent visit to the Healthy Initia-tives Farm in Far Rockaway. The farm is part of RDRC’s (Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation) healthy finances/healthy food initiatives made possi-ble by a grant from New York Community Trust. 

The program wants to strengthen finan-cial stability and increase the food

options available to residents of the Peninsula. It’s a novel idea whose time has more than come.

When Superstorm Sandy hit, the Penin-sula discovered how vulnerable they were to a healthy food supply.

“We realized how unprepared this com-munity was,” said Kevin Alexander, Presi-dent and CEO of RDRC. 90% of food on the Peninsula come from elsewhere. After the Storm, there was no access to healthy food for weeks due to the lack of transporta-tion to the Peninsula and stores in the area which were underwater. That left residents dependent on the local markets, many of which included small markets without access to produce. Over time, there was concern that the lack of quality food options would lead to other health issues.

There are many prospects tied to the initiative and no telling where this pilot pro-ject can lead. Primarily creating an enterprise where the local, smaller stores can have access to produce. Another is a social enterprise where neighbors connect with each other to join the marketplace.

But first, there has to be food.

Planting has already begun at the farm. It was a large undertaking as the soil on the Peninsula is sandy and was inundated with salt due to Superstorm Sandy. Certified Organic soil was shipped in from Long Is-land and a large effort was made to prep the soil six feet down for the undertaking. Small plants have already begun to sprout on the collards, pak choy and turnips, some of the items being farmed. Chicken coops are being erected to offer fresh eggs from the approximate three dozen chickens which will be in residence. Composting will be done on site with for scraps that are picked up/dropped of from local restaurants that want to contribute.

Its location is ideal. Just steps away from the elevated “A” train and along the Q22 bus route. Residents can actually see the farm as it develops which makes them more likely to become a partner in. Addi-tion, non-drivers and those without cars, can easily commute to and from the site.

Involved in the project is Food and Nutrition Specialist Dr. Khin Mar Cho and Farm Manager John Cannizzo. Dr. Cho is from Cornell University who, along with Bedstuy Against Hunger, is a collaborator in the venture. Their depth of knowledge of growing food and food culture as well as their passion for the project is evident. Dr. Khin is keeping her eye on what food the community will consume. “We have to grow food that people will eat,” said Manager John.

There will be food preparation classes and evaluations done on the farm to ensure it connects and serves the needs of residents.

As it takes a lot of hands to run a farm successfully, the initiative will seek to draw from the community at large for volunteers. The initiative will also reach out to area restaurants and food service organizations for pickup compost items. There are also several other collaborators in the venture that will assist with the various components of the initiation as well as outreach including GrowNYC, Rockaway Youth Task Form, American Planning Association the Metro Chapter of the King of Kings Foundation.

The Healthy Initiatives Farm has prom-ise on many levels: economics, health, com-munity, distribution and preparedness. Resi-dents should make plans to watch its pro-gress and visit its market when it opens, tentatively scheduled for June 2014

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By:Karen Clements

Contact Karen Clements

Published April 2013 Edition

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