The City Agriculture Network (CAN) formed in the winter of 2010, funded by a Community Engagement Fellowship awarded to Kaizhong (Johnny) Huang by the Colin Powell Center. The goal of CAN, which received continued funding from the Center for 2010-2011, was to create a community garden from scratch in Hamilton Heights, and promote understanding and knowledge of the processes by which food can be created, distributed and consumed in a sustainable and equitable manner.
Two and a half years into the project, CAN is producing food, promoting healthy eating, and reducing the local carbon footprint. The below update on the group’s activity is by Elizabeth Kelman, a CCNY student who is now managing the network.
Food for the Community, by the Community
We focus on local, organic and affordable produce in the urban environment. Members of CAN and the Hamilton Heights community run a community vegetable garden on 141st Street at Hamilton Terrace. CAN strives to incorporate the Hamilton Heights community, including City College students and staff, into the Real Food movement.
As a project funded by the Colin Powell Center, we received money with which we were able to purchase all that we needed to build a garden—wood, soil, seeds, tools and the occasional snack for volunteers. Our vision was—and remains— a community garden that produces organic vegetables and herbs at no cost to the gardeners. The garden is not divided into individual plots, nor is there ever a fee to garden or participate in events. By planning, growing, composting, weeding, harvesting, and celebrating together, we simultaneously build community and ensure that neither space nor supplies are wasted.
Growing for the Future
In August 2010, we held a Harvest Celebration in the garden, which was attended by more than 100 community members, as well as elected officials Charles Rangel and Robert Jackson. Hundreds of students and community members have visited the garden—to learn, plant, water, weed, harvest, eat, relax, and play. The garden connects participants to the food cycle. Children, college students and adults alike have the opportunity to discover how food is grown, and what it looks like at every stage of the cycle, from seed to plant to compost. The garden is, above all, fertile ground for discovering Real Food and the issues of food justice and community in Hamilton Heights.
Through a bit of club funding from City College (starting in Spring 2011) and a couple of lemonade stands, we have been able to maintain our garden and cover the basics for small events. We rely on the time of volunteers of all ages (toddlers through grandmothers!), potluck-style events and donations. This summer, CAN was a recipient of a generous New Yorkers for Better Neighborhoods grant from Citizens Committee for New York City. With this funding, we will be able to better publicize the garden, keep events free, and invest in much-needed supplies and structures. — Elizabeth Kelman
For more information and/or to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a minimum, the garden is open this summer on Tuesday evenings and on Saturdays from 10am -2pm.