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WESPAC has cultivated an extensive and cooperative network of food justice advocates throughout the county where we work together to enhance the existing expertise within diverse communities in the quest for a more sustainable food shed with more widespread access to fresh, local produce. We are proud of our role in promoting a more inclusive local food movement, and we continue to serve as an important resource for community gardens in the county by providing organizational and material support to both new projects and old.
A big thanks to Sadie’s initiative at the Bethel Baptist Community Gardens in White Plains. The WESPAC plot has produced dozens of pounds of fresh produce for the Open Arms Men’s Shelter in downtown White Plains. Thank you, Sadie, and to all who have volunteered!
Join local farmer Doug DeCandia, DIG Farm, WESPAC, the First Seventh-day Adventist Church of White Plains and local Starbucks employees as we gather in Greenburgh to honor Mother Earth on April 17th and prepare a communal garden and composting bins. Please bring gardening gloves, trash bags, rakes, trowels, spades and shovels. Lunch will be provided by Giovanni Chef D’Amour Green. Blood pressure screening and a health check up will be provided by medical professionals of the congregation. This community gathering is free and open to the public.
For more information, please contact Pastor Kyran Leo John at 347.989.7700.
We announced that the next WESPAC Food Justice Planning Committee meeting will take place on Thursday, December 17th, at 7pm in the WESPAC office. People may ask – what is food justice? One definition that we are comfortable with is: Food Justice means communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate, and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers, and animals. Our collective food justice work can lead to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities, and a healthy environment.
Bronx Activist Eyes Vacant Lot for Urban Farm
by Patrick Wall
LONGWOOD — Tanya Fields has tried planting her urban farm in a forgotten corner of a local playground and on a long-abandoned private lot.
In each case, authorities uprooted her community garden, which she calls the Libertad Urban Farm, before it could blossom.
But after several years, the food-justice activist may have found her spot — a vacant city-owned site at 972 Simpson St. where locals once grew flowers but which has since succumbed to waist-high weeds and rodents.
Officials recently told Fields they may allow a temporary garden on the 4,300-square-foot lot, at least until potential developers emerge.
Fields envisions local farmers cultivating crops on the lot that could be sold out of her healthy-food truck, among other uses.
“This is about us taking control of our lives,” said Fields, who is converting a former school bus into a mobile farmers market. “We have all the resources we need.”
In 2009, Fields and some of her neighbors on Fox Street built raised beds and planted marigolds and a sandalwood tree in a half-acre corner of the local playground. But when the city began renovating the playground that fall, workers razed the garden and turned it into a dog park.
The following year, Fields and some fellow “guerilla gardeners” decided, after months of trying unsuccessfully to reach the private owner of a long-neglected lot, to break in and plant sunflowers there. The owner showed up with police a few days later and kicked them out.
But recently the local community board pointed Fields to the Simpson Street lot.
Even as that block sprouted new buildings and lively neighborhood associations in recent decades, the site at 972 has gone undeveloped since the city took it over in the early ’80s.
A local group planted a garden there in the ’90s but when that group dissipated, the garden did too, according to Fields.
Since then, trash continues to pile up inside the fenced-in lot and feral cats chase mice and rats through overgrown greenery that city crews rarely trim, said Frank Roberts, who has lived on the block his whole life.
“It’s been sitting there way too long,” said Roberts, 45.
Fields, who heads a small nonprofit called the BLK Projek, her intern Shantrice King and volunteers have collected dozens of signatures on a petition urging the city to give the community access to the lot.
Their efforts appear to have paid off.
A spokesman for the city’s Housing Preservation and Development Department, which controls the site, said the agency would consider allowing a temporary garden there until long-term plans for affordable housing on the site are enacted.
Parks Department officials are set to visit the site next week to determine if it qualifies for the GreenThumb program, which supports temporary community gardens on city lots.
Fields said the garden could include raised plots for residents and school groups, spots for locals to relax or congregate and rows of organic crops that could be sold in her Veggie Mobile Market bus.
A local green group, Sustainable South Bronx, said it could provide trained workers to cultivate the crops.
Such uses, Fields said, would live up to the ideal planted in the urban farm’s title, Libertad.
“Freeing ourselves from junk food, from the disconnect that we have from the land,” she said. “Being able to be free to dream and innovate and find solutions.”