Urban Growers Share, Donate and Sell

March 19, 2011 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

The eclectic bunch of urban growers gathered for one of the smaller workshops at Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s 30th annual Making Brooklyn Bloom conference last week.  The dozen or so green thumbs grew flowers, herbs, vegetables, jalapenos, beans, tomatoes and more, mostly in community gardens.  Two “farmed” their fire escapes in Park Slope, while another used her backyard in Bushwick to garden hydroponically.

Their reason for taking the workshop?  They wanted to explore the possibility of turning their passion for growing things into a little extra pocket money.

A soft-spoken woman from the East Village who gardened in Coney Island bemoaned the fate of her abundant tomato crop last year.  Many wound up rotting in the frig, even after giving many away.  Perhaps she could have sold them, she thought, avoiding a big locavore sin.

One of the fire escape farmers — a woman whose cutting of a fig tree actually sprouted and grew into a tree — considered selling her produce on the stoop.  Others entertained the idea of selling at farmers markets.

Wherever they decided to sell their bounty, they had to bear one thing in mind, said Nadia Johnson, coordinator of the Food Justice Program and City Farms Network at Just Food, a food advocacy group, and a co-leader of the “Selling Your Vegetables” workshop.

Food grown on public property, such as a community garden, could not be sold for personal gain. In the case of community garden-grown produce, the money had to be reinvested into the garden.  Urban growers, however, would be permitted to keep the money if the produce were grown on private property — a backyard or roof, for example.

Fortunately for the group, the desire to earn income was only a secondary motivation for growing food.  Most grew veggies to share or donate or simply enjoy with family and co-workers.  Many wanted to play a role in bringing fresh produce to the city’s “food deserts,” or supermarket-impoverished neighborhoods.

One white-haired, white-bearded man — a Hindu proud of his vegetarianism —had been supplying vegetables to a senior center and other groups in Staten Island for years.  He grew the vegetables organically in a community garden.

Still, there’s a good reason to sell one’s vegetables, even if not permitted to keep the money, particularly at community-based farmers markets, Johnson pointed out.

Urban growers help support fledgling farmers markets in low-income neighborhoods.  They help retain the regional farmers who often supplement what urban farmers supply.

The savory Coney Island tomatoes that rotted in the frig?  It turns out they need not have died in vain after all.

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Entry filed under: City Farmers, Community Gardens, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , .

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