added value brooklyn

i carved out a little bit of time to visit one of the many urban farms in new york while visiting the city.  added value is among the better known and longer functioning.  i’d heard about it for years in news reports, videos and photos.  on saturday morning i headed out from harlem for what turns out to be a pretty long trip via public transit.

added value is on a large chunk of land, or actually asphalt, as it’s located on former park land that is covered in black top.  compost and soil are mounded up about a foot thick, and plants are growing surprisingly well on what would at first glance seem pretty inhospitable.  certainly it proves how much can be done with underutilized spaces and a bit of creativity.

about 2 acres are cultivated and in the background can be seen the giant ikea store.  when added value was started one of the main ideas was a catalyst for improving community health.  i’m pretty sure the ikea store across the street was not part of that vision.

they have some of the most epicly large beds i have ever witnessed, eight foot across, with three feet walk ways in-between.  folks still have to walk in the beds to plant and harvest.  seem a little awkward to use to me.  garlic looks great.  didn’t ask what variety.they have a really nice outdoor pack area made up of bathtubs and simple plywood tables, with  a salad spinner stand type thing.

this stand puts the spinner at a better hight for proper spinning and also helps keep the spinner from rocking around nearly so much as you turn it.the pack shed also functions as a staging area, where they have excellent signage of the field, as well as the work list for the week, and day.the shelves inside the tool sheds are of well-organized with bins and labels.  i post this photo mainly to remind myself that it is possible to have a well-organized shop space.

a new composting project has just started this year.  i was surprised that they have been going for so long without a large-scale composting project, it would seem that growing on asphalt you would have to spend a good amount of money on compost to keep the system going.  even with the large amount of compost they are processing it seemed pretty small by comparison to the composting we are doing at work.  but it was also better managed.  leaf bins made out of chain link fence are used to hold leaves gathered in the fall until they can to be used in compost.  food scraps and field refuse are the other major component for compost.  all of these buckets are filled with food scraps. no really.  after the leaves and kitchen scraps have been mixed, piled, turned and allowed to break down for several months they get run though this sifter.   what comes out is some very lovely compost. for local community members a self-serve compost tumbler is made available to use.  it includes detailed signage and instructions.

much of added values work is based on improving access in the community for local food and to that end they sell to local restaurants and also have a farm stand.  they are also  training another generation of farmers, and have a crew of very talented young people working with them.  much of what they are doing overlaps with what we are trying to do at work.  it would certainly be worth another visit to spend more time and work side by side with the crew.

while touring the farm it is mentioned that a number of food trucks gather every saturday just down the street and serve up some of the best food from south american cuisines.  i find this difficult to pass up, and finish  my morning with a plate full of pupusas and a glass horchata, while sitting in the sunshine.  what a great morning day.


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