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Jan 9, 2016 4:26 EDT

The Hegeman Community Garden: Building and restoring lives through green space in Brownsville.

iCrowdNewswire - Jan 9, 2016

the project

This year, Breaking Ground’s Young Professionals Committee needs to secure $50,000 to help build and operate a 2,500 square foot community garden adjacent to The Hegeman, a Breaking Ground supportive residence in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

The YPC raised an amazing $20,514 at our Speakeasy Soiree, and an additional $1,199 at our Giving Tuesday Happy Hour, but we need your help to raise the remaining funds before our April 20th deadline! If 200 supporters donate only $25 each, we will be $5,000 closer to our goal and have an even happier New Year!

The Hegeman Community Garden will be a resource for both the physical and psychological well-being of Hegeman and Brownsville residents. Through education programs, the garden will help address health problems associated with poor access to and information about fresh, healthy foods. Through volunteer opportunities, community members will be active participants in many aspects of garden upkeep and operations, which we have found to significantly improve self-esteem and psychological well-being and create a feeling of community ownership.

Our contributions will fund:

  • planting beds, seeds, and equipment

  • garden seating and pathways

  • on-site nutrition and food classes

  • urban agriculture and cooking workshops

  • weekly volunteer and gardening opportunities

the steps

The goal of the Hegeman Garden is to address a lack of access to and information about fresh, healthy foods in a low-income, severely under-resourced community through the following means: the development of a garden space for community engagement and educational offerings; the implementation of nutrition education and cooking programming at the garden site; the distribution of site-grown fruits and vegetables (reflecting local culture and ethnic traditions) to program participants; exploration of the development of an onsite CSA or farmer’s market in 2017; and offering of volunteer opportunities in the garden space to facilitate community engagement and investment in this effort.

Activities used to meet these goals will include:

  • Garden Construction – In Program Year One (2016), garden construction will include: grading as needed; construction of pathways, raised beds, basic storage, a seating area, and a basic shade structure; site irrigation; soil installation; and plantings. In Program Year Two (2017), if budget allows, construction enhancements will include a larger shade structure, signage, increased vegetable production, a greenhouse, additional storage, etc.

  • Garden Management – The Garden Manager will be a part-time employee who will primarily oversee all garden construction and maintenance, manage communications with neighborhood residents and program participants, develop and maintain relationships with partner organizations and community groups, and facilitate garden programs and events.

  • Community Programming – Community programming in Program Year One will include: cooking demonstrations and educational workshops led by Garden Manager and in collaboration with partner organizations; supported open/recreational hours for tenants, neighbors, and passersby of all ages; weekly volunteer hours/gardening activities; and larger volunteer projects. Programming will run from April through November, though activities will likely shift/scale back in October/November to accommodate changing weather. Community programming for Program Year Two will include all Year One offerings plus field trips for local schools and additional activities in response to community feedback and program partners. We will also explore the development of a farmer’s market or CSA distribution onsite at the Hegeman Garden or adjacent Hegeman residence.

why we’re doing it

Breaking Ground is investing in a much needed green space to serve:

  • 150+ formerly homeless and low-income residents of the Hegeman, many of whom live with mental illness, HIV/AIDS, or have other special needs

  • Brownsville, which has the lowest average income in all of Brooklyn, disproportionately high rates of chronic health problems, and relatively few green spaces.

The vast majority of Brownsville residents represent racial/ethnic minority populations, particularly African American, and are disproportionately impacted by chronic health concerns tied to poor nutrition, including Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and heart disease due to factors closely correlated with the lack of green space.

Brownsville is within Community District (CD) 16, and as of 2012:

  • Only 55% of residents over 16 years of age were employed

  • 44.7% of residents over 16 years of age were considered “not in the labor force” and another 8.5% were unemployed

  • 42.8% of area families survived on less than $25,000 in annual income

  • 43.5% of area families with related children under 18 years of age were living below the poverty level

Brownsville has the lowest average income in all of Brooklyn ($26,273 in most recent available statistics) and in 2014, just over 50% of CD16 residents received income support of some kind, including TANF, SSI, Medicaid, or a combination thereof.

Low-income status is tied to increased health concerns and poorer health outcomes, and the community surrounding the Hegeman Garden site lacks adequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables and health/nutrition education. Through development of the Hegeman Garden and its proposed onsite programming, Breaking Ground seeks to create a community amenity which will help to address the above health concerns and foster a connection to unprocessed foods by:

  • increasing access to fresh produce

  • educating community members about nutrition and cooking techniques so that they can utilize more fresh produce

  • actively engaging the community in this space as volunteers and program participants.

Accessibility will be addressed through:

  • free distribution of produce grown onsite to program participants

  • simple and inexpensive at-home planting instruction for residents

  • potential development of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) distribution or farmer’s market at the site in collaboration with to-be-identified partners

We intend to pursue these ends while respecting local and racial/ethnic traditions by incorporating relevant foods into the garden plan and garnering inspiration for cooking demonstration recipes from community suggestions and local traditions.

Contact Information:


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