Urban Farm Corps Members Graduate
Over the past several months, 28 young NYCHA residents put on their brown uniforms and served almost every day on NYCHA’s farms, building the farms, tending the crops, handing out free organic produce to residents, collecting food scraps, running farm stands, and much more.
On March 20, those residents, members of Green City Force’s Urban Farm Corps Cohort 14, were celebrated at a graduation ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Green City Force (GCF) is an AmeriCorps program that provides NYCHA residents ages 18 to 24 with full-time service projects, training and education on sustainability and green technologies, a stipend, free transportation, and assistance with job and college placement. GCF has graduated about 400 NYCHA residents, most of whom are now out in the world, using their knowledge and skills to help the environment and improve public health.
Princess Banyan, a 22-year-old resident of Polo Grounds Towers, said GCF has contributed to her personal growth and her understanding of the environment: “It taught me to always believe in myself and inspired me to always think about the choices I make and their impact on the future of the planet…Because of the program, I’m committed to a career where I can give back to my community and the earth.”
At the ceremony, the audience heard how this group of graduates truly is a force to be reckoned with: they performed over 40,000 hours of service; built a new Farm at NYCHA at Forest Houses in the Bronx; and operated and maintained the NYCHA farms at Bay View Houses, Howard Houses, Red Hook Houses, and Wagner Houses. In addition, they distributed 19,920 pounds of free organic produce to NYCHA residents in exchange for compostables or volunteer time; diverted 5,502 pounds of organic waste from landfills; educated more than 500 students; and held more than 120 farm stands and special events, including Harvest Festivals at four farms. (Watch a video by Green City Force of the cohort in action here).
Joining GCF and the graduates’ families and friends were GCF partners and funders including the Fund for Public Health in New York, NYC Food Policy, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Unilever, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and NYCHA.
Sideya Sherman, NYCHA’s Executive Vice President for Community Engagement and Partnerships, told the graduates, “I encourage you to harness the knowledge you’ve gained and the commitment you’ve nurtured to help us continue to build a more sustainable, healthy, connected NYCHA for all residents.”
Most of the graduates, like Chantel Kemp who addressed the audience, have already found jobs. A resident of Marlboro Houses, Ms. Kemp secured a position with Isabahlia Ladies of Elegance Foundation, the community-based organization partner for Howard Houses Farm.
Stressing the importance of food justice, especially in low-income communities, Ms. Kemp explained, “I have vowed not to let my quest for food justice end here today, standing at this podium, challenging you all to uphold justice. Justice for the beautiful children living in circumstances out of their control, justice for the children who watch me here today and feel so inspired to pick up a book or a brick, justice for my ancestors who gave up their lives just for me to speak, and justice for the generation who cannot yet speak for themselves.”
Green City Force is currently recruiting!
If you are a NYCHA resident between the ages of 18 to 24 and are interested in learning more about Green City Force, please click here or call the REES hotline at 718-289-8100 to sign up for an upcoming information session.