It was sometime in 2016 when Kyara Grant looked out the window of her apartment at Howard Houses and noticed something being built. She assumed it would be a project that wouldn’t benefit the Brownsville community, “But once I saw that it was a farm and it was giving back free produce to the residents, I fell in love with it,” Ms. Grant said.
Now, she gets to work where she lives, as the Service Coordinator of Howard Houses Farm. Some of her responsibilities include managing land improvement (including trash pick-up and decorating the farm), providing service activities to the youth maintaining the farm, and helping to train and instruct them on transplanting and harvesting plants.
Howard Houses Farm is one of six Farms at NYCHA. Farms at NYCHA is part of Building Healthy Communities, a public-private partnership to improve community health outcomes in 12 neighborhoods. A major part of the project is building urban farms on NYCHA property to provide residents and community members with fresh, local foods and young people with workforce and leadership development.
“The farm is important to the development and the community,” Ms. Grant said. “It shows that there can be good coming out of the community, because there’s already a stigma around Brownsville – and just having a space like this one that is all green, it gives back and it brings beauty, functionality, and food.”
The road to managing day-to-day activities at the farm started with watching from her window as Green City Force (GCF) Corps Members built the farm. After the farm was complete, she volunteered to get a better understanding of how the farm worked and benefited residents when her high school studies would allow. During her third year of volunteering on the farm, she decided to up her level of commitment by joining GCF.
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 and its Corps Members build and maintain Farms at NYCHA.
“Kyara Grant is a strong, modest leader,” said Jennifer Tirado, Director of Service at GCF. “A reliable, kind, and capable person with a wise and humble presence. While a member at Green City Force, she met and exceeded her goals with an intentional and clear plan for herself and her community. She was awarded the Sustainability award at graduation in the spring of 2019 and continues to lead with purpose at Howard Houses and across the city. Kyara is a radiant force and has impressed all of us at Green City Force and her community in Brownsville. We are very proud of Kyara for her achievements so far.”
After graduating from GCF, another leadership opportunity was presented to Ms. Grant. Naomi Johnson, Resident Association President of Howard Houses, asked Ms. Grant, 19, if she’d be interested in joining the board as secretary.
“I accepted because it’s a big responsibility and it means a lot to me, because I am the first youth to join the board,” she said. “It’s important for young people to get involved in their communities, because the elders have traditions that have carried on for generations. But time evolves just as people do, so as the younger generations come along, they can make changes and improve the traditions.”
Ms. Johnson thinks Ms. Grant’s presence on the board will serve as an example: “Having known Kyara for years and seeing her accomplishments and drive, I felt that other teens seeing her as part of the resident association would start to take more interest in where they live and attend the meetings and provide input on what they would like to see. Kyara is someone who will go far in life and achieve whatever she wants.”
NYCHA residents ages 18 to 24 interested in learning more about Green City Force can attend an upcoming information session at NYCHA's Office of Resident Economic Empowerment & Sustainability (REES). To see dates, times, and to register, visit http://opportunitynycha.org/events/categories/green-city-force-information-session/ or call 718-289-8100.