By Ruby Paarlberg
Across the street from Ikea and surrounded by sidewalks and parked cars is a flourishing and beautiful green farm. Added Value Farms is a 2.75-acre urban farm located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. This site contains both the NYC Compost Project and the Red Hook community farm. Together, these parts of the urban farm are extremely successful at providing the community with fertile soil and fresh produce. Additionally, the whole operation runs completely on renewable energy from solar panels and a windmill.
The community farm prides itself on its extraordinary production rate through the fall, spring, and summer. Last year, 20,000 pounds of produce was harvested. The farm hosts a farmers’ market every week where some of the produce is sold at low cost to members of the community. But, a lot of the fresh produce goes to local food pantries.
Members of the farm staff work both tirelessly and enthusiastically to make sure that the site runs smoothly. There are many jobs during the growing season like seeding, planting, weeding, and harvesting. However, even when crops are not actively growing, the fields need to be prepped for planting or stripped before the winter.
During the growing season, pest control is always a difficult and grueling task. Every season the most threatening pest changes, but whiteflies have kept up an infamous reputation on the farm. Teamwork on the farm ensures that the pests are ultimately defeated.
The environment on the farm is unique and special because all of the employees share a true passion for urban agriculture and its benefits for the community. Nefratia Coleman, the volunteer manager at Added Value and the farm manager at the NYCHA farms, enjoys her job. She particularly loves “meeting new volunteers and people with different backgrounds” when they come to help out on the farm.
In addition to instructing volunteers on Fridays and Saturdays, Added Value hosts elementary school students to participate in farm-based learning or FBL during the school week. Nefratia explained “how cool” it is “to watch the kids do weeding and plant and bug identification.” She believes in the wonders of FBL because it is important for kids to understand that “food doesn’t grow in the supermarket.” She is amazed at how “little people learn so fast.”
Nefratia also loves “helping people in the community.” There are “not many healthy food options in Red Hook,” so she thinks that it is important to provide people with local, fresh and healthy produce. She also remarked that Red Hook is like a “food desert.”
Added Value also has a Youth Empowerment program, where high school students from the community get the opportunity to work on the farm. One of the youth, Cha Cha explained that her favorite job on the farm is “doing compost on the J row,” referring to a particular section of the farm. On the contrary, she said that “detail weeding is challenging.” This is because small weeds can be “tiring.” Similar to Nefratia, she likes the fact that the farm provides her community “with access to healthy food.”
Even in the heart of the Red Hook, Added Value Farm is able to prosper tremendously and supply the local community with unimaginable healthy, organic and fresh food.