East New York farms enable green thumbs

Hardwork produce this ethnic callaloo.


A flower shop in Brooklyn, is giving its patrons more than flowers – they are receiving fresh fruits and vegetables, direct from the owner’s backyard.

“People are catching on,” says Brooklyn Farmer Benjamin Brown and flower shop owner.

At his 774 Schenck Avenue, flower shop, Brown who plants at his home and on a plot half-mile away, sells his cabbages, peas,watermelon, ockra and callaloo.

He began farming over 25-years ago, in South Carolina, before moving to NYC 12 years ago.

A passionate farmer, Brown said, “You don’t make a whole lot of money (his income is supplemented by a landscaping business),” but farm mainly for his health. For him fresh fruits and vegetables held too long lose its value, so from the ground to the pot is better.

There is a unique connection when you grow your own food, said David Vigil, a farm manager and volunteer coordinator, of United Community Centers (UCC) on New Lots Avenue, Brooklyn. Community farmers like Brown also sell their produce at farmers’ markets held by UCC through its East New York Farms Project. This project is funded by state, federal and private grants.

A lot of people find the work pleasurable, Vigil said. And it is not just a statement. Six hundred volunteers and part-time farmers participate in the project every year.

But it is for love, health and the feeling of accomplishment that makes people all over NYC churn the dark earth at dusk and dawn, to produce organic peppers, eggplants, bitter melons, string-beans, and fruits.

So the next time you see a farmers market, it may be worth your while to stop by.


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