The core goal of “Green Leaves” is for the Brownsville branch to be a means through which the community navigates the various food justice efforts in Brownsville. Events will occur both onsite at the library and through outreach at these ‘new’ green spaces. Construction of an urban farm is currently underway at NYCHA’ s Howard Houses, right next door to the library, and is run by the NYCHA Urban Agriculture Initiative and Green City Force. In addition, a partnership with the ProjectEATs farms along nearby Blake Avenue—in existence since 2009- will allow further exploration into the neighborhood so that patrons engage with healthy lifestyle resources beyond Howard Houses or the main Pitkin Avenue thoroughfare.
There will be two main components of the program. Component one will be an ongoing bi-weekly (hour-long) reading for children ages 0 - 10 years of age, to be held inside the Howard Houses’ Farm. The readings will touch on several farming elements such as pollinators, herbs, fruits vs. vegetables, seeds, soil, worms, composting, flowers, etc.. Myself and library staff will primarily run these readings.
Component two will be 6 separate workshops over the course of the summer and early fall. Each workshop will focus on either literature or technology and will allow for greater understanding of the natural environment. While all workshops will be family-oriented and interactive, certain components will focus on specific age groups. These workshops will be a true demonstration of community partnerships as the library will rely on the expertise of our urban farmers to run/set-up hands-on demonstrations and explain how the farms operate. The library itself will provide funds, purchase materials, create a reading advisory (with input from the urban farmers), and lastly, provide organizational/technical support.
The first round of workshops (2) consists of outreach at two of the farms and will highlight literature about urban farming, nature, and how to utilize the green spaces already in the neighborhood. Booklists containing collection and non-collection items are being compiled for children, young adults, and adults, thus setting up a framework and language for the later workshops. The Brooklyn Public Library system will be discussed as a central source of information. These initial workshops will encourage the participation of children and young adults by also incorporating hands-on work (at the aforementioned farms) around some the farming elements listed above (for instance, physically potting herbs, seeds, and flowers).
The second round of workshops (2) will focus on technology and urban ecology. Young adult and adult patrons will be encouraged to move around the neighborhood collecting data on existing community farms, gardens, and green spaces. Patrons will then return to the library, utilizing our Connected Community laptops to input that data into the easy to navigate platform, Google Maps. The culmination of these two workshops will be an interactive map, shareable on the branch’s webpage. The map will serve as a visualization of the neighborhood’s verdant impact--helping to associate Brownsville with greenery rather than blight. For children, the use of miniature maps will be incorporated into scavenger hunts within each farm.
The third and final round of workshops (2) will continue with hands-on work at the farms, teaching residents how they can reap the most rewards from the farms even after the harvest period. Workshops will focus on jarring produce for later consumption. The workshops will also touch upon entrepreneurialism for kids and teens akin to ‘lemonade stands,’ but using produce from the spaces (think juice stands or pesto-making demonstrations).
Participants will reap the rewards of a healthy lifestyle by taking advantage of the burgeoning green initiatives in Brownsville—a neighborhood that has been described as a healthy-food desert. Through these activities at the urban farms within walking distance of the library, patrons will become well-versed in nutrient rich and affordable food options.