There has been much talk lately about the perils of food production in America. Recent documentaries such as Food Inc. and King Corn have helped to raise awareness amongst the populace regarding the often unhealthy and costly habits that have come to define food creation methods in our country. An abundance of pesticides and hormones in much of our food has led many people to actively seek out organic alternatives. Today many are moving beyond sustenance labeled “organic” and also seeking to use locally grown produce whenever possible. One outgrowth of the growing concern over quickly diminishing oil reserves is the fact that food getting in this nation is a huge contributor to fossil fuel consumption, second only to automobiles.
With all of this in mind a group of concerned citizens with a passion for food and a knowledge of farming techniques have created BK Farmyards, a decentralized farming network that seeks to help one NYC borough reduce its reliance on transported unhealthy food. The farming collective endeavors to create small organic plots of farmland within the city itself. Utilizing under-used or temporarily vacant land as well as citizen’s backyards BK Farmyards hopes to produce healthy super-local food for the consumption of NYC residents.
In an attempt to include young people in the process of local food production BK Farmyards is getting involved with local high schools such as the High School for Public Service in East Flatbush. Early April saw students of the school breaking ground on their campus’ front lawn which will house a 10,000-square-foot vegetable farm designed and operated by BK Farms. With its high obesity rates and marked absence of fresh vegetables the East Flatbush area is a prime location for such an endeavor. With many low-income neighborhoods in Brooklyn and NYC at large that have similar problems a super-local farming network like this one has the power to help alleviate some of the barriers that lead to poor food choices in these areas.
Cutting out the middle-man and delivering the produce straight to the Brooklyn consumer will help to lower the cost of fresh vegetables and perhaps change the bleak foodscape for some of the boroughs’ most underserved communities.
Whether or not this will translate to people actually making healthier food choices is yet to be seen. However, providing the option is the first step toward at least creating a more balanced variety of food choices throughout Brooklyn neighborhoods, a situation which is currently very uneven to say the least. As it currently stands the “posher” the neighborhood the more healthy and organic options line the shelves of the avenue’s stores. This is a reality that is often tied up with the high prices that can be charged in such areas. However, setting up a farmers market in front of a local school as is planned with the aforementioned East Flatbush high school will provide access and affordability to previously hard to find and expensive organic produce.
In keeping with the ‘beautify New York’ zeitgeist, BK Farmyards is currently working in conjunction with the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) to provide egg-hatching chickens and vegetable plots to some of their NYC parks and gardens. Community gardens and under-resourced parks could soon be unlikely new sources of food production throughout the city’s five boroughs. Where graffiti and weeds once reigned, fresh vegetables could now be flourishing. A strange imagery for New Yorkers to be sure, but it certainly sparks the imagination to envision the possibilities…
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– Amanda Decker