Farmers and sustainable living enthusiasts are convening throughout NYC to support the GreenThumb program’s community gardens. Spread across numerous neighborhoods, these gardens offer a green summer sanctuary as well as fresh fruits and vegetables to local communities who may be in need.
This summer, the garden count has reached 553, all of which are cultivated by a dedicated crowd of 20,000 volunteers. There is now an annual budget of $2.9 million as well as a staff of 35 people who offer free training and ongoing support, as well as tools and materials. Located on public or city-owned property, the gardens have been the subject of several real estate-related disputes. For the most part, though, the gardens are considered an integral piece of NYC.
GreenThumb director Bill LoSasso, explained that the project is especially beneficial in communities with many new immigrants.
“Sometimes when you arrive in a new place, you don’t have a network you can tap into for support. By joining a community garden, you’re joining a network of neighbors who are coming from diverse backgrounds who can help new members of their community to get settled.”
Many newcomers to NYC have roots in agriculture as well, making community gardens a familiar, comfortable place for them to meet like-minded community members.
Mr. Efrain Estrada, for example, grows peppers, eggplants, okra and squash. Originally from Puerto Rico, Estrada has confessed that he used to hate working on his family’s farm. Now, he is actively involved in his community garden, and grows so many vegetables that he sends some home to his relatives. “I had farming in my blood,” he says.