A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

by: Sarah Kess

August 4, 2012

Food brings people together in a way few other things can. This, says the team behind the organization Artfully Unforgotten, is the reason why The Recyclers’ Urban Farm and Garden exists in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn. The garden is a collaboration between Artfully Unforgotten and the organizations Sure We Can and Musgo.

Recyclers'  Urban Farm and Garden

Heather Metcalfe founded Artfully Unforgotten in 2007 with the mission of raising resources for communities through art. Heather soon crossed paths with Ana Martinez de Luco, the creator of Sure We Can, an organization made up of homeless canners that seeks to provide opportunities for the homeless. Last year, Ana came in contact with Musgo, an activist group that focuses on environmental sustainability and food justice.  The groups decided to embark on a project that would combine their missions and interests. The resulting Recyclers’ Urban Farm and Garden is designed to bring people in the community together, while creating beauty in what would otherwise be an empty city space.

Food produced on site is shared with volunteers and canners. The donation of a scale allows the groups to weigh what they harvest: 2.4 pounds of green beans, 1.6 pounds of green peppers, and 2 pounds of potatoes. The recent addition of a chicken coop means the production of eggs, which are often used as a local bartering tool.

Students from Brooklyn Latin School participate in a series of video workshops hosted by Artfully Unforgotten, which will eventually be part of a web series about the farm and garden. Other workshops planned for the coming weeks will bring members of the community together in order to use gathered on-site materials—un-recyclable bottles, tires and scraps—to create art for the garden.

community planting in Recyclers' Urban Farm and Garden

“Food has always been a community-building thread in society,” says Artfully Unforgotten’s Clara Jablonski. “So much human interaction is based on or around having a meal, breaking bread, cooking a dish or enjoying a holiday family dinner. This is true around the world, regardless of ethnicity, race, creed, religion or any other divisive category that we have created.”

“The labor which the garden needed to bring it to fruition has been a great way for neighbors who never knew each other to meet, work alongside the bottlers who are at the recycling center, and even work alongside the local students who volunteer their time,” she adds. “From planting to decorating the garden, it’s been a tremendous group effort and continues to be so.”

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