Hattie Carthan: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
A look at Hattie Carthan's revolutionary work in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn. 

The Hattie Carthan Community Markets seek to enhance the quality of life in the Bedford-Stuyvesant Central Brooklyn area by:

 

  • Providing a quality market and entrepreneurial opportunities for a variety of locally grown and value added farm products and commodities directly to the customer

  • Preserving Brooklyns agricultural heritage

  • Providing opportunities for farmers and people from outside communities to deal directly with each other rather than through third parties and thereby get to know and learn from one another

  • Creating a quality market which provides fresh locally grown food to community residents

  • Providing a community space that fosters intergenerational gatherings, healthy food education food and farm justice activities and entrepreneurship.

  • Our market programs sustain community health, good nutrition, energy, human dignity, and the opportunity for individuals to meet their full potential.

The Hattie Carthan Garden was formed in 1991 as a place where humans could expand their knowledge of plants and grow fresh food in Brooklyn. The garden has been a place that is multigenerational and multicultural for over two decades in Bedford-Stuyesant, Brooklyn. We aim to create an atmosphere of collective awareness, respect and responsibility built on the resources of our community. 

 

The garden and market resides on 2.076 acres of land with bearing fruit trees, a functioning hoophouse, a chicken coop, a functioning community composting system and seasonal market that operates from July to November. 

 

The Hattie Carthan Community Garden has advocacy and changemaking at its core. The garden is named after Bedford Stuyvesant community advocate and icon Hattie Carthan, who was instrumental in the planting of over fifteen hundred trees in Bedford Stuyvesant and the creation of the Magnolia Tree and Earth Center, a group of people who were the original guardians of the community garden. Under the leadership of Ms. Hattie Carthan, the founder of MTEC, a Green Movement comprised of African Americans and Caribbeans began. Ms. Carthan's goal was to develop the skills and attitudes among Bedford-Stuyvesant residents of all ages that would foster urban beautification, environmental awareness and develop human potential.

 

Our garden currently sits on what was the original site of St Augustine church and school. The lots lay vacant until MTEC took them over and worked with community residents to create a beautiful garden. In 1991 the garden was named after the famous community advocate and environmentalist Hattie Carthan. In the mid 90s the garden was slated to become the site for Bed Stuy chapter of PAL. The successful petitioning and rallying of gardeners, community residents and well-wishers worked with their councilmember, Mary Pinkett to halt the sale of the property.  The garden continues to garner support from the community's representatives.  The garden enjoys the support and respect of our NYS Senator Velmanette Montgomery who shows up in our new market occasionally for community programs and conferences. Councilman Al Vann currently supports our Youth internship program which allows neighborhood youths to learn about farming in the garden and earn by working in the market from July to November.

 

Over the last decade, our garden has expanded its food security and environmental justice programming in order to address the issue of food insecurity and health disparities evident in the Bed Stuy neighborhood by adding nutrition awareness and food security workshops, wellbeing workshops, intergenerational community councils, an international food festival and cooking demonstrations with youth and senior populations. The garden has made several strategic moves to increase community resilience to the issue of food insecurity in Central Brooklyn: our new hoophouse allows our community gardeners to extend the growing season and educates our children about growing food from seed. Livestock raised on the farm provides eggs to community residents as well as manure for the plants. Using manure eliminates the need to use chemical fertilizers.

 

In 2009, community advocate Yonnette Fleming led gardeners to revitalize and reclaim an abandoned land parcel which was used to dump toxic materials for over twenty years. Thousands of volunteer hours helped us to convert that blighted property into a thriving Farmers' Market which increases the neighborhood's limited access to fresh food and thus our overall community health. In the first year, the farmers' market distributed over eight thousand pounds of fresh food and employed seven neighborhood teenagers to learn on the farm and work in the market. 

 

As per the NYPD Compstat statistics, the market is located on one of the most dangerous blocks in Bedford Stuyvesant Brooklyn. In 2009 there were several shootings resulting in death. A few of those shootings occurred within 200 feet of the market. 

 

The shootings and violence around parks and markets in Central Brooklyn prompted the market Project director and trained Just Food advocate Yonnette Fleming to begin advocating for safer streets around farmers markets located in high crime neighborhoods. In the summer of 2010, the garden received a DOHMH PlayStreets award to engage community residents in food and fitness activities on Clifton Place, one of the garden and market's bordering streets. 

 

Ms Fleming was also instrumental in creating and administering a four part basic advocacy training series to staff from 23 food and fitness organizations. This basic advocacy training assisted community leaders from those organizations to understand how to educate, organize and mobilize people around public safety in the community, effectively communicate their needs to elected politicians in order to effect positive change in their communities. In 2009 Fleming received the Food Justice award from Green Guerillas and was recognized again in 2010 with an award for her contributions to food justice in NYC and the Vision of Health award from Senator Montgomery.

 

In 2011, Fleming established jurisdiction and signed a license with the city to revitalize another abandoned lot. The new Herban Farm is home to over eighty varies of herbs and is a fine example of an urban farm model that factors in the needs of the environment and people. The neat rows and cornucopia of food spilling from growbags is the vision and design of urban farmer Yonnette Fleming who was instrumental in organizing community residents to revitalize the space for urban farming. The new farm has a hoophouse, large three bin composting system and runs a Sunday market to increase access to fresh food and educate community residents about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables to the human. The programs in the garden, market and farm educate and empower residents of the community.

The Garden strives to: 

 

Preserve the agricultural heritage of Brooklyn 

Serve as an intergenerational space for reflection, inspiration, education, and training for those who visit 

Preserve the biodiversity of life, whose continuing decline threatens the health of our agricultural and natural ecosystems 

Provide an outdoor learning classroom where children and adults become exposed to a working garden

Make a connection between the complexity of the natural world and our role as nature's caretakers.

American Public Health Association: Environment Health You
by: Lila Films

 

How did we get here, where are we going?

This short film presents a historical overview of public and environmental health in the United States over the past century. It's a complex story of the interconnections between air, water, soil, food production and distribution, chemicals, population, climate change, national, state and local policy, and communities taking their health into their own hands. Learn about the success and challenges, regulations and radical changes this country has seen in the past century.


Co-Produced by Deborah Fryer and Jill Litt
Written, Edited, and Directed by Deborah Fryer 

Multimedia Publication: Towards Food Sovereignty