14 April 2020 | 9 minutes.

History and hustle: Urban agriculture in the Bronx

Shruti Manian
Master of Public Administration Candidate at Columbia University SIPA

Shruti Manian, Master of Public Administration Candidate at Columbia University SIPA

A small, youth-led urban farm offers insights into the renaissance of urban agriculture in one of New York City’s most food insecure and impoverished neighborhoods.

On a bright but chilly Friday in the first week of November, students, teachers and school administrators gather to celebrate the Morris Campus Educational Farm’s second annual harvest festival. The farm’s compact 14,000-square foot expanse is dotted with plant beds, a half-done greenhouse and an herb garden still in bloom thanks to New York’s unusually warm fall.

Tables laden with small portions of food are lined up next to the farm’s entrance. “Come on over, you gotta try some of this curried cauliflower soup!” a woman in a chef’s uniform calls to a small group of high school students, beckoning them closer to the tables.

“I don’t know about this, I usually like fast food,” says a girl as she sniffs doubtfully at the cauliflower concoction in front of her.

Growing food in community gardens became a way for people to preserve the heritage of the homes they had left while forming new ties in the homes they had chosen.

Kadeesha Williams, Chief Horticulturist, Bronx Green Up initiative

“The only thing is, your body can’t process so much fast food, and no one will see it until you’re in the emergency room,” the chef replied, without skipping a beat. With the martyred air of teenage resignation, the girl accepts a cup of soup and takes a tentative sip. “Oh,” she exclaims, “I actually like this!” Around her, her friends slowly start to shuffle forward to grab a cup for themselves.

Located in the south-west Bronx, the Morris Campus Educational Farm is part of a compound housing four public high schools. The farm was built in 2017 on what used to be a parking lot. Since then, each summer and fall, small groups of interns are chosen from each of the four schools to tend to the farm.

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