Amidst an abandoned lot, riddled with rubble, shards of glass and used drug paraphernalia, two Bushwick residents share visions of green fertile pastures.
Standing at the edge of what was once a tent city, squatted upon by numerous vagrants, Bushwick City Farm founders, Masha Radzinsky and Vincent Olsen ponder expanding their ecological agenda.
Their mission is to reclaim vacant and decaying lots throughout the Bushwick community, and revitalize these neglected spaces, creating areas that will provide tangible benefits to the surrounding neighborhood.
Founded just over two years ago, Bushwick City Farm has gone from a grassroots project to a community staple that residents have come to rely on.
Nestled under the rumbling J train, on Broadway between Belvedere Street and Arion Place, sits Bushwick’s first fully functioning urban farm.
Established as a self-sufficient garden, the farm now produces a steady stream of organic eggs, propagated poultry and fresh produce for those in need of a cost-free, healthy meal.
Since its inception the farm has become an additional source of food for locals struggling to put meals on their tables. Once a week, with the help of volunteers, the farm distributes its freshly grown produce, clothing and free bread donated from a local bakery.
Not only does the environmentally friendly group work with local businesses to provide charity to the needy, they also offer Bushwick residents a unique opportunity to experience a practical model of food production.
Chris Lugo, of Bushwick, has been volunteering at the farm for over three months. Since joining as a volunteer, he has seen the benefit sharing the space with the community.
“This is a living classroom, essentially,” said Lugo of the Farm’s educational initiatives. “The skills we teach visitors here will always be with them.”
Entertaining class trips from local schools throughout the area, Bushwick City Farm imparts youth with the ideal model of a self-sustaining citizen of the future.
Operating on a “give what you can, take only what you need” basis, the farm caters to the less fortunate in the community and provides the needy with a helping hand that sometimes can be hard to find. “These types of spaces are missing in the city,” said Olsen as he let the hens loose from their coop. “We, as a community, make all this happen together.”
As opposed to City funded community gardens, Bushwick City Farm is open all year round and funded entirely by donations collected from the public at fundraisers.
Entering their second season, Bushwick City Farm is holding a three-day fundraiser March 18-20, to finance future projects that will not only expand the group’s green initiative but also provide the necessary supplies they need to run their English language classes.
Encouraging locals to donate books and drop off donations, the group is somewhat hopeful that they will eventually reach their goal of collecting $800.
“With this money we will be able to buy the necessary furniture and supplies to continue running the program,” said Radzinsky. “Even though we could use more it will help us carry one for the next couple of months.
Promoting a firm knowledge of green initiatives, Bushwick City Farm is also seeking to expand their network within the community and share their knowledge of crop cultivation with others.
Located at the corner of Bushwick Ave and Beaver Street, across from newly built affordable housing units for seniors, lies a slice of land that Radzinsky believes will become Bushwick’s “green legacy.”
Working in conjunction with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, Bushwick City Farm has already set in motion a project that they believe will teach a community how to cultivate their own crops and eventually feed hundreds.
“Without donations, though, we won’t be able to make this happen,” said Radzinsky.
Already recognized by the City, the group is now only months away from gaining access to the deserted concrete space and are now reaching out to the community to help fund their venture.
“[Bushwick] has so much negative space,” said Radzinsky, as she surveyed the 8,000 square foot vacant lot, which will soon be the site of their next conquest. “With this space we’ll definitely claim back the term community garden.”
For more information about the fundraiser go to Bushwickcityfarm.wordpress.com.
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