Gardening and Climate Change

Imagephoto by Ian MacDonald

Spring, a time of growth and renewal, is well on display at 462 Halsey. The planters are built, and our seedlings growing. The long, cold spring provided us ample time to rebuild the garden (or so I say on this end of the work). Unfortunately, Spring has not been kind to many. From severe droughts in California to frozen fields in the Midwest and  newly released studies about glaciers that threaten to submerge us all, the bad news is a stark contrast to our beautiful blooms.

At times like this, I love to dive deeper into gardening. The combination of physical labor, mental challenges and beautiful nature provides a great escape. But more than that, gardening at 462 Halsey is a source of hope and potential in an increasingly unstable world. Each day in the garden, reaping what we sow produces more than just fruits and vegetables. We are growing an informed community, capable of building sustainable food systems in once-toxic, abandoned spaces throughout the city.

A few years ago, I visited Detroit. I was amazed by the number of people growing food in their backyards. To this urban farmer, it felt like a little Utopia. But as we all know, Detroit is not Utopia. Necessity is the mother of all invention. The people of Detroit grow their own food because much of the city is a food dessert. Bed-Stuy doesn’t lack fresh food available at stores the way Detroit does, but we do have plenty of our own challenges. For example, as the neighborhood gentrifies, many members of our community are priced out.

One healthy, affordable food option in the neighborhood is available at 462 Halsey: the Grow NYC Food Boxes. The healthy, CSA-inspired program provides a big box of fruits and vegetables for around $10 every week. It is one of our most popular programs. This year, the program start is delayed by two weeks from last year (and a month from the projected start date) due to the long, cold spring. My trips to the farmer’s market this season have been sad – there’s just not much food available. A few weeks delay here and there may not seem like a huge deal, but all of these changes are indicative of strained food systems and rising prices as we struggle to adapt to climate change.

The federal government predicts food prices will rise 3.5% this year, after similar jumps in 2008 (5.5%) and 2011 (3.7%). According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, California produced 65% of the nation’s non-citrus fruit/nut, 30% of citrus and 48% of the nation’s vegetables and melons in 2012. Today 95.93% of California is suffering from extreme drought. Fruit crops throughout the Midwest were damaged in the polar vortex. Florida’s citrus crops are in danger. The reasons why large-scale agribusiness are no longer sustainable go on and on.

Rather than stay home and be depressed about our impending doom, come out and join us 462 Halsey! Learn to grow food, become a solution to this massive problem and grab some greens for dinner.