The garden was named after a prominent Brooklyn environmentalist who was instrumental in planting over 1500 trees in Brooklyn. The organization was formed in 1991 and has since been a place that is multigenerational and multicultural for a little under two decades in Bed Stuy Brooklyn. Our community garden site sits on what was originally the site of St. Augustine church and school which caught fire and burned to the ground. The lots lay vacant for many years before the Magnolia Earth and Tree center, which was also started by Carthan, who took possession of the land and began working to restore it back to life.
In the mid-1990’s the garden was targeted to become a local police site and the gardeners worked with local politicians (councilwoman Mary Pinkett) and local residents to rally and distribute petitions which halted the sale of the property. The garden received preserved landmark status as a result of the garden’s organizing efforts and became an Operation Greenthumb site.
The Hattie Carthan garden currently has 60 members on the books, 45 individual plots, a large herb garden, a host of flower beds and islands, fruit trees (fig, peach, apple, plum, sour cherry and apricot). Within the last six years, our garden has expanded its food security and environmental justice programming in order to advance community resilience to the issues 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 and film festival and cooking demonstrations with youth and senior populations. The garden is a solution to the problem of food insecurity and increases healthy food access to members in a district considered a food desert.
Last year, the Hattie Carthan was recognized for “best agricultural practices” in the Northeast region and was chosen as a model urban agriculture site for the United Nations urban farm tour. The garden’s members led a community based building project in collaboration with Magnolia Tree and Earth center’s Project Green initiative to construct a professional hoophouse which will increase our capacity to grow more fresh food, and is the second community garden in New York city to embark on building a compost dry toilet for our community use. The garden donates a percentage of locally grown fresh food to neighborhood senior citizen centers .
The Hattie Carthan garden has recently reclaimed an abandoned land parcel which was used to dumping toxic materials for over twenty years. We are currently converting that blighted property into a thriving farmers market which will increase the neighborhoods limited access to fresh food while simultaneously connecting neighborhood residents to local farmers and their food.
Across the United and States, rates of obesity and diabetes are increasing dramatically, particularly within lower-income, African-American, and Latino communities. In New York City neighborhoods like Bed Stuy in Central Brooklyn where a third of residents live in poverty, more than 12 % of adults have diabetes, compared to 8 % nationwide. In these settings, a growing body of research points to the intersection between low rates of consumption of healthy foods – such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains – and limited access to healthy choices as driving disease rates. Less than 8 % of the primarily African-American and Latino residents in these communities report eating the recommended five or more servings of fruits or vegetables per day; twenty percent report eating none at all. The mix of food retail options in these neighborhoods is dominated by small grocery stores (“bodegas”) selling mainly processed foods, and residents have less access to fresh foods than in wealthier parts of New York City.
About Yonette (Reign) Fleming
Yonnette Fleming is a visionary, musician and food and environmental justice activist who currently lives in Brooklyn. Fleming was born in Guyana, South America and migrated to the United States at age sixteen. Her community service work in New York began in 1996 as a volunteer at domestic violence shelters and food pantries in Brooklyn and has expanded exponentially since. Her service work range from conducting feminine empowerment, social and economic justice, fundraising, health & nutrition, food security and advocacy workshops, community councils to building community through rhythmic entrainment in communities across the United States.
Fleming’s leadership style is highly transformational and democratic. As a community leader and advocate she spends her time helping community members to gain an understanding of the big picture of agriculture and ecology issues. Her goal is to utilize the strengths of the gardens’ membership to create a thriving urban agriculture project which offers solutions to social and economic issues of the surrounding neighborhood. This approach is sustainable and inclusive.
Over the last year, Fleming has worked with neighborhood schools to cultivate health and sustainability from the impressionable years by creating a garden based curriculum which promotes science, social studies, art and music and using the garden as an outdoor learning center for elementary school children in the Brooklyn community. This sustainable partnership will help the garden to not just grow food and adults but to also create a new network of little people who are passionate and committed to the environment, sustainable living and community activism.
Size: 1.42 acres
Location: Lafayette & Marcy avenues. Brooklyn NYC
Current Principal organizer’s name: Yonnette Fleming
Jurisdiction: New York City Parks & Recreation Operation Greenthumb
Leadership style: Transformational/participative