Fresh Veggies Closer to Home for Ingersoll Houses

FORT GREENE -- Tables were piled high with peaches, eggplant, collard greens, carrots, plums, tomatoes, broccoli and more on Thursday in front of Ingersoll Houses on Myrtle Avenue. Behind the farm stand was the “Ingersoll Garden of Eden,” blooming with marigolds, butterfly bushes, lavender and daisies on what used to be a parched lawn in front of the large public housing development.

Edith Tucker is one of about 20 community members who have tended to the garden since it began last year. “Somebody’s always coming by and asking about the flowers and vegetables. I enjoy it,” she said, as she pointed with pride to a bush of small roses she planted.

Tucker has also been coming to the new farm stand every week since it opened on July 8. The supermarkets “are all far away” she says. “This helps.”

Both the garden and farm stand are part of the Myrtle Eats Fresh initiative conceived by the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP), a local development corporation aiming to restore the “Main Street” of the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill community to a bustling, economically vital neighborhood commercial corridor.

“Food access was an issue,” said Michael Blaise Backer, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, MARP’s parent organization.

Two of every five New Yorkers, and nearly 50 percent of households with children, can’t buy fresh, affordable food close to home, according to information from The New York Community Experience Partnership, which helps fund Myrtle Eats Fresh along with the Brooklyn Community Foundation.

The novice gardeners are also benefiting from a series of workshops on organic pest control, harvesting, seed saving and on ways to preserve the crop’s yield for the colder months. The program will begin working with residents of the nearby Walt Whitman and Farragut public houses to start similar gardens next season.

“This has been a very important issue because it involves people’s health and well being,” said Verdell Bivins, a community Board 2 member who came by the farm stand on Thursday. “We have a lot of children and families and they need the nutrition that fresh produce provides.”

Myrtle Eats Fresh also has a Community Chef program, in which residents have been trained to cook healthy recipes using fresh vegetables so they can demonstrate how to cook the recipes every other week at the farm stand and at other neighborhood venues. There is also the FRESH Teens program, which educates kids about shopping for and preparing fresh food, as well as the Fort Greene CSA , in which members can purchase farm fresh food at affordable prices directly from farmer Sergio Nolasco.