Award-winning Brooklyn-based architecture and landscape design firm Thread Collective, in collaboration with New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and Green City Force (GCF), have created Red Hook West Urban Farm, a one-acre agriculture installation in South Brooklyn.
The farm’s primary function is food production with healthy produce being sold at farmers markets by nonprofit group Added Value or donated to residents in need.
Of course there are many more positive externalities that have come from the initiative. Elliott Maltby, principal of Thread Collective, spoke to AN commenting that adding one acre of permeable land to the vicinity of the farm contributes to the resiliency of infrastructure in the area, which is prone to flooding issues.
Additionally, Maltby spoke about how the space serves as a communal hub with locals who often just use the area as a place to relax. This is reflected by the farm being totally open to the public, with no fence to segregate it off. “Establishing a collective ownership of the land,” Maltby said, “creates cohesion among the community. The project really acts as a vehicle to bring the neighborhood together.”
GCF runs the farm and also trains people to work the plot, keeping it in use as much as possible. Trainees, who tend to be younger residents, end up striking a dialogue with those who use the farm as a social space, bridging societal gaps and bringing the community together.
Growing your own produce and showing it off to the public (who can get tours of the farm) instills a great deal of civic pride. The visual accessibility of the farm plays a key role for residents, who according to Maltby have been seen checking up on their vegetables from their window ledges and even shouting down to people who are misusing it.
“Of course, the farm won’t look great all year round, it is a farm after all!” Maltby said, explaining that the farm, despite not being picturesque in the winter, adds a great deal of vibrancy during the spring and summer.
In terms of expanding the initiative, Thread Collective say they are working with GCF for potentially five more farms, though when and where these will be installed is not yet known.