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by Slow Food USA intern Becca Chelton

At this time of year we are right in the middle of the harvest, and we will soon have a long winter to get through. However, it’s never too soon to start looking forward to the spring, especially if you have a new school garden to plan. One Slow Food NYC member has a new school garden project in the works that will bring a much needed school farm to Brownsville, Brooklyn. It’s an inspiring example of what Slow Food members are doing all over the country, and a great way to protect yourself from the winter blues. The project is being spearheaded by Nora Painten, who spent this summer running a very successful summer garden program for the local children. Seeing the overwhelming support of the community inspired Nora to start a new farm in a vacant lot near Public School 323.

“I was working in Brownsville this past summer, and every day I would bike past a lot of vacant lost, but this one stood out because it was big and sunny, so I looked it up and it turns out that it was owned by the city. I wasn’t totally sure that I would be this supported and encouraged, but since I have, it’s been moving really fast and snowballing. There is a public school about half a block away, which I had never noticed, but once I found the space and started looking into the school, it was just the perfect marriage of ideas.”

Nora’s plans include a new water system (as there is currently no water running to the property), growing beds, and fencing. These three basic elements will allow them to start sowing seeds, planting flowers, fruit trees and perennials, and installing a chicken coop.

If everything goes according to plan, classes will start in May 2012. Teachers of all subjects can teach aspects of their curriculum in the garden. A core group of older students will become garden stewards, who help tend it over the summer and distribute fresh food throughout the community. This project is just one example of how an individual member can make a huge difference to a community in need. Nora spoke to us about how she got inspired.

“The most important part of the project is to bring food education and fresh produce into a neighborhood where there is very little of that. Diabetes and other health problems can be avoided by a decent food education. I think it’s important to consider all neighborhoods in NYC when thinking about greening cities and gardens. Often it’s done in places where people can afford to spend time thinking about these things. It’s about getting to all kids early and turning them into life long healthy eaters. If they become healthy eaters as kids, that turns into demand and buying power at the farmers market and for local food products.”

Nora hopes to have the necessary funds raised by November 27th so that she can start clearing out the lot over the winter and making plans for construction in the spring. Donors are invited to get involved in the garden on it’s completion. See the garden’s donation page for more details on what the garden will look like, and how you can help. So far they have reached 60% of their goal. If you have questions or would like to get involved, you can contact Nora at npainten@gmail.com.