Case Study: PS 62
In July 2011, GrowNYC sent letters to every school in Hunts Point in hopes of enticing them to start a garden. There was not a single registered school garden in the region. One week later, Principal Manfredonia at P.S. 62 called the Grow to Learn office. Kindergarten teacher Ms. Johnson, along with five other parents and teachers, began working alongside GrowNYC’s staffer Madeleine Andersen who, thanks to funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, provides technical assistance to schools in high-need areas.
In the fall, P.S. 62 applied for and received a $2,000 Grow to Learn mini grant to purchase tools, shade plants, and indoor grow light kits; provide training for teachers and parents; and host a June harvest event. In the winter, teachers and committee members attended professional development workshops with GreenThumb, New York Botanical Garden, and GrowNYC. In the spring, teachers, students, parents, and community volunteers joined together to build eight raised beds and fill them with soil.
Now 170 New York City elementary students are digging, learning, eating, and experiencing all the joys and benefits of school gardens. P.S. 62 harvested lettuce, radishes, swiss chard, and basil from the garden and served them in the cafeteria as part of its first annual Garden to Café harvest festival.
Yanet Rojas, The Peoples’ Garden
Ever since Yanet can remember, she has always loved plants. When she was just 6 years old growing up in Lima, Peru, that love led her to create a garden where nobody thought a garden belonged, “a place where we didn’t have water, we didn’t have soil – it was a really a kind of desert. And we had a beautiful garden – the most unique garden in our neighborhood.” From that starting point, Yanet planted any seed she could get her hands on, imagining what could come from such little packages. “Gardening for me is a kind of philosophy, because you are not just growing plants, you are growing yourself – your humanity and your soul.”
Thankfully, Yanet has brought that love with her to her new home in Cypress Hills. “Inside, I think I am a person who preserves life.” Noticing that her new neighborhood did not have enough parks or gardens, Yanet started to talk with her neighbors and when the opportunity came to start a garden, she jumped on board. The process was long, “in the beginning, I was gardening in my mind,” and the work was difficult, “it was amazing, the people from GrowNYC, they appeared like a troop and they start working. In one day we had everything done…if we had to do[clean the site] without GrowNYC, we would still be working today (over a year). Many people, many hands, one goal – makes small work.” Yanet and her community did not relent, and they now have a space they are proud of. Yanet brings her three daughters to the garden and sees the effect it has on their outlook and character, “that is something that is making hope grow inside of me.