Added Value Farms is an urban farm and compost operation in Red Hook, mostly run by local youth in the community. Founded in 2001, its goal is to provide affordable produce to people in the community. Staff also employ teens to work the farm as a way to provide educational growth and positive mentoring to them.
When news came that Superstorm Sandy was expected to hit the area, workers tried to take precaution to keep the farm safe.
“There’s nothing really that you can do to secure the crops, but we did do some harvesting ahead of time in anticipation,” says founding board member and volunteer farmer John Ameroso. “We wanted to grab as many things as possible and put it into one of the containers just to get it out of the field so it doesn’t take a lot of damage. And that’s about it. Not realizing the intensity of the storm.”
Ameroso says when Sandy finally hit on October 29, 2012, all the crops were destroyed.
“Everything on the farm was all over the place,” he says. “We knew the growing season was over. And we knew we would not be able to grow anything at that point because there was concern about the soil with contaminants.”
Ameroso says they sought assistance from the Department of Sanitation to test the grounds to make sure levels were safe. After months of continuous work and help from volunteers, the soil was replaced and Added Value Farms was able to successfully start producing crops again for the 2014 season. Its success is something executive director Saara Nafici says is essential to keeping a site that means so much to the community.
“I think a lot of neighborhoods, especially low income neighborhoods of color, their access to open green space is not as robust as other neighborhoods,” says Nafici. “The farm is a place that’s open. You can walk through. You don’t have to be a paying participant of a particular program or a member. You can just come and be o the farm. And if this is a place for you to get food, great. If it’s just a place for you to just have some open space a little bit away from the loudness from the rest of the city, we offer that to out community members.”
Added Value sells produce at its Saturday markets or through its CSA program. Food is also donated to local pantries.
City Limits’ coverage of food policy is supported by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund.