Added Value began in April 2000 by gathering community stakeholders and outside experts to discuss the lack of meaningful educational activities and employment opportunities for Red Hook teenagers. In the spring of 2001, Added Value convened a group of local youth, neighborhood leaders, community-based organizations and regional institutions to form our Community Advisory Committee. Guided through a participatory planning process by Heifer International, the Committee outlined a three-year plan to address food insecurity, unemployment and the alienation of youth from the Red Hook community.
In support of this community-driven vision, we assembled a small staff, wove together a network of like-minded organizations, and nurtured a team of committed individuals, interns and core volunteers.
Since 2001, Added Value has provided year-long training to more than 115 neighborhood teens. On a day-to-day basis youth are engaged creating a stronger healthier, more just and sustainable community. They are growing food from seed to sale, while specializing in either the development of agriculture-related business, the electronic documentation of the food justice movement, or community education and mobilization. Working an average of seventeen hours each week in our gardens, at market and on the computers, they receive a monthly stipend for their efforts to improve the community. Through their work, youth grow as community leaders, gaining the skills necessary to achieve their educational goals and broaden their career opportunities. Participants have facilitated workshops at conferences throughout the country, traveled abroad to study food systems creation and transformed acres of vacant land into the Red Hook Community Farm.
In April 2001, Red Hook’s only full service grocery store, the Big R, suddenly closed, forcing residents to purchase substandard food at the local bodegas or travel outside our community in search of fresh produce and health-promoting foods. Just eight weeks later with the support of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, we opened the Red Hook Farmers’ Market. (see RHFM). That spring, in the Walcott Street Community Garden we held our first induction ceremony for nine local teenagers.
2002 marked the beginning of our relationship with Heifer International. With their support Added Value drew together our Community Advisory Committee(CAC), a network of local residents and 20 community-based organizations, city agencies, and state-wide and national institutions and began to form our first five year plan.
With an injection of energy and the promise of new resources, 2002 became a year of growth and exploration. We held our first senior youth training with Jose and Steve working hard to educate and motivate their peers. That summer, inspired by the media work of Phil Shipman, Jose made a concerted effort to document his travels to Costa Rica. Upon his return, he wrote five letters to our community, thus giving birth to our Digital Horizons program.
In August 2003, Added Value partnered with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and Cornell University Cooperative Extension to transform an entire city block from a dilapidated playground into a center for urban agriculture. Red Hook Community Farm has become a vibrant community resource where young and old work, study and grow together as they sow, nurture and harvest plants on a 2.75 acre urban farm. The Farm is an intergenerational space that serves as an experiential educational environment for youth, adults and senior citizens. It provides sustenance to residents, creates meaningful work for neighborhood teens, generates thousands of dollars of economic activity and improves community food security.
With the opening of the Red Hook Community Farm in the fall of 2003, we were inundated with requests for field trips from local public schools. In late September, we hosted a number of classes from the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies. These visits and the programming that was developed with PS 27 in the spring of 2004 laid the foundation for our Farm Based Learning initiatives.
That same spring Added Value’s Co-founder, Michael Hurwitz made the decision to pursue a law degree and in the summer of that year, working side by side with Ian Marvy and Senior Youth Leader Tevon McNair, he led our first Summer Youth Employment program. In August, Michael left our staff and focused on developing our Board of directors.
While Michael’s departure from staff was a sad moment for those of us who worked with him and the teens whose lives he so deeply affected, it represented an incredible moment for us to reconfigure our staff and reinvigorate our board.
In the winter and spring of 2005, Caroline Loomis joined us as our community education coordinator, Shanti Nagel joined the staff as our Urban Farmer, and Cristina Chapman became our farm educator. In time, Phil Shipman would formally join our growing staff as well, supported by a greatly expanded board.
With a strong organizational structure our youth empowerment initiatives, farm based learning, and efforts to grow a more just and sustainable food system blossomed. In the fall of 2005, we drew together 800 members of community for our first annual Harvest Festival.
Since 2005 our staff and programs have grown in depth and scope. As our organization has grown our relationships with community-based organizations have strengthened, the number of individuals and institutions committed to a more food-secure New York City has expanded and the food justice movement has blossomed into a force for good throughout the country.
As a partner in this movement, Added Value’s work to address food injustice, promote community food security and environmental sustainability has taken great strides. Over the years we have:
Our innovative programs are now recognized locally, nationally and internationally as models for incorporating the principles of youth empowerment, community engagement and economic development into efforts that create a more just and sustainable Red Hook. Each day we find some comfort in the fact that while our work is broad is scope, it is rooted in practical work here in our neighborhood.
History of Red Hook Community Farm
On a late summer day in 2002, Ian Marvy and Ben Balcolm, an upstate farmer selling at the Red Hook Farmers’ Market went for a long stroll to see the harbor and have lunch. As they crossed the intersection of Columbia and Sigourney Streets Ben paused to consider an empty baseball field. Rather than seeing a broken fence, smashed bottles and a field of weeds, Ben saw a farm with great solar exposure, wind protection, and a chain link fence for security. The vision and foresight of this rural farmer inspired us to take action and work to build a vibrant urban farm right here in the heart of Red Hook.
Working in close concert with Partnerships For Parks, The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and our neighbors, we have begun to transform old Todd Memorial into Red Hook Community Farm.
In addition to being a working farm where produce is grown, the Farm serves as the primary platform for youth empowerment programs, our Farm Based Learning work, and the New Energy Initiative. Through these programs Red Hook Community Farm has become a place where we can nurture a shared vision, develop the skills necessary to build a more sustainable world, address global warming by lessening the environmental impact of our community and improving access to healthy affordable food.
Since opening the Farm in the Fall of 2003 our demonstrable outcomes include:
On the Farm our staff and Youth Leadership team are sowing the seeds of change by:
Building on their concrete experience, Added Value participants on the Farm have become leaders in our efforts to build a healthier community. Twice a week they set up and manage the Red Hook Farmers’ Market. Thursday afternoons we are outside the Red Hook Seniors Center, and Saturday’s Market is held at the Farm. In addition to cash sales and FMNP coupons, we utilize a cellular EBT device allowing customers to use federal benefits and credit cards throughout the Market, increasing access for residents and expanding the client base for regional farmers.
History of Red Hook Farmers’ Market
The Red Hook Farmers’ Market was established in June 2001. Opened in historic Coffey Park in the heart of Red Hook, Brooklyn, it has grew to become a hub of neighborhood activity and at the time served as the sole provider of fresh produce for neighborhood residents.
In May of 2001, Red Hook’s only supermarket closed its doors, leaving a vacuum in the community and a serious need for safe produce. Added Value seized upon this opportunity and decided to create the Red Hook Farmers Market. Opened in June of 2001, the Market was an immediate success; within two weeks the Market served approximately 200 weekly customers, our three farmers were averaging $1000 in weekly sales. Most importantly, the Market became a hub of neighborhood activity, serving as the sole provider of fresh produce to neighborhood residents, as well a fun place to interact with neighbors and to sit and enjoy the afternoon. The Market consisted of one conventional grower, an organic farmer who also brokered organic dairy products, one orchard, and the Added Value farm stand. The 2001 season concluded on the third Saturday in November and immediate planning began to expand the diversity of the Market and to attract more vendors for the coming year.
In June 2002 the Market opened with new energy and offering new products to customers. This past season the Market expanded to provide pasture-raised poultry and lamb, locally caught fish, and local baked goods. In September 2002 the Market became one of three New York City Farmers Markets to pilot a cellular device allowing customers to use Visa, Mastercard, Debit, and EBT cards at all participating farm stands. Similar to most New York City Farmers Markets, the 2002 Market experienced a drop in weekly attendance; approximately 150 customers, reducing average sales to roughly $700. Added Value attributed the reduction to current economic conditions, rather than to the Market’s popularity. To promote the Market, our youth participants distribured fliers in the three connecting neighborhoods twice each week, we coordinated special events with community partners, and offered various weekly specials to attract customers and local media attention.
In April 2003, the Red Hook Farmers’ Market Advisory Committee met to discuss the relocation of the Market to make it more accessible to the majority of Red Hook residents, as well as for the rest of South Brooklyn. We believed that the Markets’ new location at the intersection of Clinton Street and Centre Mall, the entrance to the Red Hook Houses East would expand foot traffic. However, it was a challenging season for us. With the acquisition of the Farm in the fall of 2003 we decided to bring the customers right to the Farm and since then our Market has been open seasonally from the first weekend in July until Thanksgiving.
The Market continues to serve as a hub of neighborhood activity that inspires, educates and motivates.