Participatory Budgeting Projects
For Warren-St Marks Community Garden (WSM)
Preface and what we can Offer
Location: between Warren and St Marks Streets and between 4th and 5th Avenues
During the months from March 15 through June, we were extremely careful at the Warren-St Marks Community Garden. We followed the New York City guidelines carefully and closed our garden to the public.
However, our Community Garden is unique in that it has chickens, and they must be cared for and fed. We have a team that fulfills this role on a set schedule. We determined that the team could continue
to feed and care for the chickens, since only one person, or one household does this task at a time,
and no one else was permitted in the Garden while the caretakers for the chickens (aka Chicken Tenders) did their work. During this time, the Chicken Tenders could enjoy the growing garden, the
fresh air, and the amusing chickens let out of the coop to graze, as we cleaned their coop and
prepared their food. It was a luxury to have to get out and enjoy the new growths in the plots and
the movement of the animals. We wished we could share it then.
What we Offer Now
1. Chickens: We still have our chickens, now seven hens. We provide them with food that we purchase, and prescribed snacks from our kitchens (basically fruit rinds and seeds). We also get
Veterinary medicine, as needed. Children, and adults from the community are welcome, as
long as everyone follows mandates from the city and recommendations from New York
City Parks Department. We have a small team of 3 people that thoroughly clean the chicken
Coop every Sunday morning. It is a rotating cleaning team with clearly defined tasks. We let
the chickens out to roam while we clean.
There is a superb education opportunity here for children to learn about chickens, how to
Care for them, and where eggs come from. Children generally watch with delight as chickens
roam through the Garden, delighting in wallowing in “dirt baths” and digging for worms.
2. Compost. The WSM Garden has a well-organized compost “system” of three open bins,
with wood separators that can be moved. The three bins represent three stages of compost
development. The first is for recently cut weeds and pruned growth; the second is for more developed compost and growth, and that is moved to the third section, which has turned the composted weeds and excess growth into rich compost soil. That soil is removed and placed into individual garden plots and provides nutrients for the plants that grow so well. Part of this ‘system’ is a set of three closed bins that are filled with plant waste from our kitchens. Garden members, and to a limited extent, community members can empty their vegetable and fruit waste into these closed bins, which are layered with wood shavings to help turn the plant-based food waste into soil. At early stages of this development, that developing food waste
Is transferred to 1st and 2nd stage open compost development, and layered to turn the waste into soil. Our thermometers tell us that developing compost can reach temperatures close to 180 degrees or higher. This compost development intrigues children, and is a wonderful education tool for both children and adults.
3. Garden plots. The WSM Garden has dozens of plots, both individual for individual members and community plots, shared by all members of the garden. All manner of vegetables and herbs, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, mint, basil, eggplant, even grapes, pears and figs (just to name a few) are grown in this garden, in soil developed from our rich composting system, and leaves we collect from the garden, and from our surrounding community. To see this develop from seedlings into a forest of food at various stages may be the richest lesson any community garden has to offer to children, and folks of all ages in District 39, in Brooklyn and throughout New York City. We are a tourist attraction for guests from other states and countries.
What we Need
A garden has constant needs, from the purchase of soil, seeds, benches, tables, wood shavings, paint for fences, tools and sheds and upkeep. A garden with animals has much more expensive needs, including chicken feed, upkeep of coops, medicine and veterinary bills and much more. We are currently operating with a broken water system that requires us to collect rain water in large tanks that we have attached to hoses for the purpose of watering our plots. This is challenging in the heat of July and August.
Every dollar the community invests in WSM has a return for the community, from the education of our children, the relaxation of sitting in a quiet place that occupies a city block, full of greenery and variety of growth, plus the great opportunity to see unusual animals—all in the middle of Brooklyn. One professional member has already begun a 40-hour 5th grade curriculum. We need more funds for curriculum development, supplies, paper, art, materials and to draw circles for social distancing.
We have a natural place to educate our population about what can grow in Brooklyn, how we can sustain our resources, and increase our food supply on the local level, and even keep unusual animals. We could provide more formal classes regularly, plus more informal, hands-on education at pop-up classes that we can schedule with any interested groups, including schools.
We can also work with school and community groups, and would need help in publicizing and scheduling all we could offer the community.
The veterinarian and medical bills alone have been at least hundreds of dollars this year. The funds to repair our water system would make life much easier for our volunteers, our plants and our chickens. We are told that project would cost at least $10,000.
Anecdotal: We recently honored a request to hold a wedding in the Garden. Had the couple, the person officiating, and one witness, socially distant (chickens also witnessed).
If you need further information, please contact me.
Participatory Budgeting Projects