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North Brooklyn Residents Raise More than $52K for Two Urban Farms

By Serena Dai | July 11, 2014 2:36pm | Updated on July 14, 2014 8:46am
 North Brooklyn Farms set up in South Williamsburg a year ago and recently raised more than $20,000 to find a new space.
North Brooklyn Farms set up in South Williamsburg a year ago and recently raised more than $20,000 to find a new space.
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North Brooklyn Farms

WILLIAMSBURG — North Brooklyn residents are willing to open their wallets for more green space in the neighborhood.

Two Kickstarter campaigns aimed at creating urban farms — one in South Williamsburg and another in Bushwick — met their fundraising goals in the last week, raising more than $52,000 combined.

North Brooklyn Farms, which currently runs a temporary farm and a park on the Domino Sugar factory property, set out to raise $15,000 to find a new lot in South Williamsburg. It ultimately raised more than $20,000.

And EcoStation:NY asked for $30,000 to help build a new rooftop farm and fund youth programming in Bushwick at 214 Starr St. The organization raised more than $31,000 for the "Farm-In-The-Sky."

"It's one thing for someone to say they want something to be here," said Ryan Watson, co-founder of North Brooklyn Farms.

"For people to actually show up when we needed their help was deeply meaningful for us."

North Brooklyn Farms set up at 329 Kent Ave. last year to make use of the vacant lot, knowing that it would eventually have to leave for the construction of residential towers.

But after setting up farms, weekly dinners and visits from elementary school students, Watson and co-founder Henry Sweets saw how much the community enjoyed the park and farm.

Both of them now work on North Brooklyn Farms full-time and decided that finding another lot to build a farm and park would be worthwhile. Leaving, Watson said, "was a really heartbreaking thought."

"South Williamsburg doesn't have McCarren Park," he said. "This space means a lot to a lot of people."

With the money, they are hiring more people for children's education programs, increasing production, keeping the park open for more days and looking for a new site to move into.

For EcoStation, some of the money went toward paying local high school students for the summer to help with the rooftop farm's build out — part of the organization's dedication to involving youth on its farm.

The new farm doubles EcoStation's production capacity to grow veggies that are then ultimately sold in a weekly farmers market or donated to local food programs. 

The group received a grant from United Way of New York City that the Kickstarter money was intended to match, but finding grants for the project has largely been a struggle, said Maggie Cheney, director of farms and education for EcoStation.

That's why they turned to the community, she said.

"We're not just creating a rooftop to grow food for our friends," she said. "We're really about education and access to green space and access to knowledge about how to grow food."

For both campaigns, most of the contributions came in smaller amounts — a sign, they said, that "it was a widespread community effort," Watson said.

"It was a reflection of encouragement from the community," he said.