HELL’S KITCHEN — A rooftop farm on West 40th Street that hopes to launch a paid summer internship program this summer needs some help from its neighbors.
The Hell’s Kitchen Farm Project, which grows vegetables and fruits on the roof of Metro Baptist Church at 410 W. 40th St., is one of five nonprofit finalists that the public can vote for to win a Green Festival Community Award.
The award's $5,000 grant would allow the farm to launch a program to staff up to 10 paid interns from the neighborhood. Through the program, interns would gain hands-on farming experience and learn the ins and outs of small-scale agriculture and food advocacy, founding member Tiffany Triplett Henkel said.
“Our goal for this year is to be able to provide youth internships that are paid… so that we can have teenagers… on the farm weekly, not just for one event, but seeing it all the way through,” she said.
Since it wrapped up its first growing season in 2011, the farm’s team of volunteers have grown vegetables like tomatoes, beans, leafy greens and peppers on the roof of the church, said Rev. Joseph Perdue, Metro Baptist Church’s food justice coordinator.
This past season, the farm grew about 400 pounds of vegetables, which were either given out at the church’s weekly food pantry or used as part of the farm’s educational programs.
New additions to the farm include two apple trees and okra plants, Perdue said.
“We’re an experimental farm, so we tried doing corn, and that didn’t do as well, but okra surprised us,” he said. “This coming season, we’re going to plant quite a bit more okra.”
The CSA accepts SNAP benefits and offers discounted rates to people with lower incomes, Perdue said.
Bringing fresh vegetables and nutrition education to areas being priced out of affordable food has been a goal of the project since it started, Henkel added.
The project was nominated for the award last year, but ended up finishing the runner-up, she said.
This year, members of the public have until 5 p.m. on April 14 to cast their votes for their finalist of choice. Green Festival, which hosts a yearly event focused on sustainability and green living, will announce a winner on April 17.
“I think we’re probably again this year up against some larger organizations that have a lot more backing than we do," Henkel said, "but we know we’re doing great work in the community."