Here at Brooklyn Based we spend a lot of time talking (and thinking) about food. We love producing dinners and tastings, sharing our scoops on openings, and interviewing our favorite foodies. But despite all the talented chefs and fantastic restaurants in the borough, there are still a lot of people here who are hungry and who don’t have access to the high quality ingredients and fresh produce that have put Brooklyn dining in the spotlight.
Tomorrow, on Saturday, May 2, the first annual Brooklyn Food Conference will address issues ranging from food insecurity, to keeping chickens in the city, to food as culture. The conference is at John Jay High School in Park Slope, and free to all comers, though pre-registration is strongly encouraged.
Yonette Fleming, vice president of the Hattie Carthan Garden in Bed-Stuy, one of the oldest community gardens in Brooklyn, will be speaking on Saturday on a panel about food justice. As a gardener, herbalist and organizer, Fleming has helped establish a tangible connection between community gardens (and yes, there’s a waiting list at Hattie Carthan) and personal, environmental and neighborhood health. “It goes beyond a hobby,” she says. “If we look at all the more than 600 community gardens in the city it becomes a real source of urban agriculture and food production.”
Fleming has not only helped her friends and neighbors transform their diets, she’s used food to strengthen her community. An annual international food festival at the garden draws hundreds of visitors eager to sample food from around the world. And this July, the garden will launch its first ever farmer’s market in an adjacent lot that Fleming transformed from a place where, “lots of, how can I put it, undesirable activity, was going on,” to a neighborhood resource.
One of the challenges specific to building a garden in Bed-Stuy is that many members of the large Southern community in the neighborhood associate farming with sharecropping and poverty. “They had horrific experiences around agriculture,” Fleming explains. She works to “engage and build bridges” so that garden members enjoy the benefits not only of raising fresh, healthy food, but appreciate farming as a chance to be active and to do good work for one’s own satisfaction.
The conference will include a few “name” locavores like Dan Barber. But above all it will be full of movers and shakers like Fleming, a real showcase of community projects, groups and gardens, all working toward social justice and food security, not foie gras, for all.
Brooklyn Food Conference, 9 am to 7 pm, Saturday, May 2. John Jay High School, 237 7th Ave., Park Slope
Sent by Annaliese. Photos courtesy of Chris Kreussling (Flatbush Gardener).