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April 2016 Grants News | Notes from the Field 

My Adventures on an Urban Farm 

Public housing resident and Green City Force corp member Domingo Morales, 23, learns about beekeeping.

By Domingo Morales, 23, a resident of the Woodrow Wilson Houses in East Harlem.
He told his story to David L. Marcus of The Trust.

Who cares about the environment? 

That’s what I used to think. I was leaving the lights on all day, taking hour-long showers, tossing stuff that could have been composted.

I heard about an AmeriCorps program that teaches urban farming and gardening to young people in housing projects, but I was skeptical. Farming? I figured that was for slaves. The program would mean a two-hour round trip by subway to the Red Hook Houses in Brooklyn from my mom’s apartment in East Harlem. A waste of time, I thought.

By my second day in Red Hook, I was transplanting flats of tomato plants. It was peaceful, therapeutic. We composted food scraps, we taught kids about the environment, we watched saplings grow and thrive. Radishes, turnips, beets, garlic—I started to cook and eat them, because I grew them myself. Before this I worked in a salad restaurant, where I could’ve eaten for free, but instead I went out for fast food.

I learned these farms are supported by The New York Community Trust, this region’s community foundation. New Yorkers like you start funds, and it’s true—you can change lives. Before I’d even finished the 10-month paid service and training in Red Hook, I had a full-time job at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I go out to neighborhoods to help with composting.

My life hasn’t been easy—I bounced around foster homes for years. But I’ve seen that lots of plants survive harsh conditions. Just like me. Now I plan to be the first person in my family to graduate from college.

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