Josh Owens at work in the Howard Houses Urban Farm Monday in Brownsville.
Public housing residents across the city are learning how to have a green thumb right in their own backyards.
The city’s housing authority has created farms within the Howard Houses in Brownsville, Bay View Houses in Canarsie, Red Hook Houses in Red Hook and Wagner Houses in Harlem. The idea is for residents ages 18 to 24 to learn how to create a healthy environment for their neighbors and themselves.
“It was great to bring the farm to the community,” said Josh Owens, a former Red Hook resident and graduate of NYCHA’s Love Where You Live program.
In partnership with Green City Force, Urban Farm Corp. and Clean Energy Corps., over 330 NYCHA residents have completed the program since 2009.
“NYCHA has an enormous population — 403,000 people — that’s a city within a city and we will continue to partner with them,” said Bahij Chancey, a development associate with Green City Force.
Residents working at the four farms learn about gardening, food justice, culinary arts, nutrition, carpentry and community development.
“It was great to bring the farm to the community,” said Owens, a former Red Hook resident and graduate of NYCHA’s Love Where You Live program.
(Jeff Bachner/for New York Daily News)
“Having something like this in the community is great for the residents, it gives the kids something to do after school by volunteering and learning how to plant, harvest and other basic tools,” said Owens, 24.
After graduation, Owens became a full-time staff member with Green City Force, where he leads the next generation of NYCHA residents to participate in the program.
Young men and women who successfully completed the 10-month program not only gained life skills and received a monthly $1,200 stipend, but they were also automatically awarded a college scholarship.
“Eighty percent of NYCHA residents who graduate from the programs successfully transition to employment or higher education,” said Rayford Hooks of NYCHA’s Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability Office.
The farms are part of the the housing authority’s Sustainability Agenda aimed at creating a healthy environment for residents.
Each of the farms accumulate 4,000 pounds of food per year for NYCHA residents and have encouraged over 3,300 residents to volunteer their time with the farms, said Jennifer Tirado, Director of Urban Agriculture Initiatives and Land Improvement with Green City Farms.