Power in seeds: Urban gardening gains momentum in pandemic | Home & Garden

On an assemblage of vacant lots and other pockets of unused land in the Bronx borough of New York, gardeners from low-income neighborhoods have banded together to create over a dozen “farm hubs,” coordinating their community gardens and their harvest.

Several years ago, some discovered that, together, their small gardens could grow enough peppers to mass-produce hot sauce — Bronx Hot Sauce, to be precise, with profits from the sales reinvested in their communities.

During the pandemic, the farm hubs of the Bronx have again proved their might, producing health-boosting crops like garlic, kale and collard greens.

“The trick is, how can we learn from the pandemic so that we become genuinely resilient?” says Raymond Figueroa-Reyes, president of the New York City Community Garden Coalition.

“When the pandemic hit, urban farming went into hyper-productivity mode. People saw that the (food) donations coming in were are not adequate in terms of quantity or quality, and there is no dignity in waiting on that type of charity,” he says.

The farm hubs are part of an urban gardening movement across the country dedicated to empowering residents of poorer neighborhoods by encouraging them to grow fresh food.

Areas (both urban and rural) with little access to healthy, fresh food have been called “food deserts,” and tend to have high rates of diabetes and other diseases, such as hypertension and obesity. In cities, where many see the phenomenon as inseparable from deeper issues of race and equity, some community leaders prefer terms like “food prisons” or “food apartheid.”