Growing in the City: Added Value

When the economy tanks, everything is on the table for ways to save money. For example: gardens are changing from vanity item to something of a necessity for many folks (even us urban minded New Yorkers). Good nutritional food for cheap just doesn’t exist for many in this city - a problem that the economy is compounding as people have to work even harder to put food on the table. It is this confluence of things that make the non-profit Added Value so interesting.

Check out this interview with Added Value’s Executive Director Ian Marvey and Joe Holtz, the General Manager and a co-founder of the Park Slope Food Co-op on a recent episode of Brian Lehrer Live.

Added Value is a combination of a youth engagement program and a community urban farm. They have created a mini ecosystem on 2.7 acres of asphalt in Redhook: selling their goods to local restaurants in the Redhook area and working with other urban farmers to set up trade programs. Getting hops from the Redhook brewery to feed to chickens in a neighbors yard yields thick manure to grow more hops, and none of it needs to travel by the usual network of boats, trains and trucks to get into New York.

More importantly for many, the Added Value program brings in high school and middle school classes to provide a lot of the actual planting and growing labor for the farm. For a lot of the kids, this represents the first hands on experience they have had with seeing the food that they eat. Across the board, the most direct way to educate people about food and healthy eating is to have them grow their own and appreciate the process. Combine that with Ian Marvey’s background in helping kids who have had run ins with the law, and you have what amounts to a truly catch-all crew. From the Added Value year long academic program:

Beginning in the fall with the Added Value Institute teens strengthen their core skills while taking over operation of the Farmers' Market, and building a strong foundation of knowledge related to the critical issues, such as under employment and obesity, that effect our community and develop their capacity to be agents for change.

I’m not sure how, exactly, the Added Value model would scale up to take over production of large sections of the food we need as a city. Of course, that their goal is more tied to providing a model for others to follow, instead of growing larger themselves, and it does seem as though their success should be able to be recreated in other cities and even in other boroughs.

Alan Smith

Posted at 9:35 AM, Apr 08, 2009 in Environment | Health | Nonprofit Management | Philanthropic Strategy | Poverty | Youth | Permalink