Hoophouse of Hope
“The garden is a place where I stop thinking about my own problems and just concentrate on what’s growing.”
ioby New York City
March 8, 2012
For many city dwellers, the concept of urban farming seems contradictory. For others, it provides a way to grow fresh food in their corner lots, backyards, and windowsills. But for the people living at four supportive housing residences in Brooklyn, NY, urban farming has come to represent a new lease on life.
The four residences in question are operated by Services for the UnderServed (SUS), a non-profit founded in 1978. The ultimate aim of their efforts is to help New Yorkers achieve independence by providing supportive services and housing to the city’s most underserved populations: people with developmental disabilities, people suffering from HIV or AIDS, and people who have histories of mental illness and homelessness. Following examples set by other city non-profits, including Added Value, a farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that offers long-term skill building to teenagers, SUS opened up its first urban garden in June of 2010.
Dan Lohaus, 41, Director of Green Initiatives at SUS, helped breathe life into the urban gardens with his previous experience working with a similar program. “I did this project in Berkeley, CA, before, in the ‘90s, called ‘Fresh Start Farms.’ It worked to create jobs on urban farms for homeless individuals,” said Lohaus. “I was trained for a year on how to set up an urban agriculture model, and luckily enough, the guy who trained me was kind of a guru.”