The third installment of Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger’s Urban Agriculture initiative is Saratoga Urban Agro-Ecological Center. This space is home to approximately 14 different t types of fruits and vegetables that are harvested throughout the year. We operate Saratoga in conjunction with Eagle Academy For Young Men. During the school year we host Mott Hall IV regularly and use the farm for our Stomp Out Obesity classes.
The focal point of this space is the Saratoga Hoophouse. Installed in 2013, it is the combined efforts of a number of corporate and local volunteers. This structure has the effects of a greenhouse and extends the growing season. We are able to begin growing as early as March and continue to receive a harvest as late as December. Additionally, the warmer climate allows us to continue offering gardening classes at the actual garden during winter temperatures. With the hoop house in place, the garden has become the perfect setting to teach important skills to the community and students while increasing the quality of food available to the community with the influx of thousands of pounds of fresh produce. In addition to selling the produce at deep discounts, we are able to provide technical service skills to facilitate soil preparation, irrigation, and the planting of hundreds plants, as well as a variety of herbs.
Produce grown at Saratoga is sold at our Farmer’s Market which operates on Saturday Mornings from June – November, sold to local restaurants and donated to our SuperPantry. Any unused or spoiled produce is used to create sustainable enriching compost.
The best part of Saratoga Urban Agro-Ecological Center is that it is operated and maintained by local at-risk teens. Through an intensive summer paid training the Green Teen Internship Program takes local students and develops their green thumb while reinforcing grade-level environment and science lessons.
The benefits of the project are tremendous. Many individuals who ordinarily wouldn’t be exposed to gardening and farming have the opportunity to learn many new skills. The local economy is benefitting from the addition of jobs and money spent in the community as well as the accessibility of fresh vegetables beyond the normal six-month growing season. There has been an outpouring of support from the entire community for the Saratoga Urban Agro-Ecological Center and all of its benefits.