Green Guerrillas Discover
Ways to Raise Food in NYC
NEW YORK -- New York City's Green Guerrillas, who in the past have been known to lob seed grenades into vacant lots, are on a mission to feed the city's hungry with city-grown food.
The Green Guerrillas, founded 24 years ago, now support gardeners in New York City's more than 1,000 community gardens. Some are ornamental gardens and some are tended by schools, but most grow food to feed the city's hungry, said Phil Tietz, the not-for-profit group's associate director.
"Much of our program is about connecting people in the anti-hunger movement with sustainable markets in the city," Tietz explains. Located in lower Manhattan, the Guerrillas work closely with Food For Survival to ensure that food gets to the people who most need it.
There are no figures on how many people community gardens feed, Tietz said. "Many people grow food and then just hand it out in their neighborhood." But Tietz estimates that a 100-person community garden produces enough food annually to feed about 200 hungry people.
The city's community gardens, which range in size from a building lot to a whole street block, are all situated on city-owned land, and are tucked into every imaginable municipal nook and cranny. There are even thriving community gardens on top of New York City's flat-roofed high rises.
"The city has a very moderate climate and there are a surprising number of Southerners here. That's why we tend to get plants grown here that you wouldn't immediately associate with the Northeast," Tietz explained. These include artichokes and peanuts, along with potatoes and other vegetables. Many of the plants grown are climbing and trellis-supported, Tietz says. "They use the upward space and conserve the lateral space in the same way that the buildings here do."
Each garden accommodates between 30 and 200 gardeners, Tietz said. Some of those gardeners are young children and teenagers and the youngest have become known as wheelbarrow babies.
Much of the gardener's time involves reclaiming land and preparing the soil for planting, Tietz said. "Our soil here has a very high (alkaline) PH, so we sometimes need to add (acidic) vinegar in the water." Community gardeners add locally-derived compost and fertilize the soil with horse manure from neighborhood mounted police barracks and riding schools, Tietz said.
Green Guerrillas support community gardeners with on-site instruction on gardening techniques like pruning fruit trees and growing in the shade.
Posted October 22, 1997