This has been a big year for Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. In May, the 2nd Annual "Greening the Ridge" Festival brought together organizations and residents driven to create better connections to the neighborhood's shore front, healthy recreations, and natural resources, and grow a stronger, healthier and more sustainable place to live and work. Greening efforts in the neighborhood drew an enthusiastic crowd, as residents have struggled to find fresh organic produce in the area for years. The 2008 closure of a major grocery store stirred up a healthy storm of response from neighbors, politicians, and organizations who rallied to bring a Greenmarket to Bay Ridge, with local fish, honey, cheese, fruits, eggs, and vegetables. This closure also prompted the formation of Bay Ridge Food Coop (www.foodcoopbayridge.com). Still in the planning stage, members of the Food Coop have an active community outreach effort, and are determined to create a sustainable business that will improve access to fresh, affordable produce, creating a new link to local and organic producers.
The Bay Ridge CSA is also in its second year, and CSA members are fortunate to have access to incredibly fresh ingredients, which I once heard described as the "closest you can get to growing your own food without actually doing it." The popularity of community supported agriculture in the city is incredible, and we unfortunately had to turn away many people, who are now on our waiting list. Many of our 100 members joined the CSA for their love of fresh organic produce. Since our membership includes many faces new to CSA, we all serve a cheerful work shift, and enjoy the fresh harvest, but we are also getting a first-hand lesson in regional agriculture. This season we have had an introduction to the problems caused by excessive rain: difficulty working in the fields, and the onslaught of pests, fungus, blight, and what our fruit farmers at Montgomery Place Orchards call their "most challenging growing season in 23 years." The Bay Ridge CSA is dedicated to supporting local organic farming, and in the process we hope to better understand our connection to our food, and how to respect and maintain the delicate balance needed for a healthy food supply.
Our CSA members are active advocates for sustainability throughout our community. We have members who are writing grants for nutrition outreach, building gardens and recycling programs in local schools, and helping with local cleanup efforts. They are teachers, parents, and health practitioners, and they work with local publications like Edible Brooklyn and organizations such as Just Food, the group that originally helped connect us to our farmers.
The core group's aim is to support this network of enthusiastic and responsible citizens in the CSA, but primarily to nurture the link between our local farmers and their concerned investors, and be informed guides for the extended community as they weigh the economy and benefits of participation in sustainable agriculture. We maintain a lush garden distribution site at the 4th Avenue Presbyterian Church, and will host upcoming demonstrations in composting on-site, cooking to encourage creativity and discussion among members, and a film night. As well, we will be exchanging favorite recipes at upcoming potlucks, growing sprouts, caring for windowsill herbs in recycled pop-bottles, trading Kombucha Scoby and tips, and sharing resources through a lending library and our developing website, www.bayridgecsa.org.
For our farmers, we are proud to be a supportive part of this exciting movement. At the very least, we will have a greater awareness of seasonal weather, and you can count on us in your network of folks to do an extra rain dance (or stop-the-rain dance!), when you need it.
We hope the rewards for everyone sharing in these efforts are bountiful, delicious, and nourishing.