by Nina Boutsikaris
"Basically we took on all the water from the Erie basin," said Corbin, a staff member at Added Value, the Red Hook community farm fueled by youth volunteers, as he surveyed a field of debris that was once a thriving, expansive garden plot. It was just a week after Hurricane Sandy had come ashore on October 29th, submerging the neighborhood in over two feet of seawater, and the farm was barely recognizable — a chaotic mess of pumpkin guts, torn up roots, mud, and overturned equipment.
Since 2001, Added Value has been a vital part of the Red Hook neighborhood, offering access to healthy, affordable food, as well as empowerment training programs for teens and catalyzing a Food Justice ecosystem. They founded the Red Hook Farmers Market, revitalized several local parks, transformed vacant lots into vibrant urban farms, and provided hundreds of local high school and elementary students with empowering, educational opportunities to help build a more just and sustainable future for the community.
"The work they do," said Sunil Kumar, a Slow Food NYC board member, "educating local kids and growing fresh produce in the middle of the city, is perfectly in line with the mission of Slow Food and we have had numerous joint events over the years."
In the past, Slow Food NYC has helped a number of local farmers rebuild after natural and accidental catastrophes. When the board got wind that not only was all of Red Hook devastated with flooding and power-loss, but that the Added Value farm had been almost completely washed away, they immediately offered up whatever support they could to their like-minded friends.
"Slow Food NYC has a program where we earmark money from our annual budget for donations to farmers in need," said Kumar. "Despite the cancellation of our annual fundraiser, also due to Sandy, we were still able to make a $500 donation."
Added Value's Executive Director, Ian Marvey, who co-founded the organization with current Greenmarkets Director Michael Hurwitz, plans to use Slow Food's donation towards lost crops—nearly all of which were drowned—and to prepare for spring planting. Marvey told Edible Manhattan in a December article that a huge part of the community's recovery would be access to healthy food. He added that in the storm's wake, two out of three of the area's supermarkets closed, limiting residents' access to good, wholesome groceries.
Dozens of volunteers, from local CSA members to folks from other boroughs who just want to pitch in for the good of their city, have given their time to help cleanup and replant. But as a non-profit, Added Value is still in dire need of funding to help them return to their role as a vital community backbone — bringing hope, jobs, and joy to a corner of the city that continues to struggle with stigmatism and neglect. Added Value embodies all that Slow Food members stand for and is a food justice presence this city cannot afford to lose.
Visit Added-Value.org to donate any amount or contact them to find out how you can help.
Nina Boutsikaris is a freelance writer and a Slow Food supporter with a taste for locavore cuisine.