Hattie Carthan’s Spirit Survives in Bed-Stuy Youth

At the end of November, The Hattie Carthan “After Church” Market had its end-of -season Harvest festival. The attendees were kept well entertained with cooking demonstrations, garden tours, and sidewalk chalk for the kids. With the autumn chill settling in, the farm had a non-alcoholic hot Sorrel, made with the Sorrel herb from the garden. The real stars of the day were the awardees from The Hattie Carthan Garden Youth Corps.

Yonnette Fleming

Project Director, Yonnette Fleming, started the afternoon with the award ceremony. As each award winner stepped in front, Ms. Fleming was ready with encouraging and funny stories about each young urban farmers. Fleming cajole the kids to say a few things on the microphone about their experience and role on the farm. Like most teenagers their age they were filled with stage fright but still could not hide their smiles.

The Hattie Carthan Garden Youth Corps awarded the eighteen interns for their hard work and dedication to growing all the yummy goodness found at the two Hattie Carthan Markets located in Bed-Stuy.  One of which is the original Hattie Carthan Community Garden at Lafayette and Marcy, and the other, the newly-finished urban herb garden, or Herban Garden at 49 Van Buren St.

When Kyle, a very tall teenager stepped up to receive his award, Fleming lauded his eager approach to the work of selling, garden, and composting.  Fleming recounted the story of when she offered him vegetables to bring home to his family during his first days. His rebuttal was, “Nah, we don’t eat that stuff.” Fleming expressed how much Kyle has learned to love the food from the farm and the impact he made not only on the farm, but also within his family.

One mother, who found out about the program through her church, showed great enthusiasm when receiving the award for her daughter who wasn’t able to make it. “ There are so few programs for our kids [in Bedford-Stuyvesant], I appreciate you all for making a decision to come and be a part of the community.”

Fleming then shared the impact the teens have had on her: “So often people are consumed with what they teach the children, but as a teacher, the children teach me.” You could see the firm yet kind guidance of true mentor in Fleming’s candor.

One attendee in particular proved volunteering at the farm pays off in the long run. Originally a volunteer, Kenta Darley-Usmar is now the Manager of the “After Church” Market, and is paid to manage the logistics of the market and keeping the youths on track. “This has been an amazing project to be part of,” Kenta said. “It was just a couple of us in the beginning but the transformation from an empty lot to what it is now in such a short amount of time shows us what is possible in New York.” These types of projects draw volunteers like Kenta who see an ambitious project as just the beginning to a better future.

Coordinator of Fitness and Nutrition Initiatives Kim Bylander, from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene ,expressed her support for the project. Bylander secured  grant funding for the youth stipend the children received for working on the farm. “This is the first year we’ve had outside funding for a project like this,” she remarked, “and considering the success, we’re looking to expand the youth market– church connection.

Kim Bylander

Upon reflecting on her first season at the “After Church” Market, Yonnette Fleming expected the results, but declared she had: “Gained hope from working with the youths, they tell me something else than what I see on the TV.” This project will certainly be continuing next season. Youth (14-23) can apply for next season at the Hattie Carthan website

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One Comment on “Hattie Carthan’s Spirit Survives in Bed-Stuy Youth”

  1. Donna Pryce
    January 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

    Inspiring….keep up the Great work.


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