A Garden Grows in Brooklyn

garden grows

Almost four years ago our launch issue cheekily wondered whether the national food-fight headquarters—long established in antiestablishment Berkeley out on the left coast—had relocated east to our fair borough. Thirteen issues later we couldn’t be happier to report that the gleaming jewel in that other eco-village’s emerald crown will now sparkle here too: Brooklyn’s getting our own Edible Schoolyard.

Admittedly Alice Waters didn’t altogether invent the concept of a children’s garden—in fact the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s storied “Children’s Garden” has just completed its 95th harvest season— but in America’s pastoral pantheon, that West Coast green goddess reigns supreme, and rightly so; her eco-emotional approach established an edible ethos we’re proud to be a tiny part of. The one-acre kitchen garden she founded at a public middle school in Berkeley planted revolutionary seeds—a few of which floated on easterly breezes for 3,000 miles before taking root in Gravesend in the form of a quarter-acre farm where an elementary school’s asphalt parking lot now awaits its earthly fate.

Why not, say, Park Slope, where the kids know a Northern Spy from a Macoun at 20 paces and pea planting slots would likely start bidding wars? For the same reason the first Edible Schoolyard, rather than serving the children of Chez Panisse customers, put down roots where some of the students are homeless. Out in Gravesend, P.S. 216 qualifies for 100 percent free lunch and almost a fifth of the diverse student body includes English language learners.

As at Berkeley’s original idealistic incarnation (and a subsequent spawn Waters planted in New Orleans in 2005) schoolchildren at P.S. 216’s Edible Schoolyard will plant, harvest, cook and eat together, all as part of the school day. The architectural team behind MoMA’s PF1 designed a kitchen classroom, a self-sustaining educational building and one element brand new to the edible concept: a mobile four-season greenhouse outfitted for Yankee winters.