596 Acres & the potential of vacant lots

Back in April 2011, Paula Z. Segal obtained a spreadsheet that indicated all the publicly-owned, vacant public land in Brooklyn. She tallied up the areas of each lot and got the number 596 — a total area slightly bigger than Prospect Park — and 596 Acres was born.

Segal created a map of the information and started distributing it. The organization continues to build tools to help neighbors realize the potential for green spaces focused around community organizing and civic engagement.

Our tools help neighbors see vacant lots as sites of opportunity for green spaces in neighborhoods that lack them. We activate imaginations, initiate campaigns to legally get the keys to previously inaccessible vacant lots, and ultimately unlock more than just the gates. Through collaborative organizing residents become active stewards of urban land.

Now you can access their map in an interactive format at Living Lots NYC. You can check and see if there are any open lots near you, and if people are already organizing to reclaim that space for community use.

They’ve also reported recently that NYC has sold 202 city-owned lots to developers for $1 each, just since Mayor deBlasio took office in 2014.

Planning for this year’s spring plantings

Brooklyn is getting another round of snow today, but last weekend our Planting Committee met to put together a plan for our spring planting — this year going so far as to plot out not just locations as usual but also specific timing of when we’ll sow seeds or transplant seedlings started at home. Taking a look at the mostly empty beds, it’s hard to believe in a few months this space will be alive again.

But there is already signs of life around the farm.We have been puzzling over some mystery grass in a raised bed that might be wheatgrass. We had some Brussels sprouts up on the hill that made it through the winter, but now we’ll have to see if they make it through this snow! 😬 We’re guessing that Hellebore “Snow Love” should do just fine.


Seed collecting for the Anthropocene era

The Next Epoch Seed Library tweaks the traditional seed bank mentality for the Anthropocene era. Rather than focusing on the preservation of heirloom varieties, this seed bank focuses on weedy species most likely to survive and thrive in the more punishing landscapes affected by climate change. Anyone can help contribute to the bank.

The following mini-documentary by Candace Thompson with the founders Ellie Irons and Anne Percoco includes them discussing the question of native vs. invasive plants as they collect seeds in the NJ Meadowlands.

The Next Epoch Seed Library from Candace Thompson on Vimeo.


Composting report and other data from 2017

Winter composting

As our followers and community are aware, we have compost drop-off hours every Saturday to accept plant-based food scraps for compost. We also are currently collecting unsellable produce from the Windsor Terrace Food Coop and coffee grounds from Steeplechase Coffee. In our three-bin system, food scraps take about 6–9 months to decompose and then are sifted into usable compost. How does that all add up?

This year we took in 9,276 lbs of food scraps and finished 1,771 lbs of compost (it’s worth noting that due to that 6–9 month processing time, this isn’t a direct in/out relationship). Historically, this was our third biggest compost processing year (at least in the last five years that we have records for):

Prospect Farm Compost 2012–2017

The NYC Dept. of Sanitation started their curbside organics collection in our neighborhood October 2013, which accounts for much of the decrease from 2014 and 2015, as our neighbors increasingly took advantage of that program. Our partnerships with WTFC (which accounted for 2,082 lbs of our food scraps total this year) and Steeplechase (which accounted for 1,143 lbs) have helped us make up the difference!

What other data do we have up our sleeves? Here are our harvest tallies from last year, which shows clearly how gloriously our cucumbers did last year and how much more kale we all grew and harvested above all other greens.


Tree pruning and first signs of spring

Recently Tom A and Jo went to an espalier fruit tree pruning workshop held by GreenThumb at the Know Waste Lands garden in Bushwick. We have a few pluot and apple trees that we’ve been neglecting, as none of our farm members have brought knowledge of pruning fruit trees. This was a perfect opportunity to gain both the skills and confidence — as well as supplies: they won a pair of pruners in the raffle! All of this was immediately put to use on the first balmy day of the year yet (a record-breaking 78º across the city).

Though the temps have dropped back to normal ranges, we are seeing bulbs start to come up, oregano coming back, and even some white blooms.

(pictures from Jo, Sarah, and the GreenThumb)

Upcoming events around the community

As spring nears, there will be a lot of great community events and classes happening! Here are a few that we recommend:

Making Brooklyn Bloom at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden on Saturday, March 10th from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. This year’s theme is Greening Together: People, Plants, Justice and will lead community conversations regarding issues of urban ecology, wellness, stewardship, and the connections required of concerned citizens engaged in transforming lives and neighborhoods. Free with event flyer. 

Our neighbors Brooklyn Brainery are hosting two tree walks in Prospect Park on Saturday, March 24th. Beautiful Barks and Signs of Spring starts at 10:30 AM and Best Buds: A Friendly Tree Walk starts are 12:00 PM. $13 each

Grow Together: Honoring Our Roots, GreenThumb’s annual conference at BMCC on Saturday, March 31st from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM. The day will be packed with workshops and kids’ activities, like seriously packed! Show up early to sign up for workshops, as the popular ones will fill up quickly. All our members who have attended this conference in the past have come away with tons of knowledge, resources, and goodies. $5 entry fee, children 12 and under are free

Both BBG and GreenThumb have events for all ages listed on their sites — click their respective links to see more.

Notes from our Annual Member Meeting

We gathered for the first time in 2018 for our Annual Member Meeting, a chance to discuss reports from the previous year, give input on how the 2017 growing season went, and plan for the year ahead.

Among the positives: Great crops, especially cucumbers (we harvested over 70 pounds this summer!) and eggplant, with more variety in the crops overall; we built two new raised beds; our pest control committee was established; and we had two successful events.

The negatives: the floundering of a plan to sell herbs at the Windsor Terrace Food Coop, tomato blight, and mosquitos.

For this year, we plan to plant and prune wisely to avoid the blight, hopefully pinpoint a few members who can focus solely on the herb project, organize a school apprenticeship program, and work on improving our sidewalk strip.

If you wanted to come to the meeting and missed it — no worries. There will be plenty more chances to get involved! We’ll have a spring clean-up and member orientation on Saturday, March 17th, starting at 10am. Once the weather improves, we will reestablish our regular Saturday collaborative work time.

We’ve also already set the date for our Earth Day event: Saturday, April 21st. More details to follow!

Come be a part of Prospect Farm in 2018

While new members are welcome at any point in the year, we’re having our annual meeting for current and prospective members next month. This is a great opportunity for new members to learn more about the farm and meet most of the people involved.

Sunday, February 18, 2018
4–6pm 30 Ocean Parkway

On the agenda: reports from 2017, planning for 2018, election of board members, and discussion of new initiatives.

We’ll be meeting in the basement “community room” of 30 Ocean Parkway (between E 7th and Sherman Sts). Enter the lobby and take the elevator down. There will be signs posted to guide you.

Light snacks and drinks will be provided by our members.

If you have any questions, please email prospectfarmbk@gmail.com.

Happy New Year from Prospect Farm

We are seeing 2017 out with frigid temperatures and more snow! As the farm is settles into its winter hibernation, most of our work is composting and shoveling. We’ve had to cancel a couple Saturday compost drop-offs so far due to inclement weather. Our dedicated composters should check our home page or Facebook page for updates when the weather looks bad.

We’ll start planning soon for the 2018 growing season. Best wishes to all!