“The difference between a flower and a weed, is a judgement.” – Unknown
Graduated: 2018, Cohort 14
From: Marlboro Houses, Brooklyn
Current Position: GrowNYC Garden Coordinator
Our mission is to improve New York City’s quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations. GrowNYC was originally created in 1970 as the Council on the Environment of New York City (CENYC). Born out of the spirit of the first Earth Day, CENYC was initially a policy-based organization, writing comprehensive reports about quality of life issues like air quality, traffic, and noise. Our city has changed a lot since then and so have we. As the largest and most established environmental organization in NYC, we are proud to have played a pivotal role in helping New York City transform over the past five decades. Today 3 million New Yorkers each year participate in our programs. We envision a New York in which every New Yorker can flourish. Every garden. Every school. Every street. Every neighborhood. Every borough.
Tell us about your current role.
“My current role is to manage and operate garden programs on NYCHA property. I supervise and co-steward greenspaces in housing residences with community members as well as facilitate growing and learning. I am currently managing three NYCHA Gardens: in Castle Hill Houses, Melrose Houses and Bushwick Houses. My team focuses on holistic growing, regenerative agriculture, trauma reduction, beautification, intergenerational programming and hands-on agricultural training.”
What does your typical work day look like?
“My typical work day starts with a plethora of emails. I am often connecting with potential partners and community members as well as facilitating deliveries and volunteer groups for my sites. I’ll then make my way over to one of the sites, do a site assessment and identify projects to complete. I then work with my team and garden members to support the green space or any community events happening in the garden or community. My typical work day ends around 4, with me traveling out of the Bronx and into Brooklyn to head home.”
Check out Chantel speaking about her work with GrowNYC here!
How has your GCF experience helped you in your position?
“My experience with GCF gave me my roots in doing agricultural work in NYCHA developments. Because of my service term, I fell in love with community organizing and growing food for my community.”
About Chantel’s career pathway:
“After GCF, I went on to do an internship with a non-profit in Brownsville called Isabaliah Ladies of Elegance. There I stewarded five gardens, facilitated workshops in a NYC Public School and got training as a beekeeper and henkeeper. Afterwards, I went on to be a farmers market manager for Harvest Homes, managing 3 separate sites and supporting farmers. I later went on to work at Red Hook Farms as an Education Assistant and Community Chef supporting garden programming for NYC Public and Charter Schools, facilitating training and agricultural training workshops for GCF Corp members, and preparing healthy cooking demonstrations for the Columbia Farm nearby.”
Chantel is also an alumni of Farm School NYC, the CEO/Founder of The Blac Kitchen – a catering and pop-up restaurant that, while not currently in operation, specializes in vegan, vegetarian and pescetarian menu options – and, during her work at GrowNYC, has written and collaborated on two free and accessible curriculums: Food Justice Curriculum and Farmstand Business Curriculum.
What advice do you have for current Corps Members?
“The best piece of advice I can give is to separate your happiness from your finances. There will be a period where you won’t have a lot of money, but you’ll have a lot of time. Take advantage of that time and make the absolute most of it. It doesn’t matter what other people do, it only matters what you do! And always remember that you can do anything, but that doesn’t mean that you have to do everything. Create a healthy tribe, to hold you accountable, lift you up, challenge you and inspire you. Once you do that, nothing can stand in your way, not even you.”
Achievements at Green City Force:
- Recipient of the GCF Sustainability Award at graduation.
- Represented GCF on the “Spotlight Health” panel at the 2018 Nutrition and Science Conference hosted by the Aspen Ideas Festival.
- Featured in “Farming Comes to NYC Public Housing” video by Rise Up.
“My time in Green City Force has shown me the importance of grit, persistence and support. Throughout my service I have had the pleasure of connecting with communities and relaying to them the purpose of social advocacy and food justice. It has provided me with the means to project leadership and converse with community-based organizations about my skills and expertise. This program has shown me that I have the capacity to strive for higher goals and that with positive support from my team leader, director and staff – I have the ability to achieve anything.”
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