Part One – Farmers Markets

My research project revolves around food accessibility and health of people living in the Bronx. I am focusing on farmer’s markets because they have a specific culture, which is often associated with healthier food choices and local produce. In addition to researching these areas, I experimented in my own life by attempting to grow my own produce. The plan was to try varied methods of growing food to see how successful it could be. Growing your own food is a luxury because it takes significant money, time, and effort. All of these factors were a part of the process and understanding. As a Bronx resident myself, I was figuring out what it was like to farm in an urban environment. There were two main areas where I grew produce. One was own home and the other was my grandparent’s (also in the Bronx, only a couple miles from my home). My home has very limited grass and soil spaces, like much of the Bronx. My grandparents have a considerable amount more. There is only one circular space that was available for me to plant in. Luckily, my father agreed to move some seagrass so I could have the space. The diameter of this space was no greater than four feet, which for planting is very small. Most plants need space to grow above and below the soil. To increase the space available at my home, my father and I built a vertical garden out of a wooden palette. After researching the financials and success of other vertical methods, such as a hanging shoe organizer, gutters, and PVC pipes, this was the best option for us. Wooden palette are often found being disposed of from big stores, moving companies, or construction projects. It was very accessible for us. Even with the addition of the vertical garden, the space now had four more rows of about 4in x 4ft with a 6in depth. Still this was a very tight space. My grandparents have a larger yard than I do, which is mostly grass and soil area. There was a unused space towards the back of their property. Previously, it was inhabited by a swing set, so there was very fake cheap turd covering the soil for about two decades. The space is about 10ft x 15ft. In preparation, I had to rip off the layers of turf and plow and rake the soil by hand. This was the most difficult task of the whole process. There was a good amount of space for the plants to grow in this area. I added pavers to divide the rows and create a path so I could water easily. Next, I started planting. For my grandparent’s home, I purchased 15 already growing plants from Home Depot. They were on sale for 5 for $15. Five of them were different types of tomatoes. Two were sugar snap peas. One was strawberries. One was eggplant. One was zucchini. One was cilantro. One was bell peppers. Two were basil. They were all spread almost a foot apart in three rows with five in each. Since I did not get to the Bronx until the middle of May, this was too late to start by planting seeds. I had no other choice but to start by purchasing plants. It is important to mention that none of them were organic. However, I did not add anything to the soil. I only watered them and infrequently sprinkled used coffee grounds as a natural fertilizer. At my home, my options were even more limited. I did not have the space to grow vegetables. Instead, I mostly stuck to herbs. As gifts, I received a LED grow light (priced around $30) and organic seed packets for 10 herbs. A grow light is a way to provide artificial sunlight that you can control. I rigged the grow light to hang under a table in the corner of my house, so the temperature, water, and ‘sunlight’ were all being handled by me. It was difficult to find a place for the device to hang at the specific height it needed to. I can imagine other users having many problems. Under the grow light, I planted 18 cups with 9 kinds of seeds in organic soil. Each kind had two cups and there were approximately 2-4 seeds in each cup, but that depended on the size of the seeds. The only kind of herb I did not plant from the packet was dill because the packaging said it would not transplant well. I watered them regularly and kept the light on for about 18 hours a day to simulate natural sunlight. Once they sprouted big enough to support themselves (after about a month), I moved them outside for a week to become accustomed to the weather. Then. I transplanted them into the vertical garden. Not all of the herbs sprouted. Less than half were successful. In the circular garden, I bought two basil plants and one parsley plant. I also put two tomato plants in the vertical garden to make a direct comparison to my grandparent’s home. Over the last four months, I’ve monitoring and taking care of them. Overall, this was an extremely time consuming effort, but it was not a financial burden.

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