The Sanctuary’s mission is to “use art and participatory action to promote social and environmental justice and freedom of creative expression.”
Food justice is intertwined with environmental justice, especially here in North Central Troy where centuries of bad industrial practices have poisoned our soil and water. Located in a barren food desert and one of New York State’s most economically disadvantaged and environmentally devastated communities, Media Alliance birthed Collard City Growers, a public demonstration garden. Here, we collaborate with our neighbors to convert the once-forgotten space into an edible landscape that promotes solidarity and accessibility to nutritious food.
Collard City Growers is a volunteer-run food justice project where we connect arts and culture to growing a wealth of annuals and perennials including vegetables, medicinal herbs, natural dye plants, grains, and fruit trees. We share our homegrown harvest at neighborhood events that host hundreds of community members and passersby who come in search of nutrient dense food or “the best lettuce [they’ve] ever tasted.” During off-season, we share our harvest in the form of preserved greens, sauerkraut, pickles, and hot sauce.
Our project differs from the typical community garden model as we are based on creative collaboration with our neighbors and community. All are welcome to join in as they please and during weekly garden hours, community members are invited to volunteer in the garden and often leave with armfuls of their favorite vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
We have renovated a former carriage house on the lot, which is used as an indoor workshop space for building projects, a classroom for North Troy Environmental Education initiatives, a seed library, and a drying facility for herbs. We hold monthly workshops, sharing our knowledge of growing, composting, chicken rearing, bee raising, seed saving and other urban homesteading techniques with the public. A new hoop house is being constructed, which will provide a home for an integrated aquaponics system to grow fish and greens without soil.
We host a variety of annual programs that serve our diverse, immediate community. Every year, our Uptown Summer program educates a group of 8-10 paid youth employees to become Environmental Stewards and media makers. Through this program, local youth learn to care for the garden, harvest vegetables, experiment in the kitchen, and document progress and creatively share their experience from the program using media arts, photo, video, and audio technology.
One of our key annual food justice celebrations is “StoryHarvest: From Seed to Table.” This event encourages diverse members of the community to come together to celebrate and connect over stories of food. Hosted at Freedom Square, our outdoor arts and culture venue, we connect art, culture and food to strive for the health and welfare of our community. Food from Collard City Growers is harvested by neighborhood youth to create a healthy feast for the celebration. Through arts and education, Collard City Growers offers hope and inspiration within our urban environmentally devastated landscape.
Collard City Growers also manages three other previously vacant lots including Freedom Square, an outdoor concert venue nestled in a growing food forest; Food Cycle, a living sculpture garden and community composting initiative; and the L-lot, where we keep bees, focus on creating a habitat for pollinators, experiment with bioremediation, and where we hope to start future seasons’ seedlings in a recently donated greenhouse.
These green spaces have given us an opportunity to work together physically and provide a platform from which to educate the public about the health of our community and ecology as it relates to food. Aside from growing plants and feeding our community, we hope that Collard City Growers and complementing landscapes become places where people ‘grow’ themselves by learning new skills, connecting with neighbors, and sharing their stories as a means to aid community progress.
Join us as we come together to benefit our community down the path towards edible freedom. We envision Collard City Growers as a living community resource that feeds people nutritious food, empowering knowledge, and healthy independence from a broken food system.