Through a program under former mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Obesity Task Force, Singer successfully applied to start the garden in what used to be a vacant and unused lot.
“It was a dumping ground and an eyesore,” Singer said.
In 2014, the first year of programming, Singer trucked in a lot of soil. Along with other stewards of the community garden, they capped the contamination and “got rid of a lot of junk.”
According to Singer, the lead level decreased from 450 parts per million (ppm) to now just 40 ppm.
La Casita Verde then started a composting program. Singer said initially there were many raised eyebrows from passersby, but when people stopped to ask about what’s going on in the garden, Singer would explain they’re growing soil to grow healthy food.
“People who come in are more interested in the composting because they understand the whole cycle and how it grows healthy, wonderful vegetables,” she said.
Over time, the garden added more and more beds to grow vegetables and flowers.
Singer said the next step is to do more programming inside the community garden. They built an outdoor classroom inside the space, where she hopes to host workshops about healthy eating and medicinal plants.
They’re also looking to observe their compost, collected from food scraps and other organics collection, under a microscope.
With youth, Singer said they’re planning to host a kid’s book club in May. They’ll be reading a book about the environment and making art based on the reading material.
“We like to welcome kids and anyone from the neighborhood to come in and help us and learn about the whole soil-food web cycle,” Singer said. “It’s been very positive.”