Organization Name: Services for the UnderServed (SUS)
Project Title: SUS Urban Farms
Project Location: Citywide
SUS Urban Farms pursues three core goals of offering therapeutic horticulture, nutritional programming, and employment opportunities to the individuals served by SUS through workshops, field experiences, and a network of community farms and garden spaces. More specifically:
• Therapeutic Horticulture: Encourages group interaction, community integration, and individual wellness by supporting residents’ stewardship of outdoor spaces and by engaging residents in horticultural activities.
• Nutrition & Health: Promotes healthy eating among consumers, teaches cooking and food preparation techniques, and supplements residents’ food budgets.
• Economic Independence: Provides part-time employment opportunities to residents in horticulture and urban agriculture, and offers support for residents in transitioning to the competitive workforce. Explore initiatives that can create new vocational opportunities for residents in urban agriculture, horticulture, and food services.
In 2010, SUS developed the SUS Urban Farms as an innovative supplement to the services we offer to our individuals, using horticulture as a tool to improve wellness outcomes and to help them achieve personal and professional goals. On 8,000 sq ft at 37 sites, SUS Urban Farms operates community farms, rooftop gardens, an apiary, and propagation and hydroponic greenhouses. Residents serve as the primary caretakers of the farms by planting, tending, and harvesting produce that is shared among all residents. From plant propagation at the greenhouses, to honey cultivation at the beehives, SUS Urban Farms engages individuals in a wide variety of activities. Workshops throughout the year range from botanical art and plant identification to permaculture techniques and organic garden pest management. SUS Urban Farms also offers a vocational training curriculum in horticulture, agriculture, and food services. Residents receive intensive job coaching to support their professional goals.
In 2016, SUS Urban Farms reached 400 individuals at 37 sites across NYC. Our sites are in communities designated as food deserts, such as East NY, Morrisania, and more, where residents are challenged with very low incomes and assets, relying on food stamps for much of their food budgets. Approximately 5,000 lbs of produce from 57 unique fruits and vegetables and over 7 gallons of honey (estimated value $26,000), supplemented the residents’ food budgets. Many of the 30 residents employed as urban farmers have experienced long interruptions in their work history or have no previous employment. Through a formal training curriculum, residents learn basic job readiness skills, including time management, cooperation, and teamwork, as well as practical skills in horticulture, landscaping, food handling, and basic carpentry/masonry to prepare them for competitive employment. Over 600 corporate and civic volunteers helped to grow the SUS Urban Farms by building, painting, and planting.
Services for the UnderServed (SUS) believes everyone has the right to lead a life of purpose. Since 1978, SUS has been transforming this belief into reality by advocating for people living with challenging life situations as a result of mental or intellectual disability, poverty, histories of incarceration, unemployment or substance abuse. Through housing, employment, skills-building, treatment and rehabilitation, and in partnership with the 25,000 people we serve annually, SUS creates pathways to a rich and productive life. SUS believes that housing is at the very core of building or re-building a healthy life. SUS provides permanent, transitional, and affordable housing, as well as housing placement to thousands of New Yorkers each year. SUS is the second largest supportive housing provider in New York State. Today, SUS’ real estate footprint is 1.5 million sq ft with over 3,500 units in over 60 neighborhoods, and another 525 units of housing under development. Today, SUS’ real estate footprint is 1.5 million sq ft with over 3,500 units in over 60 neighborhoods, and another 525 units of housing under development.