Flowers are not lucrative enough to possibly hold on forever in the District downtown. But up in the Bronx a greenhouse, part of a community program, is making a vast improvement on the quality of life and sense of community, and has been doing so for many years. The program is called New Leaf, and is located on 160th street off of Forest Avenue. It is headed up by a counselor, William Smalls, and a horticulturist, Edgar Sosa-Mieles.
I decided to take the trip there when I needed plants for out front. What I found was a wonderful oasis...
Through them the growing process becomes a healing process for ex-addicts who want to recover and accomplish more. New Leaf is located in an area that has seen better days. And now the area is seeing massive amounts of construction and 'transition' - which brings about a certain degree of upheaval. Amidst all this the program provides a healing space for a grateful and dedicated group of people. If you check the link above you will see that New Leaf sells at many of the Green Markets. The plants they bring always look fantastic and are the fruits of some hard labor.
I loved seeing plants in many stages of growth - all an indication of the hard work that everyone puts in. The air feels fresh and there is a soothing sound of crickets chirping, which is really a sound produced by their circulating fans. Edgar admits that the learning process produces a number of casualties and the processes of growing and watering can take much more time than usual. The students learn how to propagate, taking from the many parent plants that are housed in the greenhouses, or from seeds. Fom these they grow what they will sell. Everyone watches the plants grow from start to finish. As a horticuturist, Edgar wants all of his plants to be perfect. But he realizes that harvesting people is what they are there for, and the learning process is crucial for the program participants.
I have always been attracted to the humanity of caring for plants. But now I think it may always have been the other way around.