Originally published at The New York City News Service CUNY website.
Story by Channon Hodge and Nida Najar
Ben Schwartz wakes to the chirping of grasshoppers and the wind rustling through the trees of Wassaic, N.Y. He gets up at the hint of dawn most days – though earlier on Wednesdays – to work a rich plot of land that yields herbs and produce. He finds his reward in the faces of the Bronx residents who buy the medicinal herbs, teas and produce that Schwartz hopes can help keep them healthy.
While some community-supported farmers head straight to pricey parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, Schwartz and his partners, with the help of a generous donor, bring their products to the neighborhood that he believes need them most: the South Bronx.
South Bronx residents have high rates of diabetes, but little money to buy expensive organic produce or medicines. The farmers do a brisk business at the Mott Haven Farmers Market and Harvest Home North Central Bronx Farmers Market.
Still, Schwartz and his colleagues earn little money from their endeavor. They have no health insurance and split earnings from the farm. While the goal is to eventually “pay people a living wage,” the Wassaic Community Farm is providing an outlet to people who are looking to, as the saying goes, “live in the world and not on it.”