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The Harlem Grown
Written by Sunny Oh | Published. 2017.09.18 16:49 | Count : 1141
Disparity is a social issue that refers to the condition of being unequal, and the existence of a noticeable difference among members of the same society. There are various types of disparity that should be addressed, but economic disparity is a concern that is extremely ubiquitous in our society. I personally observed extreme economic disparity in the city of New York, which could be argued as the most diverse, cosmopolitan and urban city in the world as shown by the over 800 different languages spoken in the city. It is inevitable that there is disparity among these culturally and ethnically different members of the community, but the visible difference between the clean, polished streets of the Upper East Side and the fractured roads of Harlem was startling. 
However, there are exceptional individuals that persevere to diminish this economic gap in the New York society, and an exemplary association with this aim is Harlem Grown. Harlem Grown is a non-profit, independent organization situated in Harlem that seeks to inspire the youth to lead a healthier and more ambitious life by operating local urban farms to increase access to agricultural knowledge for the public. By creating a cycle of educating the youth with agricultural knowledge in an urban farm and making profits by selling these products, Tony Hillery not only shows the youth what they can achieve in the future, but also practically endeavors to narrow the poverty gap by making monetary profits for the Harlem community. After looking for organizations I could take part in that promote garden-based development programs for the public online. I had the privilege of volunteering for such an inspiring and innovative association. 

As I entered the urban farm in the middle of Harlem, it was extremely fascinating and refreshing to see many individuals who, with the same goal as mine, came from all over the country and even from abroad to contribute to the farming of miscellaneous vegetables. Despite the cultural differences the volunteers may have, the motivation to obtain knowledge of not only the cultural context of the farm but also the actual agricultural procedure that the farming requires united all of us, and this was an extremely heartening experience. In this way, the cultural disparity among the volunteers and the members of the Harlem community was narrowed, showing us the many ways Harlem Grown is providing the grounds for which different types of disparity can be attacked. The volunteers could take part in conventional farming tasks, from sifting compost to watering plants. Surrounded by children from the neighborhood who came to participate in the farming and others who were foreign to the town like myself, the atmosphere of Harlem Grown was filled with positive energy.
(On the left hand corner is me, and on the top right hand corner is a volunteer from London, United Kingdom)
Besides completing simple farming tasks which required physical effort, the founder of Harlem Grown, Tony Hillery, explained to the volunteers the sustainable purpose of the farm. By establishing a grounds from which the local youth can witness and experience agricultural education as well as the healthy eating habits that result from the products of the farm, Harlem Grown is starting a new food culture for the community, which is a foundation for a new, healthier lifestyle. The farm is also an inspiration to many members of the Harlem community, as it encourages the youth to establish associations such as the Harlem Grown to not only make profit, but to educate others on the different ways profit can be made for the community’s economy. The farm itself was also a renovation of an abandoned lot in Harlem, representing its core rehabilitation and renewal, which is another aim of Harlem Grown. Most importantly, the Harlem Grown promotes food justice, making profit by distributing fresh and healthy food to the local community members to help alleviate the economic disparity within the city.

Though the immediate elimination of disparity is unarguably an impossible process, Tony Hillery and his organization ‘Harlem Grown’ pave the way for an economically balanced society. By employing an increasing number of members of the local community, Harlem Grown endeavors in narrowing the poverty gap in a practical way. However, by also educating the youth on food justice and providing them with agricultural knowledge, this organization provides the Harlem Youth a chance for employment in the future, attacking the economic disparity on the long-term. The fact that his sustainable farm is a way of narrowing the economic and social gap between the different communities of New York is extremely inspiring and almost elating. As an individual who personally had no farming experience and was unaware of the existence of such an organization, volunteering at Harlem Grown was without doubt an extremely memorable and noteworthy experience. 



Sunny Oh 
11th grade
Wycombe Abbey School

Sunny Oh  student_reporter@dherald.com

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