Many of our readers may know Janelle, founder/owner of the Brooklyn Greenhouse, and Field Trip Coordinator at The Youth Farm. She is planning and preparing for the upcoming field trip season, so what better time for you to meet Janelle, if you haven’t already! We so admire and appreciate Janelle for her passion for her culture and East Flatbush community, her talents for igniting children’s interest in science and the natural world, her service to community on community boards… did we mention she is a mother of 2, and married to Mark, who is equally passionate about STEM education and community?! They are quite a pair and if you are interested in early child STEAM based education, please get in touch with us – we will be looking for field trip facilitators this spring! Janelle is also a fantastic writer, and recently published an article, “Caribbean Cuisines Merge and Evolve in Crown Heights,” on MoFad City (the teaming up of Eater + the Museum of Food and Drink) — check it out HERE!
Hi! My name is: Janelle Carter-Small
Role on Youth Farm: Early Childhood STEAM Coordinator and Field Trip Coordinator
Business Name / Year founded, Mission: The Brooklyn Greenhouse, Inc. 2015,
Our mission is to increase the diversity of children who are interested in Agriculture STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) careers through innovative access to quality STEM based enrichment to families of children ages 2-14.
Where do you live: East Flatbush, Brooklyn
When did you begin farming?:
2015 as an apprentice on The Youth Farm, though farming is a part of my family legacy in the Caribbean.
Why is farming important to you?:
As a 1st generation Caribbean American It was important for me to learn how to grow my own food for my family in order to maintain that connection to the food my grandmother and her grandmother used to care for their families and how I care for mine. Slavery may have taken our native tongue but I can communicate with the entire African diaspora through our food and medicineits a beautiful language.
What drives your passion for STEAM education?
When I began to teach science to my 4th graders in 2008, I was alarmed at how disconnected my students were to the science they were learning. When my oldest son showed a deep interest in science, I could not find any STEM activities for him in our neighborhood. Everything seemed to be connected to science living in an urban area, from the water testing being done in the school, to the engineering needed to create new rooftop farms and the science used to test the soil, yet our students and my children weren’t learning about the STEM behind farming and all of the careers in agriculture. If a 2 year old can recite every song, learn to use the iPad, and name every character of their favorite book or cartoon, then they can also learn the parts of a seed and plant and the water cycle. The AgriSTEM Kids curriculum of The Brooklyn Greenhouse let’s us get the babies interested in farming and agriculture STEM careers.
What’s your favorite food to eat in Brooklyn, and where do you eat it?:
I’m slowly becoming a Pescatarian and while I don’t have a favorite food, I can not live without food from different countries around the world: Barbados, Trinidad, Thailand, India, Japan, Mexico, Belize. I’ve noticed that I don’t have a favorite food as much as I have favorite spices and seasoning. I’m drawn to any food that uses ginger, thyme, peppers and/or curry. If they can add mango or avocado (pears) then it’s a welcome bonus. My favorite place to get some of these spices and fruits is Labay Market, they import fresh fruit and fish straight from the Caribbean every week. I’m hoping we can have some of their fruit in The Youth Farm’s Market or CSA one day soon.
What advice would you give to up and coming farmers and farmer-entrepreneurs?
For urban farmers, my advice is to grow with the community in which you grow not for them. Get to know the culture, the food, the dishes that are a part of the fabric of the community if you are not from there. Replenish the soil. Even if you are a hydroponic farm, find land in the community in which to replenish. How can we have growing hands and not be a part of the cycle of growth? Be a part of seed saving. No company should own seeds. Farm entrepreneurs, create a business plan, seek out mentors, and follow your passion.
How can we build food justice in our communities?:
Food Justice advocates must speak up when education, black lives, women’s rights, immigration rights are threatened or their foundation is moot. In communities like the one where I live, where people of color live daily knowing that their bodies and homes are vulnerable it is hard for me to speak of these same “communities exercising their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food,” when the bodies and land the food will nourish are under attack. Yet this is exactly what we do and were the first to do so in New York City in lots that were abandoned. Food justice can be built through education of our children because it is their birthright. They will teach their peers, families and communities that their education is connected to their food which is connected to their health. We as adults just need to show up and support them.