Brook Park Youth Farm
Many of the young people working at the Brook Park Youth Farm have been touched by the criminal justice system. Now, they work in community gardens to grow serrano peppers.
"A sanctuary in the midst of a very hostile environment”
More than 100 pepper plants have taken root in a corner of the garden known as the “youth farm.” The pepper’s primary caretakers are teenagers with criminal records who were sent to work in the garden through a court order as an alternative to incarceration.

These young people have quickly found themselves at home in Brook Park. It’s a place where they can let their guard down and experience the restorative power of nature. “When we have them restoring community gardens, or harvesting vegetables to sell at the local farmers markets, they stop thinking of themselves as the problem, and start seeing themselves as part of the solution,” says program coordinator Ray Figueroa.

"Working in the garden - it was the best thing in my life"
Junior Leiva, 18-year-old South Bronx resident
“You already feel good taking care of plants, and for you to get paid for it is even better"
Donnell Matthews, 18-year-old Brook Park resident
“Just the idea that they’ve been part of this program and they’ve achieved a level of success that they can be proud of, I thought it was a really exciting idea for the young people.”
Ray Figueroa, program coordinator at Brook Park Youth Farm
Support Your Local Community Gardens

For Brook Park, growing peppers with Small Axe Peppers supports their “triple bottom line.” It’s not just financially rewarding, but it reinforces the environmental and social benefits of the garden as well.

Each bottle of hot sauce purchased directly supports Rockaway Youth Task Force and many other gardens with vibrant social missions to strengthen the fabric of urban neighborhoods.

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