Back in 2017, Kofi Thomas heard about a vacant lot in his Brooklyn neighborhood that had become an eyesore.
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Somehow, the premium piece of city real estate had been forgotten by time. Instead of a narrow, weed-infested plot of land, Kofi saw the lot as an opportunity to fulfill his vision.
An avid gardener, Kofi hoped to create a “Rise Together” garden for his community. After wading through red tape and working late hours to get approval, he was granted access to 13,000 feet of sunny land in the middle of Bushwick.
“I am a neighbor that believes in the power of community and recognizes green spaces as a catalyst to unlocking that potential,” Kofi said. “Our gardens are a place of healing and growth.”
Kofi and some friends and volunteers set out to clean out a decade’s worth of trash, broken glass, fallen trees, and other debris over several months. After hauling in 10 tons of soil, they were finally ready to plant.
The Good Life Garden opened to the public in April 2018. It has since become a bustling green space that welcomes people from all generations to seed, harvest, and eat the food produced by the lot.
A local Girl Scout troop has even learned how to garden there, and they’re forming partnerships with nearby schools to encourage kids to learn more about sustainable living.
“All of the food that we grow serves as an educational tool,” Kofi said. “A lot of kids around here have never seen a tomato plant, or kale, or a roly-poly. It’s really cool to have the youth understand all of the health benefits of growing their own food.”
Kofi has also made sure the elders in their community get involved by reserving a portion of the garden for them. There were only about three older gardeners when they first opened, but now there are more than 30 who regularly garden and share the knowledge they’ve picked up from all over the world.
Part of Good Life Garden’s purpose is to share fresh vegetables with their neighbors. They routinely donate to local women’s shelters, church groups, and other community groups. To date, they’ve sent out over 10,000 pounds of fresh food!
The garden has become a place for all to gather and share. They frequently host art festivals, community picnics, poets, artists, and musicians to celebrate diversity and creativity in all their many forms.
To keep all these wonderful initiatives going, they rely entirely on donations and volunteerism. A GoFundMe campaign has raised over $44,000 so far, and Kofi hopes more donations will enable them to build four more green spaces in nearby neighborhoods. If they hit their goal, Kofi plans to add chickens, composting, and more.
“I’m excited about the challenge of making the garden better, making it bigger, and making it serve our community in a deeper way,” he said. “If we hit our fundraising goal, I guarantee that we will be able to change a lot of gardens here in Brooklyn.”
Every city neighborhood should have a green space like this one! Kofi has created much more than a garden; he’s built a safe place to commune with nature, art, and other people.
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