Radical Living garden program plants seeds with Brooklyn youth


By Kayla Berkey

(Mennonite Church USA) — On a sunny day in the Brooklyn, New York neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, families gather at Calvary Fellowship AME Church to make fresh jam and eat together at the annual “Jam-boree.” Throughout the summer, youth prepare and tend to garden beds at the church where they eventually harvest food and make meals with what they grow as part of the Radical Living summer youth program.

“We teach kids how to urban farm and educate them about the benefits of eating healthy food,” said Vonetta Storbakken, co-founder and director of the program. “It’s a full summer immersion program for them.”

Vonetta Storbakken (middle) and participants in the Radical Living summer youth program prepare the garden beds located at Calvary AME Fellowship in Brooklyn, New York. Photo provided by Radical Living.

The Radical Living program is an affiliate of Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship in Manhattan, New York and aims to equip young participants to become transformational leaders through urban farming and social justice organizing.

“We are a faith-informed community organization and we really operate through the lens of our Anabaptist experience,” said Jason Storbakken, Radical Living co-founder and pastor at Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship. “We do it by actively working toward peace in our communities through our relationships with one another — also through marches and protesting and equipping the young people to understand that they are agents of social change within their communities.”

The program is now in its third year, and Vonetta Storbakken has plans for expanding the summer youth program to more church sites.

“In Brooklyn you have a lot of churches that have kitchens and space that’s not being utilized,” said Vonetta Storbakken. “We’re hoping that if we connect with churches like those that we’ll be able to use the space to teach kids about gardening, about making healthy food choices, about the environment, about social justice issues.”

Watch the mini documentary above to see how the Radical Living summer youth program uses food and farming to #BringthePeace in New York City.



#BringThePeace is a call to action for individuals and congregations across Mennonite Church USA to extend God’s peace in their communities, introduced at MennoCon19 by Glen Guyton, MC USA executive director. As a historic peace church, MC USA is committed to witness to God’s peace. To contribute a #BringThePeace story, contact KaylaB@mennoniteusa.org.


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One thought on “Radical Living garden program plants seeds with Brooklyn youth

  1. What a wonderful, well-done video story. Kudos to all the participants and to Kayla Berkey for its production. What a great model program in Manhattan itself, but also the idea of video stories from “on-the-ground that shows the good work of the Church.

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