Using Urban Farming to Improve Wellness: Services for the UnderServed

by Deirdre Appel
Services for the Underserved

Name: Services for the UnderServed– SUS Urban Farms

What They Do: SUS Urban Farms is an arm of Services for the UnderServed, a NYC non-profit that works with thousands of individuals and families to create pathways to rich and productive lives by offering housing, employment, skills-building, treatment, and rehabilitation. It functions as an innovative supplement to the supports the parent organization offer individuals by using horticulture as a tool to improve wellness outcomes and help participants to achieve their personal and professional goals. 

How They Do It: SUS Urban Farms touches more than 500 individuals each year, providing therapeutic horticulture, nutritional programming, and employment opportunities through workshops, field experiences, and a network of community farms and garden spaces. 

During the harvest season, they provide participants with full and part-time employment, and volunteer opportunities. A year-round schedule of personal and professional development workshops help to build practical knowledge about horticultural and food security topics as diverse as basic tree care and vegetable preservation through canning. They currently partner with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Hudson River Park Conservancy, Kingsborough Community College Culinary Arts Department, Manhattan’s High Line, NYC Parks and Recreation, and Rooftop Reds to place participants, who also achieve  improved health and wellness and become more accountable, responsible and financially independent

Mission: Create scalable solutions that contribute to righting societal imbalances in order to transform the lives of people with disabilities, people in poverty and people facing homelessness

Latest project/campaign: Along with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation Development, SUS celebrated the completion of a $47 million affordable and supportive housing development in Fordham. Fourteen units at the Morris Avenue apartment complex are dedicated to formerly homeless adults with mental illness, and seventeen others are dedicated to people who have aged out of the foster care system. The complex also provides on-site support, including job placement and financial planning, as well as a garden where residents can work and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Major FundingN/A

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: More than 300 people a year work, train, plant and grow in seven SUS Urban Farms spread across four boroughs. In the last year alone, they employed 25 people. Special features of SUS Urban Farms are: More than 40 growing spaces in four boroughs, including eight community farms; an annual yield of more than 4,000 pounds of food from 57 unique species, including fruits, vegetables, herbs and mushrooms; 25 SUS urban farmers serving as landscapers, farm specialists and peer educators; and honey cultivation at the SUS beehive. You can read a story about how they are impacting the lives of those in the community here.

Location: 463 Seventh Avenue, 17th Floor, New York, New York, 10018
Core Programs: Therapeutic horticulture, vocational and personal development training in urban agriculture for underserved individuals and families, employment development in urban agriculture for individuals with disabilities
Number of staff: 4
Number of volunteers: 40
Areas served: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens
Year Started: 2011
Director/Founder: Michael Hollis
Contact Information:

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