Farming in Brooklyn Part One: Community Outreach with Cornell University

Red Hook Brooklyn's Added Value Farm Is Open For 2011 Season

Thursday, July 7th 2011 – Brooklyn, NY – Last Saturday I spent my first weekend of the season with Linda Marie Ameroso and Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension focusing on community outreach for Red Hook’s CSA, a supportive arm of Added Value. My involvement with Added Value began early in 2010 as a CSA member, buying in and getting a half share in 2010 (locally grown and sourced organic produce, herbs, eggs and fruit). Last fall, I was approached by the CSA core group to with the hopes of bolstering their community outreach. Added Value Farm fills CSA orders and provides nutritious foods to families in the 11231 zip code. The CSA Core Group consists of about a half a dozen people, each with a specific role who executes all of the needs of the CSA while interacting with and reporting directly to Added Value’s Ian Marvy and Kristen Shafenacker.

Our learning station, overseen by Brooklyn Food Coalition‘s David Buckel and Cornell University provides information about our “Vegetable of the Week” (available for purchase and locally grown), nutrition, diet, how to properly wash and prepare fruit and vegetables to avoid bacterial contamination, portions, steps to take to reduce sodium and easy recipes – in English and Spanish – featuring the vegetable of the week.

The Learning Station sign with market and CSA in background.

Learning station set up and ready for "Red Hook Walks The Talk" walking tours to stop by. Beyond the green beds, IKEA is visible in the background.

My favorite motto: “Make half of your plate plants!”

www.choosemyplate.gov

Do you want to save money – and be sure your food is safe – with your own homemade veggie wash spray? Get a spare spray bottle with a mix of 3 parts water, 1 part vinegar, 1 part lemon juice and a bit of salt or baking soda.  Then include a spritz when following the directions below.  Please note: it is not good to cut vegetable stems and then soak them in water as bacteria can travel into the vegetable and contaminate it from within.  A bowl of cold water and the repeated “dip” is a great way to be sure gravel on spinach and other greens doesn’t make it to your dinner plate.

Simple instructions. For example, cantaloupe needs a good scrub as it is typically houses bacteria on its skin. When you cut it and it isn't scrubbed, the knife "drags" the bacteria through the flesh of the fruit. A vegetable brush can be purchased anywhere from Crate & Barrel to a dollar store. To clean it when it gets funky, soak in a bleach and water solution. You can also do this when your sponge starts to smell or for dishes with tough stains.

My first veggie of the week: Bok Choy!

Also called Chinese cabbage, bok choy is an excellent source of calcium.

And with Added Value, which also provides vital work opportunities for teens including the green jobs of tomorrow (they learn about growing food, recycling, greenhouses and organic composting systems), I hope to make an impact in 2011 and build relationships with our healthy counterparts, as different from me as they may be, to strengthen our community’s health, diversity, sustainability, communication and education.

Why? According to the National Poverty Center and a 2008 University of Michigan’s findings, 19% of American youth lives in poverty (or 14.1 million individuals). The population of Red Hook is 11,000.  A large number – 8,000 –  live in the Red Hook houses (East and West combined).  The average annual salary for this population is $15,200.  According to the American Community Survey, “the 2009 nationwide poverty rate was 14.3 percent, up from 13.2 percent, and that was the second statistically-significant annual increase since 2004”.  With 44 million people living in poverty, that’s about one in every seven Americans.  According to Sam Roberts, urban affairs correspondent for The New York Times, “the official poverty definition is an income of $10,800 for a single adult, or $22,000 for a family of four.  In New York City the threshold for two adults and two children is $21,000.” He continues, “One of the interesting things about the poverty rate in New York City is if it had not been for food stamps, probably another 250 thousand New Yorkers would have been officially in poverty in 2009.”

And our challenge in 2011: how to get information “into” the Red Hook Houses to educate and inform its 8,000 residents about healthier eating, diet related disease and illness prevention and encourage them to shop at the farm market.  And if eligible, use SNAP, EBT and Food Stamp benefits to purchase good, affordable food locally.  Added Value’s Ian Marvy has said, “It’s driving home the idea of fresher food for less money, right down the block.”  Both the farm and CSA (although closed to new members until 2012) both accept food stamp benefits.  Interested parties should refer to www.snaptomarket.com and search by zip code to find nearby farm markets in their community that currently accept benefits.

For me, all of my notes taken and research begins here, as we see on July 2nd when our group engaged two community members who – animated as they are – are on the right track to good health and wellness.  What you’ll also see is an up-close-and-personal glimpse into the Learning Station’s goals in action.  Also, if you’re over the age of 51 or have anyone in your family with diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure or kidney disease, please be sure to share this video with them.  Besides, the women are hilarious and worth watching.  (Notably,”I ain’t dying.”)

A mother entertains her son with bubbles at the Children's Station. A scavenger hunt is also available for kids, with the prize being a lovely plant to take home and watch grow.

He caught me taking his picture.

Sylvie and Michael Shannon enjoy the Children's Station and do some drawing.

A patron of the farm market stocks up on locally sourced, organic produce and looks to be contemplating her next ingredient.

A community member weeds the vegetable beds at Red Hook, Brooklyn's Added Value Farm.

Visit the farm (map and location here) by taking the free IKEA ferry from Pier 17 in Manhattan.  Since IKEA is across the street from the farm, you can follow any of these directions to get there.  The farm is open from 9am to 4pm on Saturdays.  Compost welcome! I’ll be there on Saturday, July 9th from 9am until 1pm or so.  And the vegetable of the week: celery! Learn how to skillfully remove the string and pick up some produce for your own culinary experiments.  And remember, enjoy your food!

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An Important Message

ARCHIVED: A Happening For…You

Tsunami.

Bus Accident.

War.

Hunger.

Poverty.

Good, now that that’s out of the way, let’s have some fun! “The MENSA of variety shows” is back.  This will be quite a happening and we all hope you will attend to share in the magic combination of complimentary absinthe, comedy and more dangerous movement than plate tectonics can shake a continent at.  Yes, there will be a hula hooper, a wonderful human with wild hair, a Goddess, a madam, a trumpet, a bass and surprise performances that promise to thrill and delight.

Featuring the music of Chet Baker, Julie London, Tom Waits, Rilo Kiley and original live music and language arts by Reggie Watts.  Attendance prizes will be drawn.  And no, we weren’t kidding about the complimentary absinthe.  It’s local, artisinal, small batch and made with home grown ingredients.  And it’s appropriately called “Meadow of Love”.

Entry for the evening is $11 and supports the participating performers.  Bios and further information about our cast can be found here.

Join us in the “Meadow of Love” on Sunday, March 27th at Ella. Doors at 8:30pm

My World Premiere

Hello, world.  It’s me, Kiki.  The one who parodies our popular culture, doesn’t watch television or listen to commercial radio.  I don’t buy InTouch Weekly (but will peek during a pedicure if the NY Times crossword puzzle isn’t nearby) and certainly didn’t mean to make a fuss.  Really.  However I think it’s funny that all this time I fought the label of “burlesque performer” because I already thought that, to describe my work, it is not an entirely accurate pigeon hole.  And here I am making the tabloid news because I am honest-to-God withdrawing from it and moving on to what most of my mentors and close creative genius friends have suggested all along: a one woman show.  To be honest, the concept doesn’t quite grab me.  People might think it is stand up.  And let’s face it, going to see stand up in New York these days, much like many things in this ever-evolving new New York, is just not what it used to be. That just isn’t going to work.

So instead, and based on the uncensored concept that made the Sunday Show such an underground-cum-public success, I am going to reconnect with my unique style of entertaining the public through topical, somewhat controversial performances and observational humor  through a new “One-ish Woman Show”.  I am always inspired by how the way I see the world translates, with the help of spectacle performances, to and before an interested audience.  It’s medicine in a sick and twisted world.  And you’ll see real burlesque (but not from me – the adorable outfits will be staying on from now on!) Admittance will not be selective but instead, limited.

The new year will bring, as usual, more unexpected performance art than you can shake a dollar at.  And speaking of, I’m still not going to charge $1000 to see it (ah-hem, you know you are, venue I’m referring to).   The type of art that people can afford and relate to is what I want to continue to provide in 2011.  I have a fire lit beneath me, and it’s burning off my garter belt.

Perezhilton.com neglected to mention that The Sunday Show had a residency at The Slipper Room on Orchard Street in New York City before it closed.  We are doing the anniversary show at Ella because construction on the new theater is pending.  I, of course, would love to bring something back to the space that James and Camille Habacker created to delight audiences and give performers a space to work out their concepts.  We’ll see how things progress.

 

Isn’t this what everyone dreams of? We’re the stars of our own made-for-TV movie.
Screen shot 2013-02-23 at 12.08.50 PM

Want To Help Out The Oil Spill? Donate Your Stockings. Really.

The pictures.  The spill trajectory debates.  The politicians.  The finger-pointing.  The witch hunt.

It all left me thinking “what can WE do to help the cleanup efforts of this, the largest not-so-natural disaster in American history?”

And then I figured it out!

The California-based organization MATTER OF TRUST collects organic fibers which are then used in oil spill containment booms.  According to their website, “We shampoo because hair collects oil. Why should millions of pounds of absorbant, natural, renewable fiber clippings go to waste every day?” Genius.  They also accept pet clippings.  However with the disaster in the Gulf, hair donations have skyrocketed and the group is now in desperate need of nylons – even if they have runs in them.  (Note: if you prefer to donate hair it will go into the group’s “reserves”.)

You can contact me as I will be taking a collection, or this link will provide you with information for registering on your own.  It’s fast and easy, and you’ll feel great making your own simple contribution to the cleanup,  its astronomical damage and the effort it will take over the next decade to remedy this catastrophe.

http://www.matteroftrust.org/programs/hairmatsinfo.html

Final Sunday Show At The Slipper Room: Videos and Thanks

For the Sunday Show’s temporary finale last night at The Slipper Room (the venue closes for renovations June 12th) host Kiki Valentine does not survive a routine surgery and instead ends up in purgatory with Satan (Joe Pepitone).  It was a great show.

The dedication of the performers since the beginning is reflected in the immense amount of support and love we receive from each and every one of you.  For example, here is Michelle St. Darling in the first half of the Finale show performing beautifully to “Flight of the Bumblebee” despite receiving a terrible concussion only two days earlier.  This is the type of allegiance that is appreciated beyond words.  Again, thank you.

This will be the third venue change for The Sunday Show until The Slipper Room returns in its charming and newly minted form.  Since our humble beginnings,  glittering in the darkest basements of the Lower East Side and upwards to the legendary stage of The Slipper Room,  unexpected change has allowed us opportunities to develop on an underground level into a completely unique live, interactive and uncensored show.  We keep the concept fresh: each monthly show –  thematically, cast-wise and elementally –  is completely unique and never repeated.  And we appreciate the support of those who have seen only one show, as well as those who have devoutly followed our collaborations.  We are delighted to reveal that the next show – date TBA – will contain even more of the allure, camaraderie, humor, talent, variety and surprises one might expect from The Sunday Show.  However in a new, larger space (and especially one with higher ceilings) we will be able to develop even more conceptually rich, collaborative pieces to keep you on the edge of your seat without breaking the bank.

If you’re interested in being notified of the next show, or in receiving a copy of the last show on DVD,  please contact sundayshownyc at gmail dot com.

Back to last night: In the second half of the show Juliet Jeske –  breaking out of her character, Princess Sunshine, for the first time on stage – sings a heartfelt surprise song to Kiki which moved many in attendance to tears.  Later in the clip, we see the entire May cast as they join Juliet in singing.  Amidst other surprises, the show in its entirety delivered a fantastic experience for the ensemble and audience members alike.   What we started in 2008 will continue to grow through Summer 2010 – and beyond – as we do our best to support uncensored expression of, sustainability for and the continuation of these unique collaborations between extraordinary performance artists living in and visiting New York City.

We’re taking the opportunity to relocate as a chance to make an even bigger and more spectacular show.  We hope you will join us for the next incarnation of Sunday night.

Thank you.

ARCHIVED: Private Mansion THE PLAYERS Opens Doors For SPRING SPECTACULAR – And Kiki’s Birthday!

Landmarked NYC Jewel THE PLAYERS Opens to Public for “Spring Spectacular”

Performances by  Martha Wainwright, Jolie Holland

and NYC’s “It” Artists Highlight the Event

New York, NY – April 29, 2010 – The historical landmark The Players of Gramercy Park opens its private doors to the public for SPRING SPECTACULAR, a night of elegance harkening the rich history of Manhattan’s legendary entertainers with a Kennedy-era flair.  This star-studded evening will feature big band, swing dancing, burlesque and jazz while bringing together a staggering array of talent demonstrating the city’s diversity.  The event will be held Friday, May 7th at 8pm.  Guests are encouraged to dress in swing, beatnik or  modern mid-century attire (a la Mad Men).

This rare occasion celebrates the spring season through an evening of the exuberant entertainment of yesteryear with a modern, independent edge. Special guests include vocalist Martha Wainwright performing a selection from her album “Martha Wainwright Sings Piaf” in addition to the “velvet voice” of Jolie Holland, the independent artist who counts none other than Tom Waits as one of her biggest fans.  Accompaniment  for the night’s performances as well as live jazz and swing provided by the acclaimed JC Hopkins’ Biggish Band along with tap-dancing sensation DeWitt Fleming Jr. (called “an amazement” by The NY Times) and singer Champian Fulton (who The New Yorker touts as having a “galvanizing voice”). Singer Shien Lee (of Dances of Vice) will perform with pianist Bryan Reeder in the club’s Sergent Room.

The cabaret atmosphere reaches crescendo as some of the best burlesque dancers in NYC step on to the stage to delight and entice: winner of the 2009 Golden Pastie Award for “Most Sensual Performer in Burlesque” Peekaboo Pointe, Miss Coney Island Ekaterina, and, in band breaks, 1920s tap sensation The Minsky Sisters.

The entire evening is presented by Midnight Follies and hosted by James Habacker, illustrious owner of downtown’s The Slipper Room and with Kiki Valentine, actress and producer of NYC’s only uncensored variety show, The Sunday Show. Valentine explains, “The Players has an incredible history and energy…to open the doors to the public and create a happening like this seems to wake the spirits of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Bernhardt. It’s like they’re giving us their blessing. Plus, they always loved a good party.” The event is also celebrating Valentine’s birthday.

 

The legendary Players, boasting Twain himself in its luminary roster along with Nobel-prize-winners Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway and numerous others, is a social club founded by the famed 19th century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth. The Players’ history-steeped home is a magnificent Victorian mansion with dozens of paintings, marble fireplaces, and a wrought iron balcony overlooking Gramercy, the only remaining private park in Manhattan.

Friday, May 7th, 8pm-1am

Complimentary cocktails from 8 to 9pm

The Players, 16 Gramercy Park South

$20 w/RSVP, $25 at the door

$15 for members

RSVP at midnightfollies@gmail.com