Providing a focal point for community health and wellness and a training ground for entrepreneurship.
A place of community concern
Structural racism in the U.S. housing system resulted in efforts such as redlining — the discriminatory practice of denying services (typically financial) to residents of certain areas based on their race or ethnicity — causing decades of disinvestment and racial segregation in Poughkeepsie. The neighborhood surrounding Pershing Park was labeled as a “red” and “undesirable” area by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. This prohibited families from securing loans and building equity, and escalated poor housing conditions, inadequate infrastructure, and economic instability. Ask Northside residents about the wooded property that sat behind Pershing Park for many years, and many will tell you it was under-resourced, and that its seclusion and lack of lighting invited illicit activity.
A neighborhood farm and rejuvenated park
Through working with community members and local stakeholders, this quarter-acre site has been transformed into the Pershing Avenue Community Garden and Neighborhood Farm, created in response to needs voiced by residents to support and build healthy lifestyles for children and families, and provide quality education programs for people of all ages. In spring 2021, local residents began growing their own produce in the community garden. The following year, operations commenced at an educational farm that supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhood families and local bodegas and restaurants. The farm also provides opportunities for Poughkeepsie youth that teach life and work skills through hands-on experiences in farming and gardening, health and nutrition, and entrepreneurship and leadership. Along with the new farm, the City of Poughkeepsie made improvements to adjacent Pershing Avenue Park, including rebuilding and replacing the existing basketball court and playground, adding new native plantings, new benches, new picnic tables, new play equipment, new solar lighting, a new walking path, and new meadow for passive recreation.
A focal point for health and wellness
The Pershing Avenue Community Garden and Neighborhood Farm will be a focal point for community health and family wellness, a training ground for entrepreneurship, and a welcoming place for joyful celebrations. Just a five-minute walk from 3,800 households, it also will play a critical role in reducing food insecurity, hunger, and childhood obesity. The improved Pershing Avenue Park will offer opportunities for active recreation and more inviting spaces for relaxation and for family and neighborhood gatherings.
FAQs (frequently asked questions)
The City of Poughkeepsie owns the land. In March 2021, the Common Council approved a five-year lease agreement with Scenic Hudson to operate the farm.
Along with Scenic Hudson and the city, partners include many Northside residents, New City Parks, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, the YouthBuild AmeriCorps Program of Nubian Directions II, Ecological Citizens Partnership, Glynwood, and the PARKnership, a group of community leaders, municipal representatives, and local organizations created to focus on how to improve access to open space in the Northside of Poughkeepsie. PARKnership partners include local neighbors, Nubian Directions II, St. Marks AME Zion Church, Dutchess Outreach, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, the Art Effect, New City Parks, Poughkeepsie Alliance, and Ecological Citizens Project.
In addition to raised beds, running water, and a perimeter fence, the farm features universally accessible paths, a greenhouse, toolshed, as well as picnic tables and benches.
There is a free farm stand at Pershing on Saturdays from noon – 2 p.m. through the end of September.
Nick Jackson is managing the farm operations.
Yes. Poughkeepsie’s Common Council has approved a bond to fund the park’s refurbishment, and Scenic Hudson and New City Parks also have pledged support.
The Pershing Avenue Community Garden and Neighborhood Farm is part of a larger initiative to create a neighborhood-focused “park corridor” along Pershing Avenue. It is being spearheaded by the PARKnership.