Written By: Tony Hillery
Illustrated by: Jessie Hartland
For Ages: 4-8 years
Topics Covered: Own Voices, Black Culture & Identity, Food Equity, Community Involvement, Community Garden, Food Desert.
Harlem Grown is an awesome true story about a man named Tony (the author himself!) who helped kids clear our a vacant lot across the street from their elementary school and turn it into a community garden.
Tony was a volunteer at PS 175, a school in Harlem that was also in a food desert. In the neighborhood, there was nowhere to buy fresh healthy produce. The vacant lot across the street from the school was called the haunted garden by the kids! A student named Neveah began to help Tony clear and prepare the lot, and they decided to make it a school project to create the garden. That first lot was transformed ten years ago, and is still in use today! Tony went on to start an organization called Harlem Grown that has set up a dozen of these community gardens all over Harlem, which each grow thousands of pounds of produce for the community every year!
I am a huge proponent of urban agriculture, and I love the process of a community reclaiming their space to combat the marginalization they face, particularly in terms of food justice & equity. Kids who grow their own food are empowered and proud, and the community benefits so much more than just receiving free fruits and veggies. The students learn interpersonal skills, social-emotional learning, and the ancestral farming knowledge that was taken from them because of colonialist and racist systems in place. I urge you to both check out this book, and more urban agriculture programs in your area!
This book was kindly sent by Simon & Schuster, but all opinions are my own. Harlem Grown is out today!
Tony Hillery is the founder and executive director of Harlem Grown. In 2011 he began volunteering at a public elementary school in Harlem. It was then that he noticed the vacant lot across from the street and had a big idea. The rest is history. Tony lives in New York, New York. Harlem Grown is his picture book debut.
Jessie is a New York City based artist, and writer and illustrator of books for children. She has painted murals at a Japanese amusement park, designed Christmas windows for Bloomingdale’s, and put her mark on ceramics, watches, and all sorts of other things. She has done drawings for many magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, Travel and Leisure Family, Martha Stewart Kids and Bon Appetit.
Her paintings have been exhibited in Venice, Tokyo, Long Island and New York City.