Nicole Ndiaye: Growing Food, Connection and Community in NYC

by | Jan 13, 2023 | Heartivist Of The Week

Nicole Ndiaye is a mother of two, a farmer, and an incredible entrepreneur whose love of people, animals, and the environment led her to create beautiful community gardens where people can access quality food in the Bronx borough of New York City.

I once had a kid come to me in the community garden and say, ‘I thought tomatoes came in a can’. He didn’t know that we could grow tomatoes. Little things like this push me forward,” said Nicole.

Founder Nicole works with NAHE, an Agri-grow business, managing ten farms and leading the sustainable development of the company. In addition, she is the Coordinator at Bathgate Community Garden and a member of Cooke’s Community Farm, where she grows fruit and vegetables. 

Both Cooke and Bathgate Community Garden are part of Community Garden Engagement projects. These projects are designed to bridge the gap within the different communities.

“We want to connect the community to green space and increase access while exposing group-invested stewardship. We also want to beautify and rebuild the green space that experienced a fire. This includes replacing the group’s items that were heavily relied on to maintain the public green space. Lastly, we also want to conduct a survey and find out what the community needs, and host wellness events in the community garden.”

​Many families in the community rely on free resources to survive, so Nicole puts her heart into helping members by hosting free events and growing food.  Whether it’s receiving school supplies or picking a pumpkin to carve at their Fall Festival, the sweetest reward for her is the smiles on the children’s faces when they are participating in an activity.

We did a backpack giveaway,” Nicole said, thinking back upon her last event, “ and we had over 400 kids register with us and close to 200 attended. Can you imagine? These small gestures help the community. Of course, it doesn’t solve all the problems that a family may have but every little bit helps and that’s what I appreciate.

When Nicole found The Pollination Project, she instantly liked the organization’s mission to help different communities.

I thought your organization would be willing to help us grow considering the lives you have impacted over time,” she commented. 

In looking toward the future, Nicole is now focused on her next projects which will take place in community gardens in the Fordham / Belmont section of The Bronx, specifically Cooke’s Community Garden. This 17,000-square-foot farm governed by the NYC Parks & Recreation Department has twelve to fourteen active members who look after this space which includes: over 40 raised beds, annual flowers, herbs, plants, fruit trees, and more. Together, they will work to beautify this space during the 2022-2023 season. 

We serve mostly the Mexican, Spanish, and African American communities. There are lots of immigrant families residing in this urban area and the average income is 15-30K so the majority in this area is below the poverty level,” Nicole explained.

Trash, graffiti, educational resources, food, environmental injustice, homelessness, and crime are some of the issues that families face within the community. That’s why NAHE works to help clean up and beautify the environment.NAHE will continue to work hard to connect members of the community to the gardens, ” Nicole said, proudly. 

Nicole is planning to apply the funding from The Pollination Project toward advertising, reparation of the beds and picnic tables as well as replacement of gardening tools and supplies such as mowers, racks, shovels, hoses, barrels harvesting bins seeds, soil, compost, and wood chips that were lost during a fire at the garden. They will then work to beautify their space for the upcoming growing season and prepare to host four events.

In the end, this multi-talented woman who was also a successful grant writer shared some advice.

“Figure out how you’re going to benefit multiple people in what you’re trying to accomplish. Then write a descriptive narrative about what it is you want to do and the direction you want to go in.”