Gettin’ Dirty

Ujima Youth Garden, our flagship Slow Food NYC Neighborhood Farm, is halfway built!  Last Friday and Saturday  we welcomed close to 40 volunteers who helped for 2 days. They came on foot, by bus and car, subway and bike. We were an eager and diverse group which included staff from Slow Food USA, Slow Food NYC members, WATCH High School students, interns from the Clinton Foundation and neighbors from the community, all who lent us their hearts, minds and backs.

We spent our first day cutting brush, digging out stumps, clearing rocks and chopping down trees. At the end of the day, we were left with a beautiful 40′ x 100′ open space graced with a 30′ birch, 2 flowering rose bushes and a towering northern pine that we couldn’t bear to chop down.  We spent our second day grading the land and digging the beds in preparation for our soil, mulch and compost delivery. East New York Farms! donated all the tools for the volunteers to use and Brooklyn Botanic Garden donated plants and planting mix.

Kate Ortenzi, Sonya Kharas and Lisa Chodorkoff, our inspring lead educators, started work on Monday. We made plans for community outreach, curriculum writing and assistant teacher training. We will be  meeting daily over the next month to write our proprietary curriculum, plan field trips, train the assistant teachers, do community outreach, recruit 12 students for each garden, start our Neighborhood Farms Blog and integrate our Neighborhood Farms program into the three communities where we will be hosting our “Good Food and Gardens” program.

On June 4th and 5th, we will host round two of our volunteer workdays when we will plant our farm. Our day will start with building a 1000 square foot spiral vegetable bed (straight rows are so old school!). Did anyone say backbreaking?At the same time,  we will be building a children’s garden in the front of the site which will have a flagstone meeting area surrounded by a “Three Sisters Garden” and bean tepees big enough to crawl inside!

June 6th, we will host our first community open house at Ujima where we will accept applications for the summer program which is for 9 – 12 year olds and starts on July 6th and runs through August 20th. At our other 2 sites, Heckscher Foundation Children’s Garden and McLeod Garden – two gorgeous NYRP properties – we will host open houses on June 12th at 11am.

On June 26th and 27th – our final volunteer days –  we will start building a chicken coop and prepare for our bees which will be coming in the Fall. Once the children leave the garden at the end of August, WATCH High School students will be coming in to take over and run the garden through the school year.

Come and visit! Come and Volunteer! We can’t build our Neighborhood Farm without your help!

Upcoming Volunteer Dates:

June 4th
June 5th
June 26th
June 27th

If you are interested in volunteering or want more information, contact Kate at


Cutting Down the Forest

Josh Cuts Down a Stump

Natrell and Elija Know What to do with a Shovel


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