Hecksher Garden

Hecksher Garden is a green oasis in South Williamsburg.   Slow Food NYC and NYRP have partnered to create an on site youth program. Together, we  host “Good Food and Gardens”at the site.. Our students come to us daily from the local YMCA. Classes run 4 days a week from 9am – 12pm.

Students  spend their days learning about good food and gardening. A cohesive 6 week curriculum focuses on building an awareness of what good, healthy food is, where it comes from and why we eat it.

Our head teacher is Sonya Kharas, a farmer and graduate student at NYU. Our assistant teacher is Andrew Camp who is an Urban Planning graduate student at Hunter College. The teachers are assisted by students from WATCH High School who will then move on to maintain our Ujima Garden in the Fall

If you would like to learn more about Slow Food NYC’s Good Food and Gardens curriculum contact goodfoodandgardens@gmail.com


6 responses to “Hecksher Garden

  1. skharas

    We have had an exhausting few weeks at Heckscher. One amazing part about this camp is that every single day, no matter how tired we are, or what challenges we face, the kids show up and we have a busy day planned. Even when I feel my patience wearing thing — did we really lose two watering cans?!? — I see the kids smiles and find the energy to make it through another day. We have had so many highlights from the past few weeks. Here are a few:

    On Monday, July 26th we had a jam-packed day, literally! Sandra came as our guest chef and made blueberry/plum/peach jam with the kids. I was so surprised to see each own tying a little red ribbon onto their jar and walking away announcing the lucky recipient of their hard work. That same day, Katherine, our assistant from WATCH high school, led some fun ice-cream making using a simple plastic bag method (produces a little trash, but it was fun and tasty nonetheless), and I helped the kids pickle cucumbers, green beans, and carrots which were generously donated to us from a local CSA. What a blast!

    On Tuesday, the 27th we boarded a bus and headed out to the Queens County Farm Museum. It was amazing to listen in on the kids’ conversations as they followed the trail from one animal to the next … petting llamas, chickens, sheep, goats, cows, and more!

    On Wednesday the 28th we enjoyed one of our favorite snacks so far — deviled eggs!

    The 29th was one of my favorite community meals. We made a grilled corn and peach salad, a recipe we picked up from the Greenmarket on our tour of the previous week. We also made pasta with pesto (always a hit) and a raw Zucchini salad from Sicily — thanks, Kate, for the recipe!

    On Monday of last week, August 2nd, Marvin and Stanley (two of our campers) invited their older sister Kimberly to come teach the class how to make empanadas! We made two kinds, one with grated cheese and scallions, the other with wilted spinach. Yum!

    On Tuesday the 3rd, Pamela stopped by to give the kids a great lesson on proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. I was a little nervous because we can be a rowdy bunch, but everyone sat attentively and learned a lot! Later that afternoon, we walked over to the famous hotspot Roberta’s, for a great tour of the garden and grounds with the owner, and then some delicious pizza — plain, pepperoni, and arugula! The salad with gorgonzola and walnuts was a little out of the kids’ comfort zones, but they all gave it a try, which is all I can ask.

    On Wednesday, Lisa from McLeod came by as our expert dumpling chef, and we made three kinds of dumplings — pork, vegetable, and “green” (a mix of bok choy and other greens). The kids loved folding the dough, and did a great job. We made hundreds!

    Finally, on Thursday of last week we had our version of a Mexican fiesta. We made our own tortillas and our own ricotta cheese, and then made spinach and ricotta quesadillas. In retrospect it was a lot of work on one little burner, but we made it through and enjoyed a yummy treat.

    This is our last week and I absolutely can’t believe it! Time really does fly when you’re so busy and having fun.

  2. Andrew C

    It was a busy, bzz-zzy week at Heckscher Garden!

    We began the week by meeting up with our buddies at the YMCA on Humboldt Street, just around the corner from the garden. Once we were all cozy, with plenty of popcorn to share, we watched a film titled What’s on Your Plate?

    This documentary follows two eleven-year-old girls, Safiya and Sadie, as they explore their food system right here in New York City. The girls talk to friends, food activists, farmers, storeowners, and their own families to find out how their food ended up on their plates. They investigate where food is grown, how it travels from the farm, how it’s packaged, and how it is prepared at home, in restaurants, and even their school lunchroom.

    When it was over, we discussed the film and developed our own questions about the food we eat in our neighborhood in Williamsburg. The next day, with clipboards and pens in hand, we mapped out all the different places where food is sold or grown, and graphed the different types of stores including fast food or sit-down restaurants, bodegas or grocery stores, and community gardens. By looking at our graphs we discovered that there are a lot of bodegas, and more fast food restaurants than sit-down restaurants.

    While we wandered the neighborhood, we had a chance to ask our questions at some of these places. Some asked where their fresh foods came from? Others wondered how the food was delivered? Another wanted to know how they keep the fresh foods fresh, and what happens when they go bad? Everyone enjoyed talking with the shopkeepers, and storeowners were impressed with our questions. They were some pretty great questions!

    On Wednesday, we continued to explore our food system by taking a trip to the Union Square Farmer’s Market in Manhattan. There we learned that all the food sold at the market is grown within 300 miles of Union Square. We looked at a map of New York State, showing all the different types of farms that come to sell food at the market. We talked to a lot of farmers about what they grow, and how they grow it.

    Marvin most enjoyed talking to the beekeeper about his honeybees and their delicious honey. We also talked to an Ostrich farmer who showed us gigantic ostrich eggs; eggs so big that they are equal to over 20 chicken eggs! That’s a lot of omelets!

    We ended the week back in the garden, spending the whole day chopping, dicing, stirring and cooking. Did I forget to mention shaking? After all the ingredients for our Fricassee of Seasonal Vegetables and Greens were prepared and simmering, a few of the kids started to make different flavored butters.

    That’s right, we MADE butter from scratch! With a jar, some heavy cream, a bit of salt, and a lot of shaking we ended up with four delicious flavored butters. Christopher is an expert butter shaker, if you happen to need any butter shaking tips. All of the butters were tasty and creamy, but the strawberry butter was a crowd favorite!

    We enjoyed a tasty community meal; it was a great way to end the week!

  3. sandramc

    Hey Sonya – You’ve nailed it! When you walk out of the garden after a day of teaching and finally get a chance to reflect back on the day, and you feel satisfied, somehow it makes it all worth it. Thanks for your great work!

  4. skharas

    We have been having so much fun at Heckscher. Each day there are new surprises, challenges, and moments that make my job worth every effort. I heard Adrian went home yesterday after our trip to the Union Square Farmers Market and showed his Mom the different varieties of apples he had bought…. Jose and Stephen introduced me to a new fruit — which the kids call limoncillos or canepas depending on which country their families come from…. I got to watch Ashley and Brandy take leadership roles while frying our corn arepas…. and Christopher gave some visitors today a complete tour of the garden, making sure to point out the basil and mint and other favorites. Sometimes I think our days look (and feel) chaotic, but after we have washed our dishes and watered the plants, I always leave feeling like we have reached one more kid, made one more connection, and created a space for many more smiles.

    I am so grateful for Andrew, Katherine, Sayeda, and of course all of our great kids for making this program happen!

  5. sandramc

    Are the peaches getting ripe yet?

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