Tag Archives: urban agriculture

Ujima Hosts Hecksher for Garden Workday

Today the students from Ujima Garden invited the gang from Hecksher Garden to come over for a workday. The Ujima students were super excited about being team leaders and hosts. When they arrived, we quickly split up into work teams: weeding, painting, watering, harvesting and snack making. We all worked together for about an hour and a half and got a lot done. We harvested 15 cucumbers, 6 bunches of swiss chard, 18 bunches of kale, 15 bunches of collards, 11 bunches of basil and 5 bunches of Thai basil. There were also cherry tomatoes  but they all got eaten before we could count ’em.

We made 3 types of bruschetta from our harvest: tomato, pesto and sauteed swiss chard.

Thursday is our last day. We have about 15 ripe eggplants hanging off the vine and we plan on making an eggplant stirfry and serving it with a watermelon salsa.


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A Greenmarket Adventure

On Wednesday, we took the kids from Ujima and Hecksher to the Greenmarket at Union Square. Things got off to a rocky start as none of the kids from the YMCA showed up at Hecksher. It turned out that there was some sort of problem with the counselor/student ratio for the trip, so they couldn’t come along. We were sad that they couldn’t join us. That said, there were still 12 kids and that was about all that could fit into the education tent at one time…so perhaps it was for the best.

One of the biggest ongoing challenges for the teachers has been trying to get the partner camps’ schedules to jive with our camp’s schedule.  I have to say that the teachers have been amazingly resourceful with their ability to make everything work. Next year we will have to set our partnerships earlier to make sure that everything is clear among all the parties.

Back to the Greenmarket. It was hot! Holley (our uber dedicated Slow Food NYC vice chair)  bought a big container of lemon cider from Red Jacket to get the kids properly watered before the teacher from Greenmarket got started. Once the teacher arrived, she gave a nicely interactive presentation about farms and farmers. I was so proud of our kids. They were engaged and asked lots of great questions.

Then, we all went on a short tour: we visited Andrew and his bees (what a character!), the fish stand, the ostrich farmer, the goat farmer and lots of vegetable farmers. Most of the kids had never tried honey before and none of them had ever seen an ostrich egg. They were fascinated. Do you know how many chicken eggs fit inside an ostrich egg?

Next, we were off on a scavenger hunt to find all sorts of local treats and at the same time spend our “Snail Bucks”. Each student got a certificate to spend $2 at the stands. This, not surprisingly, was the hit of the day. The farmers were generous and they came away with bags of fruit, a cantaloupes and other goodies. Some of the kids tried their hand at bargaining and, from what I saw, did quite well!

A great trip!


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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 GoodFoodAndGardens@gmail.com


Cutting Down the Forest

Josh Cuts Down a Stump

Natrell and Elija Know What to do with a Shovel

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