|Dear Farmy Friends,
Brrrrrr! It’s cold out there! We hope this month’s second to last newsletter finds you somewhere cozy, with a cup of tea or your preferred hot beverage in hand. We hope this holiday season finds you sufficiently warm and dry, as we’ve been hearing various stories of delinquent landlords and management companies neglecting duties when it comes to this basic right.
We recently had our last field day at the farm, when we planned to our last few remaining crops and officially put the space ‘to bed’ for the winter months ahead. Unfortunately, nature had other plans and following our first few days of hard frost, we decided that those crops would just have to stay put until the spring when the soil thaws enough to pull them out. We generally opt to remove our crops because of our persistent battle with symphylans, a tiny nematode that loves to feast on plant roots. Pulling crops makes sure that these pests don’t have any reason to stick around over the winter, though now we will opt to remove them in the spring when temperatures warm, serving the same purpose. Just a great example of how you need to stay flexible in farming! The rest of our beds are all tucked safely under burlap, straw, or cover crop for the winter, helping us maintain good soil health and structure through the colder months. With our little urban oasis all set for the winter, we can turn our attention to planning, supply ordering, and strategizing for next season.
In our youth programs, we’ve been delving into food (in)security, what it is, how it is created, and how it can be transformed (from insecurity to security) and maintained. In Go Green!, we continued our ‘Health & Nutrition’ unit by looking at how a minimum wage income can affect a family’s access to quality food (which our students define as nutritious and culturally appropriate) when other living expenses must be accounted for. Our view of who is food insecure/”in need” is shifting from one face (the homeless) to include a multitude of narratives. Youth Farm Leadership Council (YLC) is currently examining the quality of cafeteria school lunches and who makes the decisions about what is served and from where it’s sourced due to school wide complaints on the taste and healthfulness of the food served. So far, our investigative journalists have learned that funds for school lunches are managed by the Federal budget, decisions about where to source ingredients are made by the USDA & DoD (United States Department of Agriculture and Department of Defense) and that principals are not directly in charge of the spending for their school’s lunches. This begs the question: Why not source cafeteria food from other farms and companies if the food is considered poor by those who have to eat it? We’ll keep you informed as we learn more. Farm Club along with the combined Green Team/YLC duo have learned more about climate change’s impact on food security through their film screening of ‘Before the Flood,’ narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio and available to view here (https://www.beforetheflood.com/) and a school-wide ACE Climate Change Assembly. Learning about the many ways that climate change impacts all living things, with communities living near pollutants losing more than others, have our students thinking about the ways they can reduce their carbon footprint and contribution to greenhouse gases. We encourage you to think of ways you can help reduce the amount of carbon, methane, and other gas emissions or check out ACE’s DOT (Do One Thing) page here –> https://acespace.org/dot
Our 5th Annual Winter Farmraiser, held at 61 Local on December 12th, was a ton of fun! This year, in honor of the relaunch of Farm School NYC’s relaunch of their Certificate program, we partnered with them to host the event. Thanks to funding from a new grant from the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and New Rancher Development Program, The Youth Farm’s Urban Farm Training Program will be supported for the first time ever by a grant. Our five-year-old training program will now be incorporated as a large piece of Farm School’s Farm Intensive Certificate, in which 12 students will ground their learning with 3 core Farm School Courses (Training of Trainers, Food Justice and Botany) and then head to the farm in April for our standard 7 month on-farm training program. For those of you subscribed to our CSA newsletter each season, we introduce our adult farm students week by week. We look forward to sharing more about the 12 bright lights who’ll be joining us on the farm in April 2017!
But I digress: The Winter Farmraiser was a great gathering of community, of Youth Farm supporters, past interns and UFTP alums, as well as Farm School students, and the 61 regulars coming in for food and drink. It was so nice to catch up with many familiar faces, and reflect on the season and share ideas about 2017. Finding time to commune during the season is difficult to say the least, so we always look forward to getting together with our community at this event. Sawdayah, Erin and I cooked up some tasty treats, and over 10 farmer/artisans contributed their products to sell at a holiday mini market. While we raised more funds than in the past via food sales and the market, we sadly fell short of our goal, and last year’s reach. The Youth Farm has had a difficult funding year: while we raise about 40% of our funding via CSA, Market, Restaurant sales, and the adult training program, about 60% of our funding has come from grants and donations. As the funding landscape becomes more crowded with competing urban agriculture initiatives, calling on us to get even more scrappy than we’ve been, we are looking at 2017 as a year to focus innovative strategies for funding. We are open to your ideas and experience, so please let us know if you have one!
Farmer Sawdayah and UFTP graudate Sakara work the mini Market table
As always, we are so very grateful to our loyal supporters, community members, past staff and colleagues who cheer us on. You may have given up some precious time on your Saturday this year to rake leaves or weed beds; you may have joined as a new CSA member or returned as a CSA member (woot!); you may have delivered burlap weekly to the farm; you may have donated art supplies or ingredients for a fundraiser; you may have interned with our Youth Tillers program or come faithfully on a Tuesday or Thursday to intern on the farm with Sawdayah or Erin; you may have driven harvests to restaurants; you may have brought your classes out on the farm for some hands-on learning; you may have attended our Harvest Festival or our farmers markets…. the list goes on and on. Their are countless individuals who have chipped in their time, energy and passion to make The Youth Farm a true community effort, and a space for reclaiming our food systems knowledge and cultivating new perceptions of well being, health, leadership, and sustainability. As we reflect on the year we are filled to the brim with gratitude for the many people who’ve been a part of the farm this season. We hope your interaction with the farm and the people you found there was fruitful and fun. We hope you’ll return in some way shape or form next year!
Till then, wishing you and yours a wonderful, restful, rejuvenating holiday.
Farmers Erin, Sawdayah, and Molly