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From the Farmer- Week of January 13th, 2017

Published on February 2, 2017 under From the Farmer
From the Farmer- Week of January 13th, 2017
Greetings Farmily!

We hope you have had warm, nourishing, rejuvenating holidays! We’re happy to share some updates with you this January, to shed light on what has been going on with The Youth Farm. While our soil is most certainly frozen, taking a much deserved and needed rest after a long, extremely bountiful season that produced copious healthy crops, we are working away behind the scenes, teaching youth in our Go Green class, organizing our crop plans, placing seed and supply orders, researching and applying for grants and much need funding, as well as taking some time to slow down, vision, and prepare mentally for the growing season! Here are some words from each of us (Molly, Sawdayah and Erin):

Molly here: I’m thrilled to report that the Flower Crop Plan is finished! After multiple hours-long sessions of analyzing weather charts, 2015 sowing logs, 2016-17 seed catalogs and doing lots of math, it’s finished! We are excited to be growing over 100 different flower varieties in 2017, to fill out our 2017 Flower CSA, Market, and Restaurant accounts with all kinds of fresh beauty! Luckily, all seeds desired were happily in stock and those seeds are on their way to us. You may be interested to know that we sow our earliest flowers (Snapdragons, Foxglove, and Scabiosa) in mid-January! Onions will be sown in late January. We are also placing a seed starting soil order with a supplier GreenTree of Vermont. We’ve helped organize a joint order for roughly 10 urban farms and community gardens every year since 2012. Here’s an image of my crop planning (it helps to map it out!):

My time this month will be focused on working with my teammates to submit a much needed grant to fund our wonderful youth leadership programs, headed up by Sawdayah. I will also begin preparing for the arrival of 12 new adult farming students. As some of you may know, we’ve developed an adult farm training program – known as the Urban Farm Training Program – graduating 35 adults since 2012. Beginning last August, we embarked on a wonderful new partnership with Farm School NYC, and will have 12 new adult farming students joining us on the farm in April. These 12 students will receive a Farm School Certificate, and will have also completed several Farm School courses including Training of Trainers, a popular education course; Food Justice, with longtime activist and community gardener Yonnette Fleming; and Botany, with Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Uli Lorimer. We are excited to have a diverse new crew on the farm, and are preparing for their arrival by fine tuning our workshop schedule, syllabus and reading materials, and getting farm supplies in order!

Hello all, Erin here! Like Molly, I’ve been plugging away at the vegetable crop plan, though unlike her, I’m not quite there yet :). I’m nearing the end of planning and will be placing our various seed orders within the week. I’m excited about a few new crops that we’ll be bringing back to the farm this season, including malabar spinach and winter squash, and growing more of crops that were particular hits last season, like some amazing varieties of Caribbean seasoning peppers. I’ll also be sending in some requests for seed donations to some amazing companies that we have been fortunate to have donate to use each year. Next on the agenda, will be to start compiling supply orders- I’ve been pursuing a couple catalogues and dreaming of all the fun (and useful!) farm tools that I’m hoping to order for next season. One item we’ve been dreaming of is a larger shed. If you’ve ever had the chance to peek into our current shed, you know that we store a number of important things in that tiny space, from seeds, to tools, to produce, to condiments for farm lunches! We are definitely at capacity and would benefit from a little more space.

Peace Farmily, Sawdayah here! Our youngest farming students have been wrapping their minds around nutrients and the roles they play in our bodies, nutritional recommendations to the public from the USDA & FDA, and the role that nutrition and health plays in our communities. In Go Green! we’ve had some introductory lessons into the old Food Pyramid model, the recent MyPyramid, and MyPlate diagram. This added nuance to our discussions around whole vs ultra processed foods; some of our students found it backwards that MyPyramid’s grains section is still the largest section of the pyramid instead of vegetables, which can be consumed whole or minimally processed and maintaining a large quantity of their nutrients. Others thought the addition of a person walking up stairs to emphasize the importance of exercise and improving health “one step at a time” and the organization of the food groups as an array instead of a hierarchy suggested a balanced lifestyle for good health. Many of our students have made commitments to themselves or in groups to include more water, fruits, and vegetables in their diets and have begun charting their progress on a weekly basis. Farm Club began work on a series of PSAs that our youth programs plan to color the halls with. Knowing what’s nutritious, how it benefits our bodies, and appropriate quantities can be a lot to navigate for anyone. Taking some inspiration from film posters and NYC Health PSAs, our students are making posters highlighting fruits, veggies, whole grains, the nutrients inside them, and water with fun facts and tips about how to consume more to post around the school. Are there food groups that you feel you could consume more or less of?

We hope you all are enjoying your winter months as well, and are also hatching great plans for the year to come! Spring will be here before you know it!

In community,
Molly, Sawdayah, and Erin

FUN FACT
Botanist and inventor George Washington Carver was an innovative and pioneering agriculturalist, and a founding father of the organics movement. He was born into slavery in Missouri, under a German American immigrant master, Moses Carver. Following a kidnapping attempt, in which George was separated from his parents and sister, Moses Carver raised young George as his own, after abolition. He was taught reading and writing by his “aunt Susan” and attended a public school for black children. He eventually attended Highland College in Kansas, and then Simpson College in Iowa. While in school in Kansas, he farmed 17 acres of mixed crops, including rice, corn, fruit trees and other vegetables. He demonstrated a talent for art and piano, and was encouraged to study Botany. He went on to become the first black student at Iowa State Agricultural College, starting in 1891. In 1896 he was invited by Booker T. Washington, first principal and president of the Tuskegee Institute, where he taught for 47 years, developing its research department into a robust force. He taught methods of crop rotation, introduced several alternative cash crops for farmers that would also improve the soil of areas heavily cultivated in cotton, initiated research into crop products, and taught generations of black students farming techniques for self-sufficiency. He designed a mobile classroom to take education and research out to farmers. Carver developed methods to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. Together with other agricultural experts, he urged farmers to restore Nitrogen their soils by practicing crop rotation, alternating cotton crops with plantings of sweet potatoes or legumes such as peanuts, soybeans and cowpeas. Following the crop rotation practice resulted in improved cotton yields and gave farmers alternative cash crops. To encourage better nutrition in the South, he widely distributed recipes using the alternative crops. In addition, he founded an industrial research laboratory, where he and assistants worked to popularize the new crops by developing hundreds of applications for them. They did original research as well as promoting applications and recipes which they collected from others. Carver distributed his information as agricultural bulletins. Carver’s work was known by officials in the national capital before he became a public figure. President Theodore Roosevelt publicly admired his work. Carver’s research proving the efficacy of crop rotation for the improved health of agricultural soils forms a bedrock for organic farming practices today. We are indebted to his legacy as we continue to use these critical methods on the Youth Farm today!
Plant 2 trees with one seed! Don’t miss out on supporting our Farm Club this Saturday, 1/14 by purchasing lunch and/or dinner; 50% of the proceeds will go to the club at HSPS (High School for Public Service). Funds will support hands-on workshops such as an indoor aquaponics garden, plant dye workshop, nutrition and culinary workshops, and field trips. See ya Saturday and bring a friend 😉
RECIPE CORNER
Veggie Cakes with Winter Greens and Ricotta

Ingredients

  • 12 cups trimmed winter greens (try kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, or any other hearty green)
  • 1 cup white whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup or more grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil or ghee, plus extra for frying
  • thick yogurt or sour cream, To finish
  • micro greens or slivered basil leaves, To finish

Directions

  1. Wash the greens, drain and put it in a pot with the water clinging to the leaves. Cover and cook over high heat until wilted. You want the greens to be tender but not overcooked, so keep an eye on it and taste it frequently. Add a few splashes of water if the pot threatens to dry out. When the greens are done, put it in a colander to cool and drain.
  2. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. In a second larger bowl, mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, milk, and eggs until blended. Add the oil and the saffron, then whisk in the flour mixture. Returning to the greens, squeeze out as much water as possible, then chop it finely and stir it into the batter.
  3. Heat a few teaspoons olive oil or ghee in a skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter by the spoonful into the hot pan, making small or larger cakes as you wish. The batter is quite thick and it will not behave like a pancake. You need to give it plenty of time in the pan to cook through. Cook until golden on the bottom, then turn the cakes once, resisting any urge to pat them down, and cook until the second side is also well colored, maybe 3 minutes per side, or longer.
  4. Serve each cake with a tiny spoonful of sour cream and a finish of diced beets and beet thinnings.