From the Farmer: week of October 12
School’s back in session, and so is our school-year youth programming
While Nature and the farm are preparing themselves for a much needed hibernation, our youth programs on the farm are awaking with lots of ideas. Our students at HSPS have dived into learning about sustainability with farm & food-centric workshops from our Go Green! class. This class, designed by The Youth Farm’s founders in conjunction with HSPS teacher community service coordinator Nirvani Bissessar, has traditionally been a stand-alone elective class. This year we combined the school’s Community Action Now (CAN) class with Go Green! to accommodate HSPS’ growing population and the union is resulting in a dynamic, well rounded learning experience for our students. CAN is a requirement for all students to introduce them to HSPS’ culture of service, have them engage in deep thought and action about what a community is and the role they can play in maintaining it, and get new students acquainted with places they can fulfill their 200 hour service requirement to graduate. Go Green! is composed of detailed units on nutrition, food justice, media advocacy, horticulture skills, and environmental sustainability. While the merging was unexpected, the farm is now blessed with classes of freshman visiting every week; a wonderful way to begin new relationships and encourage future farm leaders as our older youth prepare for graduation and beyond!
Over the past 2 weeks we have explored the basics of local and industrial food systems and those involved in both. Our students participated with our small local food system by harvesting bunches of Collards, Swiss chard, Cherry Tomatoes, and Ground Cherries. The overwhelming response from our students is that local food is more fresh and healthier while food produced in the industrial food system is genetically modified, created with synthetic chemicals, less fresh. As my colleague Ms. Bissessar remarked “They’re [the students] are coming to us with much more knowledge on things like organic food and health.” It’s exciting to help them grow what they know and help them create the changes they see fit for themselves and their communities.
Because of their exposure to the farm in Go Green! Some of those students have joined the afterschool Farm Club. Our Farm Club members have hit the ground running on how they wish to contribute to the farm and broaden their knowledge of caring for plants and the land we grow them on. We encourage you to come to our 1st Harvest Festival, October 28, to meet them and take part in the games, arts, cooking demo, and farm tours they have planned! They’ve also designed an awesome flyer to promote the event which will debut soon.
You’ll also have a chance to sample a dish they’ll prepare at this Wednesday’s market (10/14)! Our cooking demo will begin at 3PM; this is a great opportunity to meet a handful of the students that put the ‘Youth’ in The Youth Farm. Throughout the year the club will continue to marry their creativity and enthusiasm for agriculture & food in hands-on projects that may include an in-school juice bar to a season extension project. I’m certainly looking forward to what they come up with next!
The organization that we’re preparing to rally the students around community action for healthy food access and holistic environmental health is Youth Farm Leadership Council (YLC). This group is reserved for students that exhibit a deep interest in the maintenance & future of the farm, representing their peers’ interest for the farm, and assessing food and agricultural needs of the HSPS community and greater Crown Heights community. YLC is the student council for the farm and will be liaisons in the Wingate campus-Youth Farm-Crown Heights/Flatbush relationship or to summate, as one student put it, “to be awesome!” Students will be selected for Youth Farm Leadership Council through an application process assessing commitment, leadership abilities, and interest in advocacy and agriculture. Applications went live last Thursday and I’m anxious to learn about our interested students’ background and desires for YLC to address.
In addition to these programs we’ve had students volunteer on the farm with their advisory class and with the organization buildOn. These students are instrumental in the longevity of the farm in the work that they do, the ideas they contribute, and the holistic, individual growth they receive from their interactions on the farm. They have arrived ready to leap into action. Stay tuned for the results of dedicated groups of students, community members, youth creating solutions for issues of land use, food access, and ecological health. We’re beaming with pride!
Wishing You a Great Week,
IN YOUR VEGETABLE SHARE THIS WEEK!
- Lacinato Kale
- Green Tomato/Cherry tomato mix
- Hakurei Turnips
- Green beans
- Savoy Cabbage
- Sweet pepper mix (Marconi red/Lunchbox/Jimmy Nardello)
- Hot pepper mix
- Onions from Trinity Farm
IN YOUR FLOWER SHARE THIS WEEK!
- Wild farm grasses
- Aromatto Basil
- Yellow, purple, salmon Celosia
- Yarrow leaves
- Christmas basil
- Cardinal basil
FARM FRESH FLOWERS HIGHLIGHT:
This week we highlight you, our wonderful flower CSA members who joined us on the beautiful and fragrant journey of our 2015 flower season. We enjoyed hearing the ways the flowers added to your living spaces at home. We loved learning of your favorites (which seemed to change with the season) and the ones you grew to love. Meeting the children who were the ultimate discerning eyes on choosing the very best bouquets for their homes was always a highlight of our week. From the Bachelor Buttons and Foxglove in our first share to the Sunflowers, Basil and Celosias in our last, we hope you enjoyed them as much we enjoyed growing them for you! See you next year!
VEGGIE HIGHLIGHT: SAVOY CABBAGE
This week you’re receiving Savoy Cabbage, a hearty fall variety featuring gorgeous green-blue outer leaves that are deeply crinkled. Fun facts about cabbage and Savoy Cabbage:
- 1 cup of shredded Savoy cabbage provides 36% of your daily Vitamin C intake! It’s also rich in Vitamin A and Potassium. We like to throw out savoy into a stir fry for a quick and easy way to enjoy it. The flavor pairs nicely with red wine vinegar and apples, so try adding those to your stir fry for an autumnal twist!
- Cabbage can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you cook it by steaming. Raw cabbage still has cholesterol-lowering ability, just not as much as steamed cabbage
- Cabbage in general—but also Savoy cabbage in particular—turns out to be an especially good source of sinigrin. Sinigrin is one of the cabbage glucosinolates that has received special attention in cancer prevention research. The sinigrin in cabbage can be converted into allyl-isothiocyanate, or AITC. This isothiocyanate compound has shown unique cancer preventive properties with respect to bladder cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.
Savoy cabbage is a hearty variety for this time of year, with almost a nutty quality – an excellent variety for cooking. While you can use it like most any other cabbage (great in soup, great in kimchi or as a kraut…) here’s an unusual recipe to use it as a side dish or small plate, used with carrots, also in your share:
RECIPE CORNER: Creamy Savoy Cabbage with Carrots
Recipe found on http://www.bbcgoodfood.com
- Pull off any tough outer leaves (these can be used in Sauerkraut!) from the cabbage and discard. Cut in half, then remove the hard inner core. Rinse the leaves, then shred as finely as you can. Cut the carrots into fine, thin strips or grate in the food processor.
- Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the cabbage and carrots. Boil for 6 mins until just tender, then drain. Return to the hot pan and add the butter and cream. Season with pepper, and salt if you like, add the nutmeg and stir well to coat. Pile into a serving dish and serve immediately.
RECIPE CORNER: Lemon-Lavender Olive Oil Cake
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup natural cane sugar
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour (I find it works best if almond flour is slightly packed when measuring)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 Tablespoon lavender – dried or fresh is fine (slightly ground)
- powdered sugar to dust top of cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch spring form pan with olive oil (using a square cake pan works great too)
- With the whisk attachment of an electric mixer or an electric hand-mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until they are light, fluffy and pale yellow – about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and vanilla extract. Beat well.
- Add the almond flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda
- Mix just until combined and then add the dried lavender.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top no longer feels jiggly to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with crumbs attached. The top of the cake will be quite dark.
- When the cake is cool, remove the outside of the spring form pan. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar shaken through a small sieve or tea strainer
MEET THE FARMER COLUMN
MOLLY CULVER, Farm Manager
Favorite flower: Scabiosa
Favorite Herb: Lemon verbena
Favorite Vegetable: Impossible! Currently? Radicchio. Any bitter, crunchy green I can dress up or braise in honey and balsamic vinegar.
I’m Molly Culver. I’m originally from Guilford, Connecticut. I moved to NYC in 1999 for college and have lived here mostly ever since.
How did you end up in urban farming?
It’s a long story. I originally found urban farming back home in New Haven, CT after a year living in Chile after college. I was addicted immediately, even though it was freezing cold, November, and the farm where I volunteered was pulling all the crops up for the season. I loved working outdoors, with likeminded people – it felt satisfying and fun. I returned from Chile newly awakened to many ill effects of globalization and corporate food in terms of farming, healthy/fresh food access, and the environment. The farm work was soothing and positive and sustainable farming and building small local food systems seemed like a great answer to many overlapping problems in the world. I moved back to NYC in 2005 and began working as an Americorps CSA Site Coordinator in the South Bronx, and began working in community gardens in Mott Haven where I was living. I learned how to grow my first crops from community gardeners; I was inspired by the struggle the gardeners had gone through to beautify and preserve the land as well as the food sovereignty and security they were helping to create in a neighborhood where access to fresh and locally grown food was scarce. The food justice movement I became aware of and the people I met through it in NYC and across the country and world became my community and my inspiration.
How did you find the Youth Farm?
The Youth Farm was a glimmer in my good friend Bee Ayer’s eye in 2009, when we were both studying organic farming in California. She returned to New York a year before me, dreaming of creating a dynamic urban farm. She made a connection with Stacey Murphy, an architect-turned-urban farmer, and they founded BK Farmyards. Shortly after, HSPS Principal reached out to them and said, “Hey, we have an acre of lawn at our school and I want to know if we can convert it into a farm.” A year later, the farm was born. I returned in 2010, and joined the farm as head of flower cultivation in early 2011. We began shaping our Urban Farm Training Program and youth programs together and figuring out funding.
How has The Youth Farm evolved since you began managing it?
Over five years, the farm has grown from a 1/10 of an acre in cultivation to a full acre. We’ve increased our production and with that, been able to get more food and flowers to people, with a larger CSA and a farmers market. Our Urban Farm Training Program has become more structured, and interest in the program has really grown in the past few years. In 2013, HSPS had its first new Principal in 10 years since its founding, Sean Rice. Mr. Rice, along with HSPS teachers and staff, has been extremely supportive of the farm. Our different youth programs have been offered consistently, with more and more interest each year. Luckily that hasn’t changed! More volunteers from the immediate community are showing up – I think the farm is becoming more ingrained in the community, thanks to our market, Volunteer Days, and better signage!
Where do you see The Youth Farm in five years?
I see the farm thriving as an integral part of Wingate schools – teachers from every school taking advantage of it; every Wingate student touched by an experience of learning about how food is grown. I see cafeteria food scraps going to our compost bins. I see the farm having three full time staff instead of three part time staff. I see the farm having a bigger, more bustling market. I see the farm continuing to serve a purpose as a neighborhood beautifier, and a place for different generations to share stories about food.
What do you like most about farming?
Community. I get so much joy from sharing in producing food with others. I worked on a large- scale organic farm in California for a couple of years, and there was amazing community within the farm staff (about 30 people!); however the farm was pretty isolated, a big drive into town, and its CSA members lived up to an hour away. I love urban farming because you are immersed in a community of people; you can talk and chat daily with the people you grow with and for – be aware of their needs, and chat with them about favorite foods and farming techniques.
What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing urban farming and food justice in New York City?
Do whatever you can to stay involved and learning. Jobs in the field in the city are scarce, and I think to work your way towards a paid position you need to show dedication and passion and work hard – or start something yourself! Unfortunately farm internships are usually unpaid, so it’s a tough road, especially in this city. But as I say, keep exploring and learning – other farms, other systems of growing, other organizations doing food justice work. Once you’re there, if you find a place you love, make yourself indispensable! For me, that wasn’t a question – I loved volunteering at Just Food; they couldn’t get rid of me so they gave me an Americorps job☺ Don’t be afraid to introduce an idea or a concept or a program wherever you land – you may just find yourself managing that farm or organization five years later! When I came to the Youth Farm, I was very much still learning. I had to push myself to assume leadership and share what I knew.
What are you looking forward to for the rest of the season?
I’m looking forward to the many events that are coming up – our Farming and Food Justice Panel discussion Oct. 19th, our Harvest Festival Oct. 28th, and various culminating activities and rituals for our Urban Farm Training apprentices, from Farmy Olympics to Graduation.
Do you have a favorite recipe for one of our vegetables this week?
I love making curries – Thai basil is perfect for that!