Teens for Food Justice is back in action at the Urban Assembly Unison School Farm in Brooklyn. During the first week, mentors and mentees alike were reminded that any fruitful farm starts with successful seeds and a healthy nutrient foundation.
Our new mentor team and returning TFFJ teens, who helped build the Unison Farm last year, co-led a discussion with the new students on hydroponic farming and how we begin the life cycle of our plants by planting seeds in Rockwool. It was especially encouraging to see returning teens share their excitement for another year in the farm with our newest cohort.
Rockwool, a hydroponic growing medium, is made from melted Basalt rock that is spun into fibers (like making cotton candy from sugar) and pressed into bricks. To get a hands-on sense of this process, students were presented with a bit of a sticky situation: they compressed cotton candy into cubes similar to the Rockwool we use to grow crops in our farm.
Every program day begins with a healthy and balanced snack. The teens were eager to dig into appetizing, colorful salads and sandwiches prepared by our Program Mentor and Resident Chef, Azza Bushra. Each forkful featured hyper-locally grown fresh greens, tomatoes and cucumbers—produce harvested directly from the Unison Farm that day!
After a brief presentation on essential nutrients for hydroponic farming, the students formed groups and were challenged to apply what they had learned. Working in collaboration, the groups mixed their own nutrient solution, which feeds our plants and practiced balancing pH levels for optimum nutrient uptake. TFFJ teens are fast learners: after a few stirs and shakes, each 5-gallon bucket of solution was approved by our Hydroponics Manager, Harrison Hillier, and Farm Manager, Alyssa Vazquez, to be added to the systems at Unison Farm!
As we kick off another school year with some big projects ahead for our students, we’re confident that it will be an amazing journey. Our returning and new teens are already demonstrating their communication skills, patience, and scientific interest as they seed, transplant, and harvest.
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as we empower the Urban Assembly Unison School youth lead the fight for food justice in their community! We will be posting photos, video stories and quotes from our TFFJ program all year long, so stay tuned!