From the Ground Up

A bright, early morning, Saturday, November 23rd marked the launch of our Teens for Food Justice Service Initiative at Bedford Stuyvesant New Beginnings Charter School. In no time at all, our teen volunteer team and mentors transformed what had been a large, barren fifth floor classroom into a bustling construction project, setting out to build an indoor hydroponic farm from the ground up.

Although the expertise of NY Sun Works staff was close at hand, the volunteers needed little more than a diagram and a good dose of teamwork to successfully assemble the seedling benches, equipped with hanging lights, plus two bucket systems, complete with a high-reaching framework that will host our vine crops. One of the four groups took on the challenge of constructing the final component of the farm, a brand-new, complex vertical system designed to rotate on a mechanical pulley. Under the guidance of engineers from City Hydroponics, inventors of the system, this group worked patiently through technical glitches, displaying an admirable focus and determination in their approach to the challenge.

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After two busy hours, the team reconvened to admire and evaluate their work. Rather than being discouraged by the challenge of assembling the system, the teens were enthusiastic about what they had accomplished, building off the energy of their peers. Several noted that this was the first time they had used the construction tools required for assembly of the hydroponic system; others shared their group’s effort to reverse-engineer the bucket system framework, based on a diagram.

Some were given a real chance to apply their resourceful thinking: one volunteer creatively resolved difficulties putting pieces of bucket system framework together with Vaseline, and another group mitigated an imbalance in the seedling benches with duct tape.

The day drew to a close with discussion, sketching and brainstorming for next month’s service project: in December the teens will be collaborating with New Beginnings Charter School students and art teachers to design and paint a mural to illustrate the message and goals of classroom farm project and the Teens for Food Justice community outreach initiative.

At this moment, seedlings of lettuce, kale, beets, basil and more are beginning to sprout in the freshly constructed hydroponic farm. Our teen volunteer team has truly begun planting seeds of change, and taken its first steps along our food justice journey in Bedford Stuyvesant!

Empowering Teens Feeding Communities Building a Healthy Sustainable Future