Could ice-cold wind and snow stop the Teens for Food Justice team from continuing work on the Seeds of Change farm? Not in the least!
As a blanket of snow quietly collected over Bed-Stuy, the 5th floor of New Beginnings Charter School was once again bustling with activity for another day of service. It might as well have been springtime, as rows of lettuce, kale, chard, pac choi, basil, cilantro, sweet peppers and tomatoes were found happily sprouting in their seedling beds, ready for transplanting.
The teen volunteers began their day with comprehensive lessons in the nutrients needed for hydroponic farming, vermiculture (worm) composting, and organic integrated pest management (IPM) systems from Ashley, our wonderful NY Sun Works guide. The teens and their mentors then got right to work mixing nutrient solutions to feed the crops and building the composting and pest management systems. Each group did a great job organizing themselves into teams, each with responsibility for different technical aspects of their projects. For the nutrient team, proficiency with both chemistry and biology were critical and many pH measurements were required to carefully mix the perfect proportions of nutrients.
Once the nutrient solution was ready and poured into its reservoir, volunteers worked together to transplant individual seedlings into the vertical hydroponic growing system. Incredibly, these seedlings will yield 216 heads of leafy greens and herbs in one month.
Welcoming The School Community
After lunch, a group of New Beginnings 6th graders joined us, curious and excited to learn about their school’s new greenhouse farm. A group of teen volunteers led tours to explain the system and the plants that are growing and worked with the younger students to visualize themes of healthy food access, nutrition and urban farming that will decorate the walls of the classroom. A second group worked on a giant banner for the outside wall of the greenhouse classroom to welcome New Beginnings teachers and students to the farm.
A final group headed to the lab for some in-depth research on the nutrition benefits represented by the products of our upcoming January 11th harvest. They created beautifully illustrated labels for all of the vegetables and herbs growing in the Teens for Food Justice farm, and included four key health benefits of each fruit, herb or vegetable and information on how they are cooked or prepared. New Beginnings families who receive bags of produce at next month’s harvest and community outreach event will be well informed!
At day’s end, the volunteers and mentors gathered around the newly illustrated banner for a period of discussion, reflection, and congratulations. There have only been two service days so far, but the group has already bonded, creating a great group dynamic and many individual friendships. Each service day reveals just how earnest, talented and dedicated a group this is, and we are proud to be serving alongside them.