Students from PS 276 weeding out chickweed

Students from PS 276 weeding out chickweed

Yay – spring is here and we couldn’t be happier!  Classes have returned to the farm to start pulling up those pesky weeds, amending the farm’s soil with fresh compost, and planting many, many seeds.

Our first graders have been caring for lettuce and scallion seedlings back in their classrooms, and this past week they finally got to move them out to the farm. What should we cook with these ingredients – delicious scallion and herb pestos? Fresh springtime salads? Our students are very excited to continue watching their plants grow and we cannot wait for harvest time.

We’ve also had some amazing Farm Field Trips from PS 8 in Brooklyn. The 5th grade classes got a lot of work done from planting arugula, lettuce mixes and radishes to harvesting compost and finding tons of decomposers. We spent our class learning about the seeds we eat, and before we planted any in the ground we learned about the different parts of a seed and how they germinate. The students were surprised to realize how many seeds end up in their daily meals – from peanuts to black beans, the accidental apple seed and the wheat and cacao in their chocolate chip cookies.

 

Students from PS8 planting spicy lettuce mix

Students from PS8 planting spicy lettuce mix

At the end of the class the students reflected on their favorite parts of the visit. It was clear that the compost was a hit:

“I liked composing with my friends.”

“I liked seeing people getting excited about touching the worm.”

“I liked smelling the compost.”

“I liked feeling and finding the worms.”

 

And best of all:

“I loved everything about the Battery Farm. I like getting to be here and be outside.”

 

What a way to start off the season!

 


Studying plant families with Kristal Aliyas’s students at P.S 276

Studying plant families with Kristal Aliyas’s students at P.S 276

This winter has been a very unique one for Battery Urban Farm – for the first time we are running our Student Farmer program during the Winter Semester. As Farm Educator, I get to brave the winter cold to visit a few of our downtown classrooms each week and bring the farm to our students! I’ve had the chance to continue working with our first grade students from PS 276 who visit the farm during both the fall and spring. This has been a great chance to take a closer look at some of the topics they were introduced to on the farm this fall.

During our first winter class in Stephanie Schneider’s classroom, we set to cooking some of our final harvest for the year. We made a steamed Swiss chard salad, herbed hummus dip and mashed Japanese sweet potatoes – all using ingredients from the farm! As I sat down with my group of ten students to make the Swiss chard salad, we shared the different kinds of salads we like to make at home and discussed the difference between raw and cooked. We realized there are many foods on the farm, like eggplants and potatoes, that we would NEVER eat raw, but others, like chard and broccoli, that we can eat both raw AND cooked.

Many of the salads that we like to eat included different types of leaves, so we spent a while recalling the function of a leaf. The leaf is the power house of our plants – making all of the energy the plant needs through photosynthesis. Through sunlight and cardon dioxide collected by the leaves, combined with the water absorbed by the roots, plants are able to make all of their own food, and in turn become food for us.

P.S 276 1st grade students dissecting Swiss chard stems

Stephanie Schneider’s 1st graders at P.S 276 dissecting Swiss chard stems

After separating the Swiss chard leaves from their stalks, we ripped the leaves into bite sized pieces and sent them off to the microwave for a quick steam. While the leaves cooked we all paused to investigate the stalks we would be composting. By ripping them apart, students discovered small tubes running the length of each stalk. Seeing these stringy tubes recalled an earlier lesson from the fall where we learned that stems are like highways, transporting materials throughout the plant. After this closer analysis one student pointed out, “so the tubes are like a straw that we use to drink and it [the nutrients and water] get carried up to the leaf.” What a great discovery! This prompted the students to take a few leaves to dissect, and found “tubes” running through these as well. With this discovery, students suddenly understood the workings of the Swiss chard’s vascular system!

Once the Swiss chard was all cooked, we whipped up a delicious honey-garlic vinaigrette, tossed our salad, and served it to the rest of the class. Everyone loved it and many of the students took the initiative to share these recipes with their families by preparing them at home over the next two weeks.

While our PS 276 students have been continuing the learning they started back in September, our PS 397 Spruce Street students (who will be joining us for the first time in April) are starting to explore some of the concepts they will be using on the farm this spring. Many of our Spruce Street student farmers will be new to Battery Urban Farm, but some have visited farms before. A few have even been lucky enough to plant seeds and harvest fresh produce. We’ve done some brainstorming on what we expect to find on our farm. When I asked students, “What do you think we will see on our farm?” students gave the following responses:

“Plants…cows…fat pigs…food growing…carrots…seeds…soil for growing seeds in!”

There will be many new things for us to discover come spring: there will be new foods to taste, new bugs to study and new crops to plant and care for. I’m not so sure about the fat pigs, but on the first day of classes in April there will definitely be soil for us to plant seeds in.

The farm covered in snow

January on the farm – covered in snow


 

The Battery Conservancy is thrilled to share the phenomenal talent of George Tsypin with the Sochi Olympics. Tune in tonight at 7:30 pm on NBC to see the Opening Ceremony that our George has designed into reality!

George Tsypin, collaborating with architects WXY, is commissioned by The Battery Conservancy to create the spectacular experience of SeaGlass: its fish, the multiple turntables, and the bioluminescent lighting design. Our SeaGlass fabricator Show Canada is also responsible for the nuts and bolts — and magic — of the Sochi extravaganza.

George was drawn to the SeaGlass project because it is a permanent testament to his skill and imagination.  Most of his work, including tonight’s opening ceremony, is temporary, dynamic and fleeting.  His opera sets, the staging of The Little Mermaid and Spider Man, have prepared him for his ultimate production:  SeaGlass!

In George’s words:

“SeaGlass is the ultimate “live theater,” in which visitors are the performers and the audience. It is a total immersive experience of movement, light and music. It is a blend of  art and mass entertainment.  It is for kids and adults, for the riders of the carousel, and a light and sculpture show for the city around it. It is educational and pure delight.”

Join us in sending George our congratulations on a spectacular opening to the 2014 Winter Olympics!



The following is a guest post from Kristina Gsell, 2013 Apprentice

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As a recent graduate of the Farm Education Apprentice program at Battery Urban Farm, I wanted to share my experience, and to express my gratitude for all the program has given me.

In my apprenticeship experience, I had the opportunity to participate in a multitude of meaningful endeavors — both agricultural and educational — which reinvigorated my passion for food and environmental justice and solidified my desire to pursue a career in the field of sustainable agriculture. During my apprenticeship, I was exposed to cutting edge agricultural and educational techniques, and was able to apply them directly on the field and in our classes. As a result I now feel more connected than ever to the sustainable foods movement and am motivated to keep educating others and empowering others to take part in their own food sovereignty.

One of my proudest moments of the apprenticeship was in late October when I was able to design and execute my own farm-based lesson plan for one of our first grade classes. I chose to create a lesson based on farm-ecology, equipped with engaging graphics, a food-chain card game, and a creative journal activity to bring it all together. The lesson turned out a huge success; by the end of the journaling I noticed kids were drawing ecological connections even as complex as termites eating trees! When I first began working at the farm in June, I would never have been able to put together such a fluid, effective lesson plan, but after learning from my fellow educators on the farm (namely our amazing Farm Educator Anna!) I now see education in a completely different light and am inspired to dedicate my life to it.

Kristina's lesson on farm ecology featured engaging visuals

Kristina’s lesson on farm ecology featured engaging visuals

It is so rewarding to see a child connect deeply with something you have taught them, be it as simple as respecting a bumble bee, or as profound as identifying processed vs. whole foods. My experience at Battery Urban Farm not only allowed me to reap this reward every day of my apprenticeship, but also gave me the opportunity to learn about important sustainable agriculture practices, such as winter food production, drip irrigation, and proper soil maintenance. As a result of my experience, I am now reinvigorated in my dedication to this movement, and to educating others about it for the rest of my life. And as much as I appreciate the intellectual and professional benefits that I gained from the apprenticeship, the thing I will miss the most about it is working with such dedicated, passionate, and inspiring people.

In a country so disconnected from its food systems, in a city so disconnected from nature, Battery Urban Farm serves as a public oasis and brings joy to so many on a daily basis. I am deeply grateful that I had the pleasure to learn and grow within such a special environment. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this unique project!

 

Kristina Gsell is a farmer, scientist-philosopher, engineer, educator. She is a recent graduate of the Farm-Educator Apprenticeship at Battery Urban Farm.


What’s Growing On is a place for our Battery Urban Farm teachers, parents, friends — and you! — to tell us all the cool stuff you’re doing to get growing in your school, home, neighborhood — wherever. It’s a chance for us all to share great ideas; to get inspired by each other; a chance for everyone to tell their story. What’s yours? 

What’s Growing On at City-As School

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Here at City-As School, we do many things differently. Instead of core classes, students make our own schedules. Many credits earned at City-As are done through internships around the city. We’re on a first name basis with all of our teachers, and are supplied with all the support a person could ever wish for. I can say with certainty that City-As has been the best fit for me out of the other schools I have been to, and I’ve learned more about working in the real world  than in any previous educational experience.

This year, my internship has been working with Naima Freitas and 4 other students to maintain a farm plot at Battery Urban Farm. As of now we’re growing several types of vegetables suited more for the cold weather. This includes chard, several types of lettuce, and a selection of herbs.

kalechickenWhile I’ve enjoyed the process of working on the farm and watching our work pay off and grow into something edible, the best part has been using the ingredients we grew on the farm, and enjoying them in the form of delicious creations. Our group has been busy constructing a “pop up” kitchen in our school thanks to many generous donations and grants.

Last week we led a cooking activity utilizing our new kitchen equipment and the ingredients we grew. Each of my classmates were responsible for their own dish, all of which used something we grew on the farm.

Sam cooked a chicken dish using lemon basil and kale. Joanne made two delicious salads: one with watermelon and mint, and another with lettuce and nasturtiums from the farm. Avery was in charge of making homemade cavatelli, and I took charge over making the sauce for the pasta incorporating lots of farm-grown herbs. Together we made a delicious hash made from sweet potatoes and kale. Finally, Peter provided the refreshments with a lemon-verbena “soda.”

All in all, all the dishes we made were excellent. Aside from the free food, the experience of leading other students in cooking a tasty meal made from ingredients we grew ourselves was pretty amazing.

salad

People really came together, worked efficiently, and showed a real interest in what they were doing. Even students who may not have had the best attendance records showed up and did their part. It was great to see something as complex as creating a large meal for nearly 20 people come together so well. We did run into challenges, but the interest and enthusiasm of all those involved helped us overcome them with little effort.

After the success of our first cooking activity and the success of our farm, we are excited to plant even more in the spring and to have a whole new line up of ingredients to use for next year’s meals.

harvesting

 

ariAri Weber is currently a student at City-As School. He is planning to graduate in June and enjoys skateboarding in his spare time.


Today, November 1, marks the last day of Enrichment Visit (or “farm field trip”) classes on the farm. Between April and October, over 1,800 students and campers from 40+ schools, groups, and nonprofit organizations visited Battery Urban Farm, where they planted seeds, used farm tools, turned under cover crop, harvested, composted, made and ate salad and more in classes like “Eat the Rainbow”, “Food Miles”, “Arable Apple” and other lessons.

In honor of our last day of Enrichment Visits, here are some of the best photos from all of our 80+ visiting classes in 2013. Enjoy, and we hope to see some of these familiar faces again next year!

 


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October 19th, 2013 marked the third annual Harvest Festival at Battery Urban Farm. Neighbors, locavores, families and tourists were all out in full force to celebrate the fall harvest.

Visitors on the farm engaged in potato sack races, games, arts and crafts, and of course Pin the Feather on Zelda and Who Wants to be a Vegetabillionaire? Instead of receiving candy as a prize for participating in the activities, children got to harvest fresh carrots and snow peas. The farmstand offered a selection of fall produce, while the raffle offered items ranging from a kids class at the newly-opened Stitched Tribeca to a gift certificate to Blue Smoke. In the background, two talented local blue-grass groups, Marc Orleans and the 5 Mile String Band, provided the musical entertainment while families lounged on hay bales around the farm.

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Participants at Harvest Fest this year included Greene Grape and Table Green, who provided a delicious selection of refreshments; NYCBeekeeping and The Honeybee Conservancy, who brought beekeepers, an observation hive, and some late fall honey for tasting; Whole Foods Market sampling a raw apple crisp; and our Supporting Sponsor  Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, whose hand-washing booth (with green walls!) was a big hit — perfect to send kids over after getting their hands dirty with paint and soil.

Additionally, we had the honor to be joined by New York City Council Members Gale Brewer and Margaret Chin, as well as Community Board One Chair Catherine McVay Hughes as our Master of Ceremonies. Ms. Brewer and Ms. Chin both emphasized the importance of urban agriculture and healthy eating and praised Battery Urban Farm as a wonderful resource in downtown Manhattan. Following their presentation, Laura Hall of Whole Foods Market Tribeca presented the generous check for the Whole Foods 5% Day donation.

Whole Foods. Whole Checks.

Thank you to everyone who attended (and bought raffle tickets) and to our supporters for making this event possible. Please enjoy this selection of photos from the event, and we hope to see you again next year!


 

NEW YORK CITY’S BATTERY CONSERVANCY ANNOUNCES

HARVEST FESTIVAL AT BATTERY URBAN FARM

Celebrate Healthy People, Healthy Community, Healthy Planet where New York City began

 

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The Battery Conservancy will hold HARVEST FESTIVAL on Saturday, October 19 from 11am to 3pm at Battery Urban Farm. This free, family-friendly event will give city kids a taste of farm life among the towers of the Financial District and the buzz of global visitors to the Statue of Liberty.

A celebration of student farmers and the bounty of the harvest, the Festival is also a chance for The Battery Conservancy to thank the public and private supporters that make the farm’s educational program possible.

Supporting Sponsor Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day will offer those who get their hands dirty in the soil a chance to clean up with plant-derived hand-washing products. Whole Foods Market, which earlier this year generously donated $66K to support Battery Urban Farm, will present a check to the Battery Urban Farm staff, and offer food demonstrations to the public.  Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and City Council Members Margaret Chin and Gale Brewer will be on hand to discuss the importance of urban agriculture, nutritious food, and outdoor education – along with highlighting the value of the park and farm to the downtown community.

Other activities will include vegetable art, an exploration of honeybee hives, live music, and Greenmarket-sourced refreshments as well as the return of the ever-popular “Pin the Feather on Zelda” (the park’s famous wild turkey resident) and the “Who Wants to Be a Vegetabillionaire?” trivia game.

Battery Urban Farm is an educational outreach project of The Battery Conservancy, the non-profit organization dedicated to rebuilding and revitalizing the historic 25-acre park at the tip of Manhattan. This one-acre learning farm — the only one of its kind in Manhattan — serves as a school garden for 11 different schools and is a destination site for thousands of students. Programs use garden education to empower NYC school children and their families to make healthier eating choices and to green the city and their homes with edible plantings. Through these and other programs and events, Battery Urban Farm strives to cultivate a broader awareness of sustainability through responsible waste management and gardening practices.

Participating organizations for the event include Greene Grape, Table Green, NYCBeekeeping, The Honeybee Conservancy, Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day, and Whole Foods Market.

Battery Urban Farm is located in The Battery at the intersection of State Street between Pearl and Bridge Streets. For directions or more information, visit www.thebattery.org.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACTS: Lauren Kaplan, lkaplan@thebattery.org

 

For a PDF of this press release, please click the link below.

Harvest Fest Press Release 2013 10.18


The following is a guest post from Roland Regos, Battery Urban Farm Outreach Intern.

Hi! My name is Roland Regos: urban farmer, sustainability junky, health nut, and organic enthusiast. As Battery Urban Farm’s media outreach intern; I’ve had the privilege of working behind the scenes helping organize the farm’s activities. It’s been an awesome experience to say the least. Watching our young seedling students grow all summer with our delicious veggies has had a profound impact on my outlook on life. That enlightening feeling is not very uncommon at the farm though. Every visit is a new and exciting learning experience.

Sweet Potatoes

Harvesting sweet potatoes!

Some of my favorite moments at Battery Urban Farm have occurred at their monthly Saturday events. Each workshop has included engaging activities and featured fascinating guest speakers. Their final workshop of the year, on September 21st, proved to be a real treat!

The day’s events began with harvesting one of my favorite vegetables: sweet potatoes. Before I started working at the farm, I never knew that sweet potatoes grew underground. They utilize the nutrients within the soil; while absorbing the sun’s energy through their vines and leaves above ground. They’re rich in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. Also, they offer well beyond the recommended daily value of vitamin A; which is often noted for improving eye-sight, rejuvenating skin, and strengthening the immune system. I was surprised by how soft the potatoes were at this stage of their growth. You really needed to be patient and delicate, or risk breaking or puncturing the potatoes while unearthing them.

After volunteer hours, we all received a special visit from the Battery Conservancy’s own lead arborist. William Bryant Logan is a certified arborist and president of Urban Arborists, Inc., and has won numerous Quill and Trowel Awards from the Garden Writers of America and a Senior Scholar Award from the New York State chapter of the International Society of Arborists. He is on faculty at NYBG and is the author of OakDirt (made into an award-winning documentary), and Air.

Soil talk, with William Logan.

Tree Talk, with William Logan.

Mr. Logan, who led a “Tree Walk and Talk”, was incredibly knowledgeable and interesting to listen to. I wouldn’t normally have expected a soil specialist to be such a great orator and story teller, but Mr. Logan was both. He seemed to me like a walking encyclopedia full of all sorts of fun facts about the natural environment. Mr. Logan shared a wealth of wisdom about his meeting with the cheese nun of Massachusetts, continent-hopping Saharan sand particles, and man made landfills like the one which Battery Park was cultivated on. It felt like an intimate dialogue, despite the good-sized group that had gathered for the event.

I left the workshop that day with a refined sense of purpose. The days activities and interactions, as well as Bill Logan and the other guest speakers from past events,  have all helped to reinforce my passion for environmental initiatives and the need to educate young people about the natural world and sustainable foods.

Acknowledging soil.

Acknowledging soil.

The interconnectedness of our eco-systems is fragile, and its stability is dependent upon the actions of its inhabitants. For this reason, I hold Battery Urban Farm in such high esteem because of the Conservancy’s dedication to such important ideals. New York City is truly blessed to have such forward thinking, eco-friendly people in a position to influence the green movement. The inter-generational mentorship between farm staff and visiting children and students that takes place during these monthly community events and every week in classes on the farm, will surely yield a flourishing crop of talented leaders capable of tackling 21st century challenges.

 

 

IMG_0979Roland Regos is a multi-faceted, jack-of-all trades, but a master of none kind of guy. He’s a performing drummer and percussionist, a passionate advocate for social and environmental justice, an educator, a practicing vegan, and an organic food junkie.