Early last week, we were excited to welcome one of nine groups of campers from CAMBA‘s After School program for an Enrichment Visit. CAMBA is a non-profit agency that provides services to 35,000+ low-income people on welfare; at risk of homelessness; living with or at risk of HIV/AIDS; immigrants and refugees; children and young adults; and other groups working to become self sufficient. We have been lucky enough to work with over 300+ youth from CAMBA this summer.

On this particular visit, the lesson “Eat Whole Foods!” focused on the distinction between whole and processed foods — for example, investigating the differences between a potato and a French fry, or tomato and ketchup.

The lesson opened with an exercise to help identify various classifications of foods. The class had to determine if the image on our graphic cards was either a whole, light processed, or heavily processed food. For example:

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Can you identify which one is which?

These kinds of games are great ways for kids to build recognition skills, and to begin thinking about the foods they eat and how far removed they are from the plant or animal they originated with. While most of our Enrichment Visit campers that day – and indeed, many of us — might not spend a lot of time actually thinking about these kinds of distinctions, Farm Apprentice Nicole noted that the students were actually fairly on-point with their answers.

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Following this activity, students got to explore the various whole foods growing on the farm – which included everything from amaranth, beans and beets, carrots and cucumbers, dill, and eggplant to okra, potatoes, sage, swiss chard, tomatoes, and zucchini. Of the tour, Nicole also noted that:

The kids were really attentive and intrigued to see the tomatoes growing on the farm. Most of these kids aren’t accustomed to seeing their vegetables in the growing process, still attached to their host plant. It’s fascinating to witness the moment in which kids make that realization and connection that their food comes from the ground. This was especially true for potatoes. Fast food french-fries were more familiar to them than the actual whole unrefined, un-processed potato that they come from.

After exploring the whole foods, students were finally given the opportunity to make their own lightly-processed treats! The class of 40 was divided into three groups, each of which was tasked with harvesting a different green from around the farm: sage, chard, and basil.

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Harvesting herbs for the pesto

Once the greens were harvested and hand-washed, the kids gathered to prepare three raw pesto blends. Using hand-powered veggie choppers, each group combined their greens, along with some olive oil; salt; and a blend of lemon juice and water to make a fresh green pesto. Once complete, it was time to taste and compare the fruits of our labor with some dipping crackers.

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Tearing up the Swiss chard for pesto

 

(In case you’re wondering: while the group felt that each pesto was unique and awesome, the basil pesto gained the most praise.)

The pesto that we made was technically processed, as there was some labor involved in preparing it. But with minimal alterations and no temperature influence (i.e. heat or chilling), it retained all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients of whole and lightly-processed foods that are great sources for energy in our body.

Our goals with this lesson were to help kid distinguish between whole and processed foods; and to understand why whole foods are better for our bodies. In doing so, we hope to inform their eating choices and perhaps even spark a new interest in purchasing, preparing and eating more fresh whole foods.

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Scraping up the last few tastes

 

The Battery Conservancy thanks CAMBA for choosing Battery Urban Farm as a site for their After School program this summer. We would also like to thank City As School and the Ettinger Foundation for the donation of the hand-powered veggie choppers that made these pestos possible!



The Battery Urban Farm team is thrilled to introduce our new Farm Education Apprentices and Lead Farmer. We are incredibly lucky to have such passionate and skilled people join our team, and hope you will join us in giving them a warm welcome!

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Josie Johnson, Lead Farmer

After years of feeding her curiosity about food by learning where it comes from, how it is grown and raised, and where it goes, Josie apprenticed on two farms in central Maryland: an organic CSA farm and a biodynamic market farm. The following season she started her own organic farm on some rented land, ran a small CSA, and participated in three DC area farmers’ markets. After two years on her own farm, she started an educational farm at an independent school in Montgomery County Maryland where students learned to grow, eat, and compost their own food. Josie moved to the city and joined Battery Urban Farm as Lead Farmer in June of 2013 and couldn’t feel luckier. People often ask her “What is a farmer going to do in the city?” and she answers “Farm!”

 

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Emmanuel Martinez, Apprentice

In his last year as an undergraduate, Emmanuel had the pleasure of taking a course taught by a retired organic farmer, and that farmer’s ardent passion for artisanal growing inspired his own interest in sustainable farming and all that surrounded it. Emmanuel’s avid mission is to enrich and stimulate his community’s environmental conscience through working on the urban farm and educating others (as well as himself). One of the many highlights of his day is traveling back home after a days work, wearing the dirt on his shirt and soil under his nails with pride.

 

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Nicole Brownstein, Apprentice

Nicole came to the farm as a graduate student at The New School, studying Urban Policy and Management with a focus on urban food systems. She joined The Battery Conservancy in early April hoping to learn more about urban farming, having come from a background in rural farming and social justice, and is excited to stay on for the summer season. Nicole confesses to being obsessed with vegetables – so much so, that she “recently found a few Hakurei turnips and some (now crispy) kale leaves in the dryer when doing laundry. They were still good.”

 

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Kristina Gsell, Apprentice

Kristina began growing her own food at the Columbia University Community Garden freshman year of college, and has been obsessed with the sustainable food movement ever since. After a stint working on rural organic farms in Italy, she joined The Battery Conservancy to reconnect with agriculture in the urban setting and expand her knowledge. Kristina is thrilled to be the newest addition to our team, and looks forward to purslane-turnip salads and many more tastes of the summer bounty.

 

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Elizabeth Van Der Els, Apprentice

After working on a student farm in college and interning at an urban farm in Hartford, Elizabeth was eager to continue getting her hands dirty in the big apple! Elizabeth joined The Battery Conservancy as a farm intern in late March and is excited to continue being involved in the educational aspect of the farm. She enjoys seeing the reaction of fellow subway riders as she nibbles on leaves of raw kale, adorned with a layer of sweat and dirt after a day of working on the farm.

 

 


Thursday (June 27th) marked a major milestone for the Battery Conservancy in 2013.  On this day, Whole Foods Market pledged to donate 5% of net sales from all seven Manhattan locations to The Battery Conservancy to support farm and garden education at Battery Urban Farm.

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Whole Foods Market 5% Days are great examples of collaboration between non-profits and socially responsible corporations. In giving back to organizations in the community, Whole Foods Market (and Whole Kids Foundation!) puts its money where its mouth is, sourcing from local vendors and providing in-store educational signage to promote values of good food, healthy eating, and local production. This fosters a synergy of trust and shared awareness about some of the food systems and health issues we face today.

In an effort to build on this awareness, members of The Battery Conservancy team dressed their best and set out for the stores, staffing each of the 7 Manhattan locations to promote the 5% Day and our educational mission. As part of our outreach effort, each table offered a seed game wherein kids (and adults!) could match vegetables to their corresponding seeds, and a demonstration worm bin to raise interest in vermicomposting as an at-home composting option. (For example: did you know that each pound of Red Wiggler worms can go through 1-3 pounds of waste per week? Some of the larger bins can have thousands of worms. That could translate to hundreds of lbs in organic recycled waste diverted from landfills.)

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At the end of the day, we are overjoyed to announce that the 5% Day raised over $66,000 to support programming at Battery Urban Farm. We are so honored to have been chosen by Whole Foods and to have been able to promote our message to eat healthy, buy locally, be mindful in our consumption and to grow good food, however and wherever we can. This was an incredible effort all around, and we whole-heartedly thank Whole Foods Market for their generosity and support.

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On Saturday June 15, neighborhood volunteers and members of the Bloomberg team came out to the Battery Urban Farm in downtown Manhattan for a beautiful day of harvesting and farming at The Battery. These volunteers successfully created wood chip paths between beds which had become muddy from the rain, trellised two rows of delicious pole beans, and harvested fresh vegetables including baby mustard greens, spicy ovation salad mix, chard, and herbs. Most impressively these men and women removed 50 pounds of weeds from only a third of the farm!

All of these efforts amounted to a huge service and the Battery Urban Farm team would like to give special thanks to Bloomberg staff for generously lending a hand and their time to the Battery.

After volunteer hours on this sunny afternoon, other visitors learned how to tell the story of memorable food and garden moments at a workshop by Rebecca Pryor of The Moth and StoryCorps. After a fun and fulfilling day, a few volunteers (along with members of the community and a few curious tourists) stopped by the farm stand to bring home a selection of local, student-grown produce to savor their farm visit experience.

Join us for the next monthly event on Saturday July 20, where you can learn all about vermicomposting (composting with worms!), pitch in with the volunteer effort, and continue improving this ever-growing urban learning farm!


Support a good cause simply by picking up your groceries!

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When you shop at Whole Foods Market on Thursday June 27, Whole Foods will donate 5% of net sales (from all seven Manhattan stores!) to support The Battery Conservancy and its largest education and outreach program, Battery Urban Farm.

Here, at this one-acre organic learning farm, we are educating and inspiring 2,000 youth (preK-12) from all over NYC to grow and eat healthy vegetables, to green their communities, to say things like “I would rather stay here and eat salad than go to recess“, and so much more.

Join us in our good work, and support these and other thousands of children and young adults as they become student farmers and healthy eaters!

Find the store nearest you! Here are the Whole Foods Markets that will participate in June 27th’s 5% Day:

      • Tribeca: 270 Greenwich Street
      • Union Square: 4 Union Square South
      • Bowery: 95 East Houston Street
      • Chelsea: 250 7th Avenue
      • Midtown East: 226 E 57th Street
      • Columbus Circle: 10 Columbus Circle
      • Upper West Side: 808 Columbus Avenue

Only a handful of organizations each year are chosen to receive a 5% Day from Whole Foods so we feel very honored to have been selected.

Mark your calendars for Thursday, June 27, and get your 4th of July shopping done early! You’ll be promoting garden education, empowering student farmers, and helping to build greener communities–all with a trip to the market.

 


Sunset yoga. Storytelling. And a great excuse to buy some extra treats on your next grocery run.

There is a LOT of great stuff happening at Battery Urban Farm over the next couple of weeks — don’t miss out! Here’s what’s new:

Battery Urban Farm Saturday: June 15

It’s that time again: monthly Saturdays at the farm! In addition to our regular volunteer hours and farmstand, this month we are thrilled to welcome Rebecca Pryor of The Moth and StoryCorps for Food Memories: The Go-To Steps for Crafting Your Story. Also on Saturday: the farm will host two dance performances of last days / first field from Jill Sigman / thinkdance!

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Here’s the full day schedule:

                • Volunteer hours: 10am-1pm
                • Farmstand: noon-4pm
                • Dance performances: noon, 2:30pm
                • Workshop: 1pm

Click here to view the flyer, or RSVP to the Facebook event.

 

YogaFarmFundraiser_InviteFarm Fundraiser: Sunset Yoga @ Battery Urban Farm

Join us on Wednesday, July 24th (previously June 19) from 5-7pm for an evening of yoga, farm-to-fork bites, and a garden happy hour!

This event features a 45-minute yoga lesson with Joulebody founder and certified yoga instructor/personal trainer Yvette Rose, followed by a tasting of juices and hors d’oeuvres (sourced from the farm) and a glass of local wine or beer at Table Green, overlooking the harbor.

Click here to view the invitation or email Lauren Kaplan at lkaplan@thebattery.org to purchase tickets. Space is limited.

 

 

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Whole Foods Market 5% Day: June 27

Shop at Whole Foods on June 27 and you can support student farmers — simply by picking up your weekly groceries!

That’s right: On Thursday June 27, Whole Foods Market will donate 5% of all sales from all seven of their Manhattan stores to The Battery Conservancy — this is a huge deal, and a big honor.

So mark your calendars for June 27th and head over to the Whole Foods Market nearest you to get your 4th of July shopping done early! Click here for more information.


Spruce Street students studying the difference between annuals and perennials in the "Life of a Tree" lesson.

Spruce Street students studying the difference between annuals and perennials in the “Life of a Tree” lesson.

The following is a Farm Education update from our Farm Educator, Anna Ellis.

Last week on the farm was filled with so much excitement for all of our classes as we continue getting ready for summer planting! Cucumbers, summer squash, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers are all on the summer menu.

In addition to all of the delicious fruiting plants we planted, our 1st grade student farmers have been exploring two important resources for all of our farm crops: nutrients and water.

Through a study of the water cycle, students are learning the importance of replenishing what nutrients our plants remove from the soil and how the water cycle is happening on the farm every day — which has been very apparent with all the rain we had last week! The rain has also pushed some of our classes indoors, which gave me a chance to bring the farm to a few classrooms.

Here are some of the lessons we learned on that rainy day:

Water cycleOn Thursday I brought some farm fresh snacks and the water cycle lesson to PS 276 Battery Park City School. Before eating Haikurei turnips that the students had planted on the first farm class of the spring, we made mini 3D water cycles for the students to take home. By the end of the class students were using words like condensation and precipitation like pros!

Later in the day, I brought the same water cycle lesson to PS 397 Spruce Street, whose class had been similarly rained out. There, one student thanked me for teaching them about the water cycle because it was “so much fun.” As an educator, it’s always exciting to hear students who enjoy learning new things and remember all that new information because they had fun doing it!

I brought chive blossoms for the class to taste and when I told them chives grow back every year, one student told me that means its a perennial. (Students had learned the difference between annuals and perennials in a lesson they did 3 weeks ago!)

Our teachers have also been hard at work to bring the farm back to school. One class is keeping a Battery Urban Farm journal, where they practice different writing styles by reflecting on what they’ve done at the farm. Students have written procedural pieces (how to plant a seed), drawn diagrams (the plant life cycle) and even recorded their wonderings (“does lettuce have seeds, and if it does where do they come from?”). This fabulous teacher told us that “we really appreciate all the work that you do on the farm and for allowing us to be a part of it.”

And the teachers aren’t the only ones: this week a student from her class told me “Tuesdays are my favorite day because I get to be an urban farmer.”

As an educator, it’s so rewarding to see both teachers and students recognize and articulate the importance and value in what we do here at Battery Urban Farm. It’s also incredibly rewarding to see students exploring, asking questions and feeling ownership of their work on the farm. These are the kinds of connections students are making that are difficult to capture in numbers, but so easy and exciting to see in the course of classes on the farm. Trimming

On a personal note, I appreciate all the work this teacher has done for her students, and I want to ensure we can continue working with the many teachers like her that see the value in integrating farm education into daily lessons within the classroom.

If you do too, help keep our programs running: shop at Whole Foods on Thursday June 27! Why? Because on June 27, 5% of net sales from all 7 Manhattan stores will be donated to The Battery Conservancy. You can support our work with students like these (and the 1,900 others we will work with this year) simply by shopping for your weekly groceries.


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 PS 150

Here in Tribeca at PS 150, healthy eating and working with plants has become a focus for parents, students and teachers. The Kindergarten students have been learning about plants as a way to improve the community. The students have decided that they would like to use their knowledge of plants and their desire to make New York City more beautiful by giving each class in the school a plant in a decorated pot.

Students from PS 150 drawing basil seedlings.

Students from PS 150 drawing basil seedlings.

As the first step in this community greening project, Jennifer Aaron’s Kindergarteners went on a field trip to the New York Sun Works Center for Environmental Studies at the Manhattan School for Children [PS333]. Here, students observed small basil plants, made a salad using mature basil leaves, and then planted basil seeds to bring back to school. The Kindergarten students are currently tending their basil seedlings, which they will soon replant into decoupaged pots before donating them to other classes.

Students examining the aquaponics system on a visit to Sunworks school PS 333.

Students examining the aquaponics system on a visit to Sunworks school PS 333.

The Pre-Kindergarten students at PS 150 are also interested in helping the community. They have been busy planting an outdoor garden near the school. The students have been enjoying caring for the flowers, especially the marigolds!

Even the youngest (Pre-K) students at PS 150 are enthusiastic about garden projects!

Even the youngest (Pre-K) students at PS 150 are enthusiastic about garden projects!

An integral component of the new focus on plants and health at PS 150 has come from the newly formed Wellness Health and Movement (WHAM) Committee, whose mission is to inspire kids to make healthy food and fitness choices.

The Wellness Committee has sponsored family events such as a “Family Fitness Day” where students and parents danced, competed in relay races, and participated in collaborative games. WHAM also invited families to workout over 3 evenings at Exerblast, a video game inspired kids’ gym.

WHAM students take a break on the green grass.

WHAM students take a break on the green grass.

In addition to encouraging physical activity (and making it fun!), WHAM is especially proud to promote healthy eating for kids and families. Once a month WHAM offers students two new vegetables to taste and vote on. WHAM also sponsored three nights of Veggiecation cooking classes for kids, at which students made a rice noodle dish that included basil, mint, and carrots. Families learned about the health benefits of each vegetable, and everyone enjoyed working together.

 

Shakira Provasoli

Shakira Provasoli

 

Shakira Provasoli is an environmental educator, as well as a proud PS 150 parent. She aspires to bring her own love of nature to all areas of her students’ and children’s lives. She and a fellow PS 150 parent, Susan Korenberg, received a generous Wellness Council grant from the DOE that enabled the WHAM Committee to sponsor healthy eating and fitness events for students and families.


Ahhhh, beautiful sunny skies, 70 degrees of sunshine and a refreshing waterfront breeze; you couldn’t ask for more comfortable weather at the Battery Urban Farm. These conditions made it an ideal setting for some quality farm education sessions with our young farmers at the Spruce Street School.

Last week, our lesson plans focused on some basic fundamentals of farming: (1) to be able to recognize, understand, and observe different types of annual and perennial plants in our environment in the “Life of a Tree” lesson; and (2) to grasp how composting can bring a sustainable balance to the farm. Here’s what students are learning now:

The Life of a Tree
Students measure the circumference of a tree.

Students measure the circumference of a tree.

Here at Battery Urban Farm, students get to plant a wide variety of fruits, herbs and vegetables. Some of our annual plants include tomatoes, lettuce and sugar snap peas. While these plants are all different heights and shapes, one thing they all have in common is that they are annuals: they complete their life cycle within one year and need to be replanted the following growing season. Some of the other crops, like rosemary, thyme and mint, are perennials. These are plants that come back year after year.

In order to highlight the difference between annuals and perennials, we organized some fun activities for the kids. It started with having them plant two rows of Kentucky wonder beans. These are a specific variety of green beans that can be found at Battery Urban Farm annually. They typically grow as bush beans, only about two feet in height. Kentucky wonder beans reach maturity and produce all of their fruit in about 60 days. This is a relatively short amount of time and allows our gardeners to replant several times a year. (We recommend cooking these beans in a casserole, stir-fried with other veggies, or even in a delicious green bean soup!)

To better understand perennial plants, the students went hands-on with the trees in the Woodland surrounding Battery Urban Farm. Students measured the circumference of various trees around the farm using a simple measuring tape, learning that the girth (or waist measurement) of a tree can indicate how old it is. Every inch represents approximately one year. For example, a tree with a 16 inch circumference should be about 16 years old. This measurement doesn’t work for every tree. Eucalyptuses and North American redwoods tend to grow taller and faster than most other trees. Some trees grow taller slower such as limes, horse chestnuts, and yews. Palm trees grow taller without increasing in circumference. How old are the trees around your home?

Decomposition: Breaking Down our Organic Waste
An intense relay race to place cards in either compost or trash bins.

An intense relay race to place cards in either compost or trash bins.

Did you know New York City creates about 12,000 tons of waste per day – and that of that, approximately 270,000 lbs of that is food waste?? That’s a lot of nutrient-rich organic material getting tied up in our landfills instead of feeding our soil.

Many of us living in major cities like NYC aren’t fully aware of the importance of proper waste removal: we throw so many different substances together as “trash” (meaning only that we don’t have a use for them anymore) and don’t think about where they go or what happens to them all once they leave our front door. This disconnect between us and our garbage can be really harmful to our environment. Wasted food that’s left to decay in landfills produces methane gas, a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. It’s over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide when it enters the atmosphere. Thus, recycling our unused materials is extremely important in the fight to slow down climate change.

The best way to bring sustainable balance is through a process called composting. When we compost, we turn our leftover organic materials into reusable soil that gets placed back into the earth for planting. Battery Urban Farm has three compost bins on location to help us recycle our waste. We utilize a specific method of Thermophilic composting, combining waste eating bacteria, heat, and hungry worms to recreate nutrient rich soil for the farm. As part of this lesson, students learn vocabulary words including “decompose”, “compostable”, “organic material” and “vermicompost” , and get hands-on with the compost system and worm bin.

Students compare their ingredients for a compost stew.

Students compare their ingredients for a compost stew.

The Take-Away

These methods (along with many others) will ultimately help our students (and all of us!) learn to reduce our impact on the planet. It’s our responsibility to harness technology in a way that won’t compromise our ability to create healthy food and provide clean drinkable water. Composting is just one necessary step in the development of a more sustainable environment.

Interested in composting at home? While the three-bin thermophilic composting system is great for our space here at the farm, those of us who live in apartment buildings with limited space may need something smaller and more apartment-appropriate. Indoor worm bins are very practical, space efficient and odor-free! Another great option is simply collecting your food scraps in a bag within your freezer and then dropping it off at a compost site. You can find drop-off bins at most green markets around the city, or even at a local community garden. Check GrowNYC for more compost information.

(Also, check out the Outdoor Composting workshop at the farm this Saturday May 18, led by the NYC Compost Project in Manhattan hosted by the Lower East Side Ecology Center!)

We at Battery Urban Farm take great pride in helping to plant the seeds of future sustainability leaders. It’s genuinely fun and engaging for both the students and our educators on staff. We look forward to growing along with students from Spruce Street and all of our other schools!

 

Students observe the woodland areas around the farm.

Students observe the woodland areas around the farm.

Be a part of our farm family by visiting on Battery Urban Farm Saturdays. We have fun activities and workshops for the whole family!