Growing Student Farmers at Battery Urban Farm

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Welcome to The Schoolyard Dirt, where student farmers come to play! This is YOUR blog to share what you’re growing, learning, eating and loving with fellow teachers, students, parents, and your Battery Urban Farmers. Whether you’re a teacher, a student, a principal, a parent, or an enthusiastic PTA member, we encourage you to:

  • Post a photo you took on the farm this week!
  • Tell us about your farm-inspired classroom projects or crafts!
  • Rave about a dish you made from something you grew on the farm (and share the recipe, so we can try it too)!
  • Share that inspiring article you just read on a new farm-to-school program, or that grant opportunity you just heard about!
  • Invite “The Schoolyard Dirt” community to your next big Garden Event at your school!

All of your posts will appear on this page, with most recent posts appearing first. To see only posts in a specific category–for example, to see only recipes, or only community info and events–click on each specific category to the left to read a sample post, and to see where each of these posts should go.

 

 

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The Staff of The Battery Conservancy was informed last week that Zelda, its resident wild turkey, had been hit by a car as she walked along South Street toward Pier 11.  Zelda had become the endearing wildlife symbol of the parks revitalization over the past eleven years.  She made her first appearance on May 5, 2003 when garden designer, Piet Oudolf and 50 volunteers planted the Gardens of Remembrance along the waterfront in honor of all the survivors of 9/11 who had fled to safety through the park.

Zelda became a beloved member of The Battery Conservancy team, taking care to make an appearance at every Conservancy event. Since the first Battery Gardeners’ Luncheon in 2003 and her first Battery Gala in 2004, Zelda was seen and photographed mingling among the guests before returning to her favorite trees to roost and watch the lively movement of the park’s visitors.

Zelda’s last appearances were at the 11th annual Battery Gardeners Luncheon, on September 17th, making sure to greet guests as they arrived, and at the previous day’s Conservancy board meeting, where she monitored the discussions of the park’s future from a nearby tree.

The memory of Zelda’s days in The Battery and the fact that she had an unusually long life leaves us with a legacy of encouragement, a dedication to continuing to nurture these 25 aces of historic landscape and to forge ahead to complete the Park’s improvement.


josie eushavia katrina oysters

Now the BUF goes blue! This summer Battery Urban Farm is teaming up with the Billion Oyster Project to help clean up the New York Harbor and educate local students about marine ecology. Oysters, native to the NYC harbor, filter billions, even trillions, of tons of water each year. By placing our oysters in the New York Harbor we will help improve the quality of water and general health of our local environment. Here at the BUF, we have adopted four oyster cages, all bustling with aquatic life, with the ultimate goal of expanding our education programs to include topics such as water quality and ecological resilience, while expanding our understanding of the urban ecosystem.

This effort not only pioneers a new perspective on sustainability and waste reduction, but also gives students across the city an exciting opportunity to get hands on experiences with aquatic science. As an apprentice I have been lucky enough to witness the magic of opening one of our cages and observing the oysters’ growth, as well identifying all of the other marine species found in the harbor. I can’t wait to see the programs growth in the coming years, and the changing landscape of New York City!

By Eushavia Bogan, Battery Urban Farm apprentice

 


We are thrilled to introduce you to our stellar team of Battery Urban Farm education apprentices! You’ve already met Anandi, but now it’s time to meet…

Eushavia

Eushavia earned a B.A. from Vassar College in Environmental Studies with a focus in ecology and political geography. She completed a thesis on the pedagogy behind school gardens, and hoped to pursue this topic professionally. She was initially drawn to The Battery Urban Farm because of its focus on food system education and integrated learning; but also thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to work with her hands, and team of students outside–sharing the joys growing, tending, and eating delicious foods!

Shannon

Shannon is a sociologist-turned-chef and food educator, who earned her Master’s in Sociology at American University in D.C. before becoming a certified Natural Chef at Bauman College in Berkeley, CA.  She comes to The Battery Urban Farm to enhance the farm side of her farm-to-fork community education goals.  She loves watching people of all ages taste new fruits and vegetables and discover a world of fresh flavors that should be accessible to everyone!

Katrina

Katrina Ceguera developed her interest in food justice while pursuing Environmental Studies at UC Santa Barbara. She came to Battery Urban Farm with the intention to learn the ins and outs of urban farming and eventually start her own urban food project. Her favorite thing is to watch a kid hold a worm for the first time.

Aaron

Aaron graduated from the  University of New Mexico in Albuquerque with a major in inter cultural communications and a minor in sociology.
Aaron is in the program because it is his dream to work with plants and improve his community by teaching people how to grow their own food and eat healthier.
His biggest enjoyment is watching the farm mature and take shape through everyone’s hard work and watching the children light up with enthusiasm as they learn new topics.

 


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By Anandi Premlall

From what I have seen as a Farm Educator Apprentice, Battery Urban Farm serves a key role in creating a tactile and aesthetic portrait of the farm to table experience in New York City. Being a student of Farm School NYC, as well as an advocate of food justice and food equity, it’s apparent how disconnected we are to the New York City food system, where in the world our food comes from, how our food is grown, what our food is fertilized with, and what kind of measures are taken to manage soil and control pests. Access to edible schoolyards, green space, and public gardens to grow local food in a way that respects our entire ecosystem is something that is often missing in our urban communities. Every time I plant a seed and come back a few days later to watch the tiny bits of green push through the dirt, I am in awe. I love that the magic of the seed, soil, Sun, and water come together to create such tender moments of beauty, and am grateful to take part in this bountiful harvest.

I find it a welcome challenge to work with youth groups and children who have little to no knowledge about what an urban farm is, and that there are different and commentary types of farming. A trip to Battery Urban Farm may have a profound effect on anyone who has little or no exposure to dirt in their neighborhoods and how they will relate to their food and environment afterwards. I often draw upon my own experiences as a third-world-country-gal-living-in-the-big-city to find ways to connect with the diverse landscape and foodscape there is among the five boroughs and share about what we do and teach at this farm in the park. I remember when I went on a field trip to Queens County Farm in elementary school and fell in love with it! Part of me felt at home being being among the animals and food growing just about everywhere.

It seemed massive and surreal that this farm could coexist with a city like ours. Before that trip, I didn’t know that there were farms in New York City, much less Queens. When our students learn which items in the garbage are sorted into either the landfill and compost bin with the Compost Relay Game, they may think a little differently about the effects of throwing an apple core or orange peels into the garbage, and how it collectively contributes to greenhouse gases and climate change. Realizing that something so simple can make a huge difference shifts a way of thinking and brings about the realization that the power to create change in our food system and waste stream literally lies in our own hands. Some of my students are surprised to find out that certain weeds are edible, start inquiring about which ones they can eat, are eager taste them, ask how vegetables grow and where the edible parts are: above (like kale, peppers, mint) and below (like peanuts, carrots, beets), and how food waste can be recycled by putting it in a bin with equal amount of browns or carbon to the greens or nitrogen. When bees and butterflies are spotted in action, it’s a perfect opportunity to talk about the role of pollinators in our food system.

I thrive on the excitement I see in the eyes of my students and their pleas of can I taste this, and this, and this — aaaaaand this!? I love that my students want to eat everything in sight and wish I could offer them a smorgasbord of local edibles that would create a permanent love of fresh food and the Earth. An immersion in urban farming may very well unlock a huge chunk of the puzzle in conquering childhood obesity, inspiring healthful lifestyles, and creating edible communities.
Being able to visualize and experience our food cycle with all of senses is not only wondrous, it also begs the question, why would we do it another way and toss our valuable resources into the landfill when we can heal our soil and grow more vegetables?

 

 


04Jun

Peanuts!

 

peanut plant

On May 2nd, a class of 2nd graders from P.S. 230 planted 3 varieties of peanuts on the farm. This was also the day Michael Tortorello from the New York Times came to interview Battery Urban Farm staff about our peanut planting experiment! (You can find the article here.) Since then, our peanuts have all germinated and grown quite a bit! After planting them, we quickly covered them with a row cover and have kept them in hiding from curious squirrels and birds for the last few weeks. So far they have stayed safely in place and are about 4 inches tall and growing. Soon we’ll insert hoops under the row cover to give the plants lots of space to grow while remaining protected. They’ll grow until the fall when we’ll see how our experiment went and what kind of harvest we get! Stay tuned…


 

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 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!