Love is Blossoming at the Farm!

By: Samantha Guercio, Education Intern

Once again we find ourselves in the middle of February and we all know what that means... That’s right, love is in the air! I’m not talking about chocolates, flowers, and romance. I’m talking about the love that is all around us! Love you can be a part of all year around without any help from Cupid!

 

Love of Mother Earth

On the farm, you can find love in every field, hoop house, and garden as you watch the tiny seeds grow into flourishing plants that provide fruits and vegetables that feed our community. These beautiful vegetables are planted and cared for by many hands here at Poughkeepsie Farm Project, and each worker, whether staff, intern, or volunteer, tends them with a full heart. An afternoon in the dirt will leave you with a profound sense of respect for the earth and all of the wonderful bounty it gives us. I’ve been working with the education department for a few short weeks and I can already see and feel the love that goes into the farm, the plants, and the classes that are rooted in gardening and healthy eating education.

 

Unbreakable Bonds

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Love runs deep on the farm especially in the lifelong relationships of all kinds that are born here. Everyone arrives to the farm with a smile ready to tackle the day. Employees and interns alike are always eager to meet new people throughout the community in programs such as farm visits, classroom visits, community cooking workshops, and volunteer opportunities on the farm.  We also form strong ties with our CSA members who love to pick up fresh vegetables during our growing seasons!

 

Love Can Come in Small Packages

Relationships come in all shapes and sizes- some you can’t even see! These microscopic relationships occur within the soil and keep our plants healthy and our food abundant. Compost is widely used to bring nutrients back into the soil. However, without the insects, bacteria, and fungi that break it down, compost would never turn into the rich, highly nutritious soil that plants need to thrive.  This is slightly reminiscent of the “I can’t live without you” love that we often celebrate on Valentine’s Day.  Another example of tiny relationships are the insects that help pollinate the crops.  While some may not call this kind of relationship “love” it is indeed a relationship where both the plant and the insect mutually benefit- kind of like they were meant to be together!

 

Self Love

Connecting with the earth brings about a love within ourselves that cultivates a deep sense of self, mindfulness, and peace. There is something about being outside with the sun on your face, the smell of fresh air and plants, and the strenuous yet satisfying work of growing food that brings a person back to a place of inner peace. Not only is gardening great exercise, but it also provides you with vitamin D from the sun, fresh oxygen that revitalizes your cells, and fresh produce at the end of the day! Most importantly, we cannot forget the wonderful effects gardening has on the mind.  I know when my garden gets going in the spring, I let my mind drift and relax for hours on end as I tend to the plants.  It is therapeutic in a way that nourishes every aspect of the soul, and brings out the best in ourselves.  When we feel good physically and mentally, we want others to feel good too, and that love is spread from person to person.

There are many forms of love and relationships in this world besides the romantic kind we often associate with Valentine’s Day.  Most of this love is often right under your nose! You just have to be open to it and embrace it in all aspects of your life. No matter if you are married, in a relationship or still looking for that special valentine, there is still plenty of love to go around!

7 Contributions of Black Farmers to Agriculture

7 Contributions of Black Farmers to Agriculture

As technology and research have advanced in the past 200 years, the way we approach farming has changed significantly.  Countless inventions, ideas, and practices from important figures in history have increased productivity and efficiency on the farm.  In celebration of Black History month, we are highlighting seven major agricultural contributions from African American farmers, horticulturists, and inventors. Their contributions have revolutionized the way our food system functions today.  

1. Early Seed Planters
Henry Blair- Born a free man in 1807, Henry Blair was the second African American to be issued a United States patent.  Despite being illiterate and uneducated, he was a successful farmer who patented two inventions: a corn planter and a cotton planter  The corn planter had a compartment which held and dropped the seeds to the ground and rakes which followed to cover them with soil.  The cotton planter was horse drawn and had two shovel- like attachments that divided the soil. Behind it, he put a cylinder shaped wheel that dropped the seeds into the newly turned soil. Both of his inventions greatly increased efficiency on the farm by limiting labor and time.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

2. Biological Regeneration of the Soil Through the Nitrogen Cycle and Crop Rotation
George Washington Carver, an agricultural scientist, inventor and educator at Tuskegee University sought to revitalize southern soil that had been stripped by cotton, a nitrogen depleting crop.  He developed a crop rotation method that alternated the cotton with legumes like peanuts that fix nitrogen and other edible crops such as corn.  This method increased the soil’s productive capacity and also gave southern farmers another crop to produce and sell besides cotton, thus diversifying the market.

3. Compost
In addition to crop rotation, Dr. Carver promoted the practice of using compost to reintroduce nutrients and add organic matter to the soil.  He showed that using compost for soil revitalization increased its productivity by a hundredfold compared with previous common methods. Using compost to build soil is a critical practice in organic farming and gardening today.

4. Sustainable Farming Practices
Booker T. Whatley, an Alabama horticulturist, author, and Tuskegee University professor, examined efficient farming practices which allowed the small farmer to make the most of his/her farm while making a decent living.  His book, How To Make $100,000 Farming 25 Acres (1987), explores his ten commandments of farming that assist the farmer in minimizing unnecessary costs, limiting wastes, and maximizing income and farm space with smart crop selection.  He also continued the use of soil regeneration techniques supported by George Washington Carver, a faculty member of the previous generation. His work continues to be a guide for small farmers towards success and sustainability.

5. Community Supported Agriculture
One of Booker T. Whatley’s  ten commandments was the importance of what he called a Clientele Membership Club.  Members of this club paid an initial membership fee which contributed to the success of the farm. In return, they received fresh produce that they would pick themselves.  This ensured a constant cash flow into the farm, while saving on time and labor.  Dr. Whatley identified this as an essential aspect of a successful farm in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Today, this idea is commonly referred to as community supported agriculture (CSA) and is becoming more popular as the demand for local food continues to grow.

Fred Jones: USDA

Fred Jones: USDA

6. Transportation Refrigeration System
Frederick McKinley Jones is the inventor of one of the most important inventions to modern agriculture: the refrigerated truck.  From an early age, he  took a strong interest in mechanics and electricity.  He patented his refrigeration system in 1940 and became the co-owner of the company Thermo King through which he sold his invention.  The system allowed perishable foods to be shipped to further distances and even overseas.  It was installed in trucks, boats, planes, and boxcars and improved the worldwide food trade. Because of his invention, fresh seasonal produce could be enjoyed throughout the entire year.  Other concepts such as frozen foods, supermarkets, and container shipping were all derived from the work of Frederick Jones.

7. Farming Cooperatives
Since the abolition of slavery in 1865, numerous farming cooperatives were established to increase opportunities, land ownership, agricultural education, and living conditions for black farmers despite the setbacks from systemic discrimination.  Historical figures such as Booker T. Washington worked to offer agricultural education to Blacks under the Second Morrill Act of 1890.  He also promoted self-sufficiency practices so black farmers did not have to rely on white landowners or the cotton market for income.  Others such as Robert Lloyd Smith who began the  Black farming cooperative called the Farmers Improvement Society of Texas (FIST) worked to benefit black farmers in all aspects of life.  During the Civil Rights movement, many others including activist Fannie Lou Hamer, religious figures and political leaders continued to seek better livelihoods for Blacks in agriculture. The work of these individuals has helped improve conditions for Black farmers in the U.S .

African-American farm and home demonstration agents pose for a group photograph under the Booker T. Washington monument at Tuskegee Institute, July 15, 1925: Wikipedia

African-American farm and home demonstration agents pose for a group photograph under the Booker T. Washington monument at Tuskegee Institute, July 15, 1925: Wikipedia

Growers' Row: Mid-Winter Update

As surprising as it may seem, we’ve made a good deal of progress through this winter season! For those in our community who opted for a winter CSA share, how is it going? (There are only 3 distributions left, by the way!) The farm crew hopes that the experience has been great; from our perspective, this winter is already successful in terms of production, learning, and implementation of lots of new systems. It is a joy to provide such good food and to witness positive reactions from our winter shareholders.

In order to be productive and timely in distributing great produce, we've worked out plenty of systems this initial winter that keep greens and soil warm [enough] and to maintain proper humidity inside the greenhouses. We are also concerned with challenges as simple as an extremely muddy (or potentially snowy) driveway. Compared to the summer season, weather-related complications are more likely during the winter, and we've already learned a lot about preparing for them and about responding to problems. With the exception of vehicles stuck in the mud, frozen pants, and an underground irrigation leak, these two cold months have been smooth and productive on the farm.

These months have not been all cold and potential problems, of course. There are many friends! In the strong tradition of PFP, we are joined when we need the support by folks from the summer and from past seasons, helping us to complete big harvests of fresh greens (even on frigid days). This support has also allowed everybody to take vacations without holding up harvest, distribution, or maintenance. THANK YOU for your labor and for bringing extra warmth to the greenhouses!

The farm, covered in a light blanket of icy snow, is quite a peaceful place this time of year. The farm crew continues to tend the greenhouse beds and focus on the winter CSA, while also transitioning into planning mode for the summer growing season. The new greenhouses will bring plenty of change to the summer season, too, so look out for updates soon! We'll have plenty to share. 

Staff Highlight: Jamie Levato

Staff Highlight: Jamie Levato, Education Director (interviewed by Lee Anne Albritton)

Provide us with a brief description of your position at PFP.
I run PFP’s Education Department, and I work with Ellie Limpert, our Education Manager, to set the tone and agenda for our programs which are mainly focused on promoting healthy eating, gardening, and sustainable agriculture.

My role involves building relationships with all of our community partners, school personnel, PTAs, and other nonprofits. I coordinate our schedule and plan much of our professional development workshops.

What types of activities do you schedule?
On site field trips for school classes and other groups, school garden visits where PFP educators teach kids in their own gardens, cooking in the classroom workshops, family cooking workshops, and educational sessions at after school programs.

We also provide professional development for teachers and community educators at our three-day Summer Institute Using Gardens to Teach training for educators. We’ve expanded our offerings and now provide several other trainings throughout the year on-site and at regional conferences. In addition, we offer workshops on gardening, herbs, cooking, seed saving, and self-sufficiency for community members at the farm and at other sites in the community.

What's your background?
I grew up in Central Islip, Long Island. We had a garden in our back yard, with a nice strawberry patch, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, and green beans and we had 16 chickens. We also had ducks and rabbits, which were more like pets, and a Mulberry tree that we would climb to harvest big colanders full of bright purple berries that my mom would make into Italian ices. I guess I fell in love with fresh hyper-local food as a child because it was so tasty.

What brought you to PFP?
My background is as a teacher. I went to SUNY New Paltz and got an MS in Literacy Education. While in college, I started gardening at the Gardens for Nutrition and fell in love w/ community gardening because of the interaction and sharing with my garden neighbors. Right after college, I worked for the Mid-Hudson Migrant Education Program working with children of migrant farm workers. Then I started working for Poughkeepsie City School District as a home-bound instructor teaching kids who were suspended or on medical leave. Those positons connected me to the Poughkeepsie community. When I saw a position that connected my educational background and my interests, I was thrilled at the possibility of teaching children through gardening and cooking.

What do you love most about your job?
I can’t choose one thing. I love the variety that I get to do, one day I’m teaching a group of kids, the next day I’m writing a grant, other days I’m training interns, leading a workshop for educators, developing curriculum. I really love the fact that we have a wide community impact because we’re working with youth, families, educators, and other community organizations. PFP’s community-based approach is exciting and powerful to me. Recently, I have been doing a lot of presentations around the region. I actually really enjoy speaking in front of groups. Many people fear public speaking more than death, but I fear death more than public speaking!

What do you love most about PFP?
I love our really strong team and the way we work in many different facets under the umbrella of food justice, providing nutritious local food to families through our CSA, and others with limited access.  I love working with our many community partners and other local and regional organizations to make food systems more equitable.

There are so many program and outreach activities that the Education Department presently offers, what has changed from when you started as a part-timer in 2010?
I was first hired as a part-time seasonal employee for 15 hours/week. Now, I work year-round and full time.  

When I started, we were primarily responding to requests – five field trips for the school year, and working with a few local summer camps, Green Teen, and Hudson River Housing’s River Haven youth shelter.

I was asked to build a partnership with Poughkeepsie schools, instead of just responding to requests, so that kids in Poughkeepsie could visit on a regular basis. That meant building relationships with principals, teachers, school secretaries, other staff, and administrators. We weren’t doing as much in the schools then, and there were very few school gardens. Now we’re in the schools beginning in February and continuing through December. When I started, we hosted two interns from Vassar during semester. In 2016, we hosted 24 interns from Vassar, the CIA, Russell Sage, SUNY New Paltz, Poughkeepsie Day School, and Poughkeepsie High School. We’ve also expanded the Seeds of Food System teen program, which used to just be a summer program, but now we’ve expanded it to a weekly six-month program. Visiting PFP is now part of growing up in Poughkeepsie!

I know you're very involved with social justice activism outside of PFP, what are some of those projects? 
Primarily, I’m working with several organizations on racial justice issues on the local and state level. What’s very exciting is that many of our local and regional farming organizations are committing to work towards racial justice in the food system.

Why do you consider racial justice so important?
Because we are all better off when there’s justice for everyone. Our entire society loses out on the human potential of our neighbors, when institutional racism limits opportunities for people of color. For many white people in our country, institutional racism can be virtually invisible, you can be oblivious if you don’t pay really close attention.

What do you do for leisure when you're not at PFP or saving the world?
I enjoy reading, baking, preserving food, gardening, hiking, going to movies, and traveling.

Anything we might not necessarily expect to know about you?
I recently started indoor rock climbing. I’m just a beginner and definitely not ready for outdoor climbing, yet.

Growers’ Row: An Update from the Farm Crew

By Patrick Lang

It has become awfully quiet at PFP in recent weeks! The regular CSA season ended quite nicely: mild November weather, lots of help from our field work students from Vassar, and one final burst of harvesting by volunteers, field work students, and Workshare members. Over 2 days, we harvested, washed, and packed 3,380 pounds of carrots alone! It was hard work, but was extremely satisfying.

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We now turn entirely toward our first season of winter growing, and we are getting excited about the first winter CSA distribution. This is an especially exciting time considering the work that has gone into gearing up for providing food in the winter. Here are some of the necessary improvements we’ve been working on this fall to make winter growing a reality:

Leon in the new winter wash station

Leon in the new winter wash station

  • We purchased an additional shipping container and converted it to a cooler. This allows us to store the thousands of pounds of storage vegetables (cabbage, carrots, radishes, rutabaga, potatoes, onions, and others) that were recently harvested, and it is now completely full.
  • Conversion of our main cooler to a heated winter wash station. I certainly wouldn’t want to be dunking baby greens in ice-cold water in January. 
  • We also acknowledge the possibility of lots of snow, and are purchasing a plow and snow blower for our tractor. It’s a big expense, but we’d be quite stuck without it. Literally.

There has also been much preparation of the soil in the greenhouses, as you can imagine. Peat moss was incorporated to provide fluffy texture and organic matter, and bed preparation and seed sowing was done this fall with much patience and care by Leon and Merle. This has resulted in a glorious setting for our winter work, as well as a consistent supply of amazing greens. This includes veggies that aren’t normally distributed during the regular season, including the red mustard greens shown below. That is my version of instant lunch when I am working at PFP – absolutely delicious.

Whether you are joining us for the winter CSA or just finishing up winter squash from this fall and excited for next season, we hope you keep tabs on us through the winter. I can at least promise far more photos of greens than one needs, all winter on Facebook and Instagram.

Revisiting a Beautiful Fall Day...

A crisp warm fall day provided the backdrop at Vassar Alumni House while over 200 participants took delight in tasting a wide variety of delicious local soups, crusty breads and delectable desserts donated by over 20 Hudson Valley restaurants and food vendors. Guests bid on over 70 donated silent auction and raffle items—ranging from framed art prints to kayak outings, from pottery bowls to drum lessons. Each Soup-A- Bowl ticket entitled the guest to select their favorite one of a kind bowl lovingly hand crafted by volunteers with the generous help of Art Centro. 

Through the bountiful donations of over 40 generous sponsors Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s 9 th annual Soup-A- Bowl raised approximately $25,000, breaking all previous records!

Monies raised will be used to fund PFP's education and outreach programs and its commitment to bring thousands of pounds of fresh produce to pantries, shelters and families in need through PFP’s vital Food Share program. 

Banners of sponsors and restaurants were proudly hung in the Great Hall where the Roundabout Ramblers had us dancing in our seats.

An army of volunteers (over 50) makes Soup-A- Bowl possible. Margery Groten and Tina Vaitkus co-chaired the event. Cathy and Terrence Coughlin make the magic happen in the kitchen, coordinating food donations, deliveries and service. Dan Pressler coordinated production of over 200 bowls from teaching the basics of throwing a bowl, to trimming, firing and glazing them. Tibby Fischer reached out to many of our numerous sponsors to help us reach our goal. She also donated the bright red PFP aprons worn by the volunteers! Zinnia Gutowski and Penny Dell organized the incredible array of silent auction and raffle items. Anita Kiewra coordinated all of the day of the event volunteers. Sven Thiessen posted updates on PFP’s Facebook page. And Zoe Lee made decorations and signs. PFP executive director Lee Anne Albritton and office manager Kate Dayton kept the gears oiled during the months of preparations and on the day of the event.

Thank you again to our generous sponsors!

Staff Hightlight: Lee Anne Albritton

A portrait of our Executive Director, as interviewed by her husband :)

How long have you been at PFP?
I started in February 2014. Before that I had been at the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County for 16 years, overseeing the organization’s satellite aquatics, childcare and camping programs in New Paltz, Highland, Marlboro, and Ellenville. While I was at the Y, I became involved with community and school gardens in New Paltz, as well as healthier food-in-school initiatives. My mentor in the early 200s was Ann Guenther (Wife of Dan Guenther who was the founding farmer of PFP) and I actually arranged a few field trips to PFP for years before I started working here.

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What’s your farm and community garden background?
Perhaps it’s in my blood. My paternal great-great-great grandfather came over from Scotland and domesticated the production of strawberries and celery in South Florida, and my immediate paternal grandparents were hybridists specifically of camellias. My immediate maternal grandparents started a WPA town in North Florida with a concentration in sustainable agriculture and a local economy. I mostly grew up in Miami, Florida, though I spent family summers in North Carolina occasionally “working” at a small neighboring farm, milking cows, picking string beans and “turning silage.”

In Miami, we had our own little backyard garden that produced a lot, though one of my favorite things was visiting an urban U-pick farm. It was a family thing to do most Sundays after church. My parents were friends with the farmer and we did many of the same things that members do at PFP—we weeded, we picked and washed produce for their farm stand, and in barter fashion received our own vegetables to take home. It was a community around food. If you live in a city, no matter your economic status, you don’t necessarily have access to fresh food or the ability to understand where food comes from, to grow it, to pull something out of the ground and eat it.

In keeping with the mind/body/spirit ethos of the YMCA, I’ve always concentrated on including gardening and nature programming as part of after-school and camping programs.

I had my eye on this back parcel at the YMCA since 2000, a vacant urban space in Midtown Kingston, and beginning in 2008 worked with several community members and organizations to which the parcel now provides space for a 30-plot raised-bed community garden.

Kismet and Serendipity introduced me to Jesica Clark(former PFP Assistant Farm Manager) who started her own urban farm in Kingston, and connected me to KayCee Wimbish, with years of farming and ESL experience.  And now KayCee runs a successful ¼ acre urban farm at the YMCA with a bicycle-led mobile farm market in Midtown, a food desert, that accepts WIC and SNAP!

What gets you jazzed the most about being PFP’s ED?
I have one of the best jobs on Earth, and I’ve acquired at least 500 new like-minded friends and regular acquaintances. I have to admit it was, and is continuing to be  quite the learning curve. I stepped into one of the most impressive organizations whose foundation is a continued visionary and solid mission-driven trajectory towards food justice and I believe that the present team is honoring and building upon it.  When I first started at PFP, I started most of my days saying, “We do what?!!” We have one of the best farmer training programs, we were a part of one of the USDA’s first Farm to School Initiatives and are now a leader in that national realm, we provide comprehensive education and outreach internships, we provide training to professional educators based on federal and NYS curricula mandates, we grow our own heirloom seeds, we make our own lip balms and salves, we’ve been working with other organizations on best practices for integrated pest management, and there truly is so much more.

I stepped into a strong foundation ready to continue growing into a larger impact. It’s the “Pebble in the water” metaphor. We’ve experienced growth while adhering to our core principles of providing local produce to members, while our education and outreach is regional and statewide.

One of the things that drew me to this job…Having run child care and camping programs, the goofiness—singing songs about a turnip or a beet… You get to pretend to be a bee that pollinates a berry, which then you actually get to eat. You get to pretend to be an important part of the whole system.

What are you focusing on currently?
Jamie and Ellie in the education department are still working in the schools, while continuing to develop curriculum. Germinating testing and seed viability is also being handled by our education department with our Vassar interns.

Leon and the farm-crew are working on next year’s crop-planning and management while managing this new Winter Share option.

For the admin crew it’s mostly champagne and bon bons in our cozy warm dorm-room office at Oakwood Friends School, though Kate spends a lot of time keeping our books in order and general customer service stuff, and I’m focusing largely on grant writing and fund seeking.

Winter is also a time where the staff get together and review our goals and mission for the upcoming year, looking back at what we’ve done and looking forward to where we want to be in 2017. Possibilities are endless, but we do want to be thoughtful and pragmatic to ensure success.

Where do you want to be in 2017?
In 2016, we focused on grant writing for our education and outreach programs as well as promoting and providing sustainable positions for staff members. In 2017 we’re hoping to focus on improved infrastructure and GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) specified improvements. We’re of course hoping to also continue growing our education and outreach programs both on the farm and out in the community to expand our food justice impact. 

Chard of Many Colors

Chard will always be there for you. Like a reliable friend, it is one of the greatest, and often least appreciated, of all the gifts from your local farmer.

Chard’s long, thick stalks have wide, glossy green leaves that may be smooth or curly, depending on the variety. The stalk comes in many colors, from white to green to brilliant red, yellow, and pink. At many farmers markets you’ll see the flashy Ruby Red and Bright Lights varieties. They are glamorous and hard to resist, but the old-fashioned varieties with white stems and green leaves are even tastier.

TRUE BLUE, EXCEPT IT’S GREEN

Not only is chard giving, it’s forgiving too. It’s much more heat-resistant than spinach, grows well under most weather and soil conditions, and is disease resistant and bug resistant too. After harvesting, the inner leaves come back quickly, so you’ll see chard at farmers markets from early June clear through Thanksgiving. And at PFP, we have it growing in our high tunnels for the Winter CSA Share! Because it’s always there, you might take it for granted, but, as with a good friend, you shouldn’t.

EASY, TASTY AND CONVENIENT

Chard is as close to perfect as a vegetable can get—a low-calorie, high-nutrition green with a mildly sweet, clean taste. It’s also a fast food. Tender young chard leaves can be eaten raw, adding a beet-like flavor to salads and sandwiches. Larger stalks and leaves can be blanched in boiling water, or sauteed up in a matter of minutes, quick and easy. Then toss the cooked chard into pasta with olive oil and garlic, add to omelets and frittatas, or use instead of spinach in your favorite recipe.

This article had been adapted from Farm Fresh Now! a project of The Land Connection. See below for two tasty winter chard recipes.

Pancetta, White Bean, and Chard Pot Pies from Smitten Kitchen

Pancetta, White Bean, and Chard Pot Pies from Smitten Kitchen

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin from Smitten Kitchen

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin from Smitten Kitchen

For the Love of Vegetables

Sowing the Seeds of Life-Long Healthy Eating 

by Ellie Limpert

The minute a class of students step off of their school bus on to the farm, the excitement is palpable. The day may be grey, rainy, or even snowing, but the young pack of explorers can barely contain themselves because they know the next two hours hold adventure and discovery. Poughkeepsie Farm Project is a place that invites curiosity and unearths rich multisensory experiences. A place to marvel at the rising steam of a colorful compost mountain, celebrate beneficial insects and dance the honey-bee-waggle, a place where getting dirty is encouraged, and above all, vegetables are king.

As a passionate nutritionist dedicated to inspiring children to develop a taste for vegetables, I find myself in a very powerful position at PFP. It is rare that after digging up an octopus-like carrot, journeying through a kale forest, or discovering the zombie like effects of shredding a beet, children haven’t fallen in love with what our farmers grow. When children line up to leave the farm at the end of their visit we are often confronted with the same questions. From the children: “Can we LIVE HERE?” (it’s always assumed we live in the coop) “More More More More?!!” (referring to whatever vegetable we last tasted) and from myself and fellow educators: “Do they carry this enthusiasm home?!”.

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For all those young vegetable enthusiasts who beg for more turnips and kale and wish to live in the spirit of the farm, and for our education team questioning the extent of their reach, we have developed a new and exciting program that works to bridge the gap between PFP and home: Farm Fresh Home Chefs. Farm Fresh Home Chefs is a family cooking workshop series that brings children and their caregivers together for a hands-on healthy-eating experience. During the first hour of these workshops adult participants receive a nutrition lesson while youth engage in a garden activity. Families come together for the last hour to cook together. In this hour together they discover new vegetables or celebrate familiar ones, share money-saving techniques and practice recipe modification, learn appropriate cooking tasks for all ages, and discover the joy of coming together over healthy food.

Fall of 2016 marks our third round of Farm Fresh Home Chefs and we couldn’t be more excited. Below is a story about the experience of a hard-working family of four who participated in Farm Fresh Home Chefs last fall.  May PFP continue to sow the seeds of little healthy eaters, and encourage a culture of life long healthy eating in Poughkeepsie.

Sam*, Tina*, Louis* (7th grade), Layla* (5th grade)

Sam and Tina are the epitome of hard working parents dedicated first and foremost to their children’s well-being. Though both would drop anything to ensure the safety and happiness of Louis, 7th grader at Poughkeepsie Middle School, and Layla, 5th grader at Krieger Elementary school, they have found some of their efforts in providing the best for their children to be quite a battle, namely, encouraging healthy food.  Participating in “Farm Fresh Home Chefs” (FFHC) a cooking and nutrition program offered by Poughkeepsie Farm Project, was Layla’s request, and Tina and her husband Sam jumped at the chance.

 After the first two hour class with FFHC, Tina and Sam could already sense their family’s change in attitude around vegetables.  They had just prepared a heart-healthy vegetable-heavy chili as a family that had the kids begging for more. In watching this, Sam exclaimed “Oh we are going to put on so many pounds in this program!” to which Tina responded “Gain weight? We are going to lose weight!” After several classes with FFHC, Sam was its number one advocate. “Our diets have changed dramatically because of this program. The kids aren’t only willing to try new things, but they come home from school eager to help. They even have their own night that they cook now. Fridays." Their one challenge is to make their dish fit Myplate recommendations. "We were not familiar with Myplate before this program and it is such a useful tool.” Eating healthy on a consistent basis takes time and dedication, and when the children join their parents as a team in the kitchen, the results are eye-opening. “I can’t believe such a fun, engaging, educational program that brings our family together is free.” Sam goes on, “It is invaluable. I want to be the first to know of any other program you offer because I will be there. Do you teach how to grow this food too? We want to start a garden.” 

*Names have been changed.

Farm Fresh Home Chefs is funded by United Way of Dutchess-Orange Region and The Jeannette F Schlobach Fund of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley.

NYS Comptroller Highlights Poughkeepsie Farm-to-School in New Report

Mr. DiNapoli talks about the benefits of Farm-to-School programs in NYS.

Mr. DiNapoli talks about the benefits of Farm-to-School programs in NYS.

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli released his report “Locally Grown: Farm-to-School Programs in New York State” on Friday, October 21 at Clinton School in Poughkeepsie, NY. The report details hurdles school districts face when creating and sustaining such programs, outlines federal and state initiatives that are intended to encourage farm-to-school programs, and highlights six successful programs in NYS including the partnership between Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD) and Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP).

Clinton students get ready to sample some locally-grown snacks.

Clinton students get ready to sample some locally-grown snacks.

PFP and PCSD have been collaborating on farm-to-school since 2013 to put local food into school meals and to provide Poughkeepsie students with engaging learning experiences surrounding the food system. On farm field trips, in school gardens, during cooking in the classroom sessions, and through cafeteria tastings of fresh local produce students learn to learn about growing and eating nutritious, local food. In schools, PCSD trials new recipes using locally-sourced ingredients to include in school lunches and conducts taste tests and surveys at school open houses and parent teacher-conferences, seeking feedback from students and parents about whether or not they enjoyed each dish. And in its Discovery Gardens, PFP leads Using Gardens to Teach, a workshop that helps educators integrate gardens into lessons about diverse subjects that align with learning standards while earning professional development credits.

A 4th grader at Clinton School talks about building the school garden at the Comptroller's press conference.

A 4th grader at Clinton School talks about building the school garden at the Comptroller's press conference.

These activities are a few among many initiatives of the farm-to-school project collaboration between PFP and PCSD that seeks to introduce more fresh local produce into school meals and shift the culture of food among students, staff, and families. And the results are undeniable: PFP collected data on the effects of the farm-to-school activities on students’ vegetable consumption during school lunch and found that elementary students who participated in the program ate five times as much kale (by weight) as their peers who were not involved in farm visits and cooking workshops. In addition, 63% of students in the program group finished their serving of kale compared with only 8% of their peers who were not involved in the program and 1% of peers who were not involved and attended a different school. There are more locally-grown foods and NYS products in school meals and summer meals than before the program started.  Newly developed recipes are in regular rotation on school menus. Local foods, including root vegetables, kale, and squash are served to students every Tuesday. And, food service staff have received training in preparing fresh whole produce, developing recipes and promoting healthy choices.

Jamie talks about the successes of the Poughkeepsie Farm-to-School Program at Mr. DiNapoli's press conference.

Jamie talks about the successes of the Poughkeepsie Farm-to-School Program at Mr. DiNapoli's press conference.

“When PFP educators arrive at Poughkeepsie schools, the students exclaim with delight and ask what they will be tasting that day. Our partnership with Poughkeepsie schools is really changing what kids eat. When students have the opportunities to see where their food comes from while exploring farm fields, cooking simple healthy dishes, and learning their academic curriculum in farm and garden settings, they are more interested in eating local food in their school cafeterias, growing their own food at home, and teaching their families new recipes with local produce.”
~Jamie Levato, education director of Poughkeepsie Farm Project.
Clinton students show Mr. DiNapoli their school garden.

Clinton students show Mr. DiNapoli their school garden.

These positive results are crucial because, according to DiNapoli, “Interest in farm-to-school programs is widespread, but it’s not always easy for school districts across New York to bring fresh, locally produced foods to their students.” The report describes the challenges farmers can face in entering a farm-to-school market and competing in school food procurement. Farmers may not be aware of the publications in which schools post their request for bids, or may not be familiar with other aspects of the procurement process such as billing complexities. The expense of complying with food safety processes can also be a barrier, particularly for small vendors.

Jamie offers everyone a taste of the scarlet turnips. They were a big hit!

Jamie offers everyone a taste of the scarlet turnips. They were a big hit!

At the report-release at Clinton School, DiNapoli explored the new school garden, tasted some of the Farm-to-School recipes, and sampled some fresh PFP scarlet turnips with third and fourth grade students. DiNapoli challenged local communities and policymakers to use the findings to bolster Farm-to-School programs which bring local food into school cafeterias. The report’s recommendations include: looking to boards of cooperative educational services, which in some areas support farm-to-school programs, as a source of expert advice or an organizational home for efforts to emphasize local food purchases; providing training in planning and implementing successful farm-to-school programs to school district personnel; and supporting joint purchasing agreements among districts through the state farm-to-school grant program and examining the role of farm-to-school as regional food hubs grow across the state.


PFP’s work on Farm-to-School is funded by the USDA, United Way of Dutchess-Orange Region, and the Jane W. Nuhn Charitable Trust.