Youth Grow During Summer Farm Visits

The month of July brought youth from several different summer camps and youth programs to the Poughkeepsie Farm Project for educational farm visits. The majority of the youth came from the City of Poughkeepsie and it was clear that the farm experience was having an influential impact.  The Summer Education Intern and I thoroughly enjoyed watching students’ uncertainty about nature transform into wonder as they interacted with the farm and its food bounty. The sessions included cooking workshops with farm-fresh vegetables; smelling and tasting herbs in the Meditation Garden; participating in the work that goes into producing a harvest; and teaching youth about the science behind growing food. 

Again, many of the youth arrived to the farm with skepticism about gardening and farming. But throughout each visit, we saw and heard their rising excitement and appreciation. We have some favorite memorable moments.   While showing one group the Snapdragon flowers, the youth exclaimed in unison, “oooooOOOooooh” at its variety of vibrant colors. One said that we “make the best strawberries I’ve ever tasted!” While smelling fennel, another expressed, “I could sit here and smell this all day.” On the same visit, one student began the farm tour expressing distaste for most vegetables. But, one taste of the sugar snap peas changed that. She loved the peas, and from then on, the student eagerly tasted the plants we offered.

These are only some of the examples of the transformation that occurs when youth visit the Poughkeepsie Farm Project.   July also included off-site lessons at one of the local community gardens, the Fall Kill Partnership Gardens (FKPG) on North Hamilton Street. The Poughkeepsie Farm Project's education staff led garden tours and cooking workshops for youth participating in the REAL Skills program at the Family Partnership Center. The students from the REAL Skills program learned about community gardening and enjoyed tasting garden fresh produce.

As we worked with these groups, we also brainstormed ideas and reflected on how to best make use of the garden space as an educational tool.  It is our goal to develop the youth garden plot at FKPG as an educational space for teachers and community educators. This goal is part of our Growing City Seeds project, which aims to connect residents, youth and youth educators with community gardening, which will lay the necessary foundation for developing other community gardens in the City of Poughkeepsie. It is important to have these garden-based educational spaces in central locations, where educators can teach youth about biodiversity, plant ecology, nutrition, math and other academic subjects, especially for groups who are not able to make it out to the farm. 

Those who did have the opportunity to visit the farm gave us very positive feedback. Some students wished they could spend the entire day at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, or never leave it at all. At the end of one of our sessions, we thanked the group for coming and for their help during a work project. In response, they said, “I think you gave more to us than we gave to you.” Many also expressed hopes to work at the farm in the future. We hope that they do!

By Julie DeLuca