Kingston YMCA Farm Project
On Friday, April 13, the Farm Hub joined the YMCA Farm Project in Kingston for a volunteer work-day to help build greenhouse tables, prep the garden, and teach students how to use power tools. Together with the Farm Project’s education director, Susan Hereth, and eight student workers, the team pitched in to kick off the YMCA’s fifth growing season and support the organization’s vision to “grow a healthier Kingston.”
Sara Katz, education program manager at the Farm Hub, led a safety demonstration to instruct the student workers on the proper use of power tools. Putting these new skills into practice, student workers broke into groups of two to three and, with guidance from staff members, built several tables to be used for greenhouse seeding.
Other volunteers spread compost and wood chips in the grow beds to prepare for the transplanting process. “The students came in with different backgrounds and levels of experience,” Katz explained, “but all of them were enthusiastic to learn and develop their skills. Because of the range of tasks, everybody got to challenge themselves and try something new. They were then able to apply what they had learned immediately after the training.”
Located behind the YMCA in midtown Kingston, this educational urban farm is oriented toward youth development and allowing young people to learn about growing food by doing the work themselves and getting their hands dirty. Four youth programs, with participants ranging from preschoolers to high school students run throughout the year. The farm will soon pilot a bee pollinator habitat with SUNY New Paltz.
The guiding principles are twofold: giving youth an opportunity to develop valuable skills and contributing to the broader community’s wellbeing. The program offers a variety of experiences, from working on the farm and helping run the project’s farm stands in Kingston, to learning about food justice and how food systems operate. This type of hands-on participation complements the learning style offered in conventional classroom settings, with all of the young participants receiving an hourly wage and some receiving academic credit.
In keeping with the idea to provide the community with access to healthy, locally produced food, all of the YMCA Farm Project’s farm stands are centrally located for optimal accessibility. The locations are deliberately chosen to eliminate common barriers such as lack of transportation and to shift away from having farmers’ markets exclusively in high-income areas.
At the end of the day, the Farm Hub team said goodbye to the students and staff at the YMCA and made the short drive back to Hurley. Despite the proximity, it almost felt as though Kingston was an entirely different world. Perhaps that is part of what made it so memorable; the opportunity to bring some of the skills and practices that are usually associated with rural farming communities to an urban area.
“It was refreshing to get off the farm for a day,” said Katz. “Seeing how much the kids appreciated hands-on learning and the sense of accomplishment that came with seeing the fruits of their labor was fulfilling.”
For more information on the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, click here.