Early in October, students from one of our youth Cooks for Health classes got a special visit from a professional chef. Chef Sohui Kim, owner and chef of The Good Fork and Insa visited Sylvia Center students at Community Chef Theresa’s class in Red Hook, Brooklyn for a personal lesson. That week’s recipe was for zucchini fritters with a soy dipping sauce, but Chef Sohui added a twist to the mix. Inspired by a dish called Bindae-tteok, a Korean pancake made with mung bean, kimchi, and bacon (which you can try at her restaurant Insa), Chef Sohui thought it would be fun to add mung beans to the recipe. Despite most of the students being unfamiliar with the ingredient, they all were excited to give it a try. Usually pancakes don’t contain a lot of protein and are instead comprised of carbohydrates from the flours and grains. But with the mung beans included, these fritters were packed with filling nutrients.
Another new ingredient for the students was kimchi. Despite its rather funky smell, Sohui encouraged them to try it. Kimchi is fermented cabbage with chili pepper. The students enjoyed their samples straight from the jar. One student called it, “juicy lightning!” Kimchi was added to a fried rice made with soy sauce, ginger, scallions, and egg, then topped with sesame oil. The students agreed they enjoyed kimchi even more as part of a dish, making it more flavorful.
Students discussed the contrasting flavors of ingredients: from the soy sauce’s salty flavor to the rice vinegar’s slightly sweet and acidic taste, to how balancing the two created a tasty sauce for their zucchini fritter. Students were excited to open up to a whole new realm of flavors in Korean cuisine. They learned from one of the best!
Congratulations to Chef Kim’s book “Korean Home Cooking” that was just published this month. We look forward to eating some of this delicious collaboration at the Art of Cooking benefit on November 1st, where Chef Kim will be working with these students from Red Hook to serve up their delicious dishes.
Our Teens Tell Us What They Think
Graduates of the Teen Culinary Apprenticeship Program came into the Sylvia Center office to talk about their experiences and to give us feedback on the program. Many felt they were more confident in public speaking, and that they had developed their own healthier eating habits. Many commented on how they were now seen as experts in their own families when it came to healthful eating. It was clear that the graduates realized how food has many intersections -- in community connections, public health, and sustainability.
Over the summer, these teen chef instructors taught cooking classes to children and youth where they put their skills to work. Above any cooking technique or knife cut, patience was key. Working with young people, introducing them to new foods, and managing a class in the preparation of a complete recipe from start to finish was an eye opening experience. From our discussion, the teens told us that they want more opportunities to grow and serve their community.
After our talk, they took a tour of Great Performances kitchen with Chef Rob Valencia. The group got to see a professional catering kitchen in action, preparing for multiple events that night.
Then last Thursday, two graduates from the Teen Culinary Apprenticeship met with our founding board members to discuss the history of The Sylvia Center and offer their vision for the future of our programs throughout the city. The conversation, which we caught on video, will be featured at the Art of Cooking benefit on November 1st.
The Sylvia Center Staff & Volunteers at Slice Out Hunger Orientation
Sylvia Center volunteers and staff attended a training for Slice Out Hunger, the city's biggest annual pizza party featuring $1 slices from over 50 of NYC’s best pizzerias. The enthusiasm in the room was infectious, as volunteers shared a love for pizza and ending hunger in New York City.
With 100% of the proceeds benefiting The Sylvia Center and City Harvest, this delicious event is sure to be a success. To learn more, check out (slice out hunger website); if you'd like to volunteer, please email email@example.com by September 21.
The Great Farm Food Educator Cook Off
On the final week of Farm Food Education, Green City Force Americorps members came together for a competition cook off. The challenge was to create an individual salad featuring greens harvested from the farm. Restrictions included no heat and all the tools had to be shared. Within 45 minutes, students harvested greens from Red Hook Houses Farm, cleaned, prepped, and plated their salad. Students used their newly acquired techniques - knife skills, emulsifying, blending, and dressing -- and were judged on presentation, taste, and overall skills.
It was challenging for them to work individually, but they had fun and took complete ownership of the skills they learned. The four judges were impressed with their focus and the flavors! Most importantly, these young adults who are serving at Green City Force’s partner farms in the city, are now more confident doing fresh food demonstrations that will help their communities eat and enjoy locally grown, delicious produce.
At the Farm
The Sylvia Center’s Summer Volunteer Days take place on Saturdays. Last weekend, 3 volunteers who have been regulars throughout the summer - Violet, Max, and Leo helped with garden tasks in the Learning Garden. They had a great time harvesting kale, cucamelons, green beans and tomatoes. In between, volunteers snacked on tomatoes.
Already, they can see the benefits of all the work they put in - new flowers are budding and the beans are growing. It was exciting to see major progress made in preparing the garden for the fall. There is still a change to help out! The last summer volunteer event is on September 29th.
In the City
In preparation for Art of Cooking, the Sylvia Center is collaborating with multiple chefs for the event coming up in November. Chef Anita Lo made a special visit to the last cooking class in Red Hook’s Miccio Community Center. The last recipe of the 6 week summer class cycle was a delicious vegetable filled quesadilla with swiss chards, corn, red peppers, and cheese. Students cutted the corn kernels off the cob by holding the corn cob securely and cutted the kernels from top to bottom. Red peppers were diced and cilantro was minced. Students were confidently showing their kitchen skills of various knife techniques, teamwork, meal prep, and organization.
Everyone gathered at the table to enjoy the food cooked together and shared their favorite dish they make at home. Anita shared her love to cook with what she grows and fishes. She likes to cook all kinds of food, cuisines, but especially what grows in her garden and what she catches!
After her visit with the young people, she made a stop to the Green City Force class at the Red Hook Houses Farm. She was impressed with the urban farm and how big okras can get! The farm manager explained her interest in learning how to grow things with different palates of the same items.
The programs of the Sylvia Center cover a large spectrum within food from learning basic kitchen skills to reaching out to community members on developing healthier eating habits and raising awareness on food systems. From the young people’s cooking class, students are introduced to new flavors to farm food education classes, where young adults continue to grow with food by becoming advocates. It was a pleasure to have Anita Lo visit and connect with Sylvia Center’s young chefs.
Last week we had scorching hot 90-degree temperatures, so hot we had to put up a pop tent to provide some shade and a bit of relief from the blazing sun as we removed the tops off all the onions we had drying in the greenhouse. They’re all bagged and ready to store. Today will not even make it above 58 and we’ve had a light drizzle of rain continuously since early morning. It certainly feels as if fall has arrived.
We’re harvesting the last of the cherry tomatoes in the greenhouses this week. Bob’s almost finished with seeding the cover crop for winter and I was able to get 40 quarts of tomatoes canned over the weekend.
Never a dull moment here on Katchkie Farm, from building a Sukkah to use for celebrating the Jewish festival of Sukkot, hosting the Farm to Table dinners, chefs & politicians, to joining in with our crew in celebration of their children’s baptism’s, complete with preparing and roasting goat in the ground like they do back home and colorful piñatas for the kids. This weekend the air was filled with the cheerful sounds of children laughing and playing along with music from the fiesta drifting across the fields of the farm.
This farm is unique and ever changing, as are the seasons. With the arrival of autumn and the holidays right behind, we wish you all peace, happiness, and most of all the enjoyment of good food.
We had the pleasure of hosting a work group of cooks from Great Performances late last week. Fourteen of them came and harvested all the ripe specialty hot peppers and one whole row of red field tomatoes. They will freeze them and use them throughout the winter in their kitchen delicacies. They were hard workers, it was a beautiful day and great having them here.
Hope you had a Happy Labor Day. On the farm it's not a holiday, it still means work. Ok so we only worked half a day, but we were busy, busy. We started harvesting a couple of beds of chard that surprised us by producing a beautiful second cutting. Chard has the most delightful variety of colors, what a way to start what was to become a scorching 90 degree, hot and humid day. The weather forecast is predicting more of these high temperatures and hopefully without torrential rain, which means Bob has the pump running again and the sprinkler going full blast. He’s also been busy spreading cover crop seed. He’s got to get that seed spread now, so it has time to germinate and begin to get those roots down deep in the ground to pull up nutrients, later when the grass dies those channels will help with water flow and provide pathways for next year’s crop roots. Along with improving the soil it will help prevent erosion and can help with weed and pest control.
This week you’ll be seeing the first of our winter squash, hard to believe but the Delicata squash was ripe and ready to harvest.
We finished our day harvesting Shishito peppers. These peppers are thin walled & wrinkled, mild when green and slightly sweet when red, great on salads, roasted on the grill or in tempura. The plants are high and filled with fruit so, sitting low on the ground shaded by their leaves to harvest was not such a bad place to be on a hot Labor Day.
We all have the power to make healthy choices. Eating fruits and vegetables are essential for our mental and physical wellness. At The Sylvia Center, we encourage our students to take their skills outside the classroom. This summer, we piloted Health Bucks, from the NYC Health Department, in two of our Cooks for Health youth programs. Health Bucks can be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at all NYC farmers markets and provides affordable fresh produce that supports local farmers.
Students from West Brighton Community Center in Staten Island and the Boulevard Community Center in East New York were given their Health Bucks to spend during their field trip to their community farmers market. Students from East New York visited East New York Farms (ENYF) and farmer’s market on New Lots Avenue and Georgia Avenue. An ENYF Summer Youth Employee gave our students an engaging tour and introduced students to pollinators, eggplants, and squash. Students were then able to take their Health Bucks to the market and shop with a total of $8 to spend. Watermelons, grapes, garlic, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots and string beans were among the favorites that were taken home. One boy even exclaimed, “I’m going to eat healthy for DAYS!” upon receiving his 1 pound of string beans for $3.
Through our Fresh Food Programs, local summer recreation program - Hudson Bluehawk Nation summer camp students made a visit to Katchkie Farm and the learning garden. Young people explored different crops like beans and lettuces and picked their own vegetables. For the hot summer day, they made rustic summer ratatouille and herb cucumber salad.
Green City Force Week 4 - Farm Food Education
Nutrition Education: Our community + Our food
The Sylvia Center trained young adults from Green City Force (GCF) in our Farm Food Educator program this week. GCF’s Americorps members serve at urban farms across the city. The Sylvia Center builds their ability to engage with the community around food and nutrition. In this week’s session, students learned the different vitamins and nutrients that come with eating the rainbow of farm-fresh foods. Beta-carotene comes from orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Dark leafy greens are high in vitamins K, A, C. Iron is found in purple vegetables. Lycopene is good for the heart and for the blood, and is found in red vegetables.
Students also took a closer look at nutrition labels on packaged foods, learning to look for overall calories, and the breakdown of fats, protein and carbohydrates. They are becoming champions of fresh food by sharing their growing knowledge of the principles of healthy eating with people who may not be used to eating a variety of fresh vegetables. It is not as easy as saying “eat it, it’s good!” Students from Green City Force are building the skills, knowledge and confidence to educate and empower the communities they serve through food.
Busy as Bees at the Young Chefs Farm Camp on Katchkie Farm
Our summer campers were thrilled to learn all about bees from Paul MacPhail of Bee Hollow Farm & Apiary. On Thursday, campers had all of their bee questions answered, made their own beeswax candle, and tasted different types of honeys. They learned how bees are an essential part of sustainable agriculture, and how to be a good friend to bees.
Afterwards, campers made fettuccine from scratch with our staff, and the help of local pesto expert and chef volunteer Luca Fontana. Students rolled and cut the pasta dough, and made a delicious traditional pesto with lots of basil from our garden. Everyone enjoyed a flavorful lunch in our field house. The rest of the day was filled with farm chores and improv games.
Every summer, The Sylvia Center hosts two sessions of campers in our Young Chefs Farm Camp. Young people, ages 7 to 16, spend all day outside in our learning garden and field house. Campers cook farm-fresh meals and snacks; weed, plant and harvest the learning garden; collect eggs from our coop; and make garden-inspired arts and crafts. Most importantly, they work together to learn where fresh, nutritious food comes from, and how it is the foundation of healthy, lifelong habits.
Our friend and a local farmer Martin, owner of Markristo Farm, who grows our green beans and edemame, told us that just this morning he was contacted by four separate farmers asking if he had extra vegetables to sell so they could fill their CSA orders this week. This would have been great for him, except that he has also lost crops due to the extreme weather conditions we’ve had this season and therefore is unable to fill the extra orders they need.
We are harvesting vegetables that may be slightly short of meeting our standards aesthetically that we normally adhere to, even with our rule of growing more than anticipated to compensate for the unexpected weather related or disease related issues. A slight blemish on a pepper or eggplant for example that we would normally not accept for our CSA bags, we must use at this time and so we suggest that if you find a bad spot simply cut it out because the rest of the vegetable is acceptable and still delicious.
Bob decided this morning to go ahead and have us harvest an entire bed of celery earlier than expected because he was noticing spots on the leaves and some rot in the centers from so much rain. If left in the field to mature they would surely go bad. We still ended up cutting some of the bunches apart, taking out the bad centers all together and re-bunching. A lengthy process but we got over 100 more bunches by doing so. Desperate times call for desperate measures is the expression I’ve been thinking of today. We were concerned about the celery being too young and too small but upon tasting it, decided it is sweet and crunchy therefore better to have it small than not at all. As I was harvesting the celery I kept thinking of a song by Joni Mitchell, I changed the words a bit to go, “Hey farmer, farmer thanks for putting away your DDT, giving me spots on my celery leaves but you’ve given me the birds and the bees. Still, don’t it always seem to go, we don’t know what we’ve got till it’s gone”.
We want to thank all our CSA members in advance for being understanding of the slightly imperfect quality of some of our vegetables and the occasional last-minute changes we have to make in the weekly harvest list due to unexpected decreases in the quantity of an item during this challenging and uncooperative season.
Rain, rain…GO AWAY! Obviously rain is crucial to growing vegetables, however, this week’s newsletter is a good time to address an important, topical question:
What is the impact of extreme rain on a farm?
On a basic level, heavy rain affects a farmer’s ability to do the essentials- harvest, plant, and weed. Thick, deep patches of mud make it extremely difficult for Bob to use the tractor to plant new crops and combat weeds. The rain also limits our farm team’s ability to harvest in the fields. Thunderstorms make that task impossible.
One of the most potentially dangerous impacts of heavy rain is soil erosion. Bob spreads compost and the rain washes the rich soil away, nutrients running off like a river from the crops that need them. A neighboring farm had a promising potato crop exposed to the sun due to erosion, causing them to sprout. Ultimately, this will drastically reduce the yield of their crop that was planned months ago.
Extreme rain also increases the risk of water related disease and pests. Water molds can spread rapidly in recirculating irrigation water and cause serious damage within a few days. Here at Katchkie, overly wet fields prevented us from harvesting tomatoes until the leaves have dried, so as not to spread diseases.
Finally, heavy rain (and climate change in general) impacts the crops themselves. Late summer veggies that thrive on hot, sunny days are not getting their optimal growing conditions. This leads to a later harvest, or potentially, the loss of a whole crop. Keep an eye on your CSA share too. Rain can cause blemishes and cracks in more fragile vegetables, such as tomatoes. Even the taste of the vegetables can be altered by heavy rains! Remember the losses I mentioned due to soil erosion? Imbalanced levels of sugars and important nutrients can alter the taste of the end product too.
Such are the challenges of farming! On the bright side, we hope you will be inspired with this week’s harvest to make that special margarita or grab a nice cold beer to go with the Pico de Gallo, or stuffed poblanos or gazpacho we’re certain you’ll be making. Ole'!
This week we started working on lowering the cherry tomato vines that have grown to the top of the greenhouses. All the bottom branches that are done producing must be trimmed so the vines can be lowered and rewrapped around the string at the top providing more growing space. This task will take days to complete as we can only work at it when it is not too hot and sunny or when it is raining outside.
With field tomatoes ripening I've begun canning. Just a small batch to get back into it.
Our crazy carrots will be coming your way again. Katchkie Farm has very rocky soil. You may see the result of this in your carrots. Some grow into strange alien or octopus like shapes sprouting multiple arms or legs while others curl and wrap around one another in beautiful embraces that refuse to come apart or maybe we simply refuse to untangle them, choosing to keep our little carrot communities together. I’ve begun juicing, throwing the whole bunch, leaves and all right into the juicer with parsley, cucumbers, celery and an apple or two. So very refreshing and rejuvenating. Dare I say better than coffee.
We harvested peppers today, they look great. Can't wait to slice up a batch.
Young people from North East Community Center visited Katchkie Farm for an experience at the farm and to learn something new! They toured the farm, picked vegetables from the garden, and prepared their own lunch. For lunch, they made summer vegetable & black bean burrito with pico de gallo and a side of summer cabbage slaw. For some, it was the first time to eat the vegetables they picked right from the farm. These vegetables include swiss chard and the summer squash. It was the first time for many things on this visit. Teens tried the edible flower, nasturtium and even learned how to properly hold a chicken!
In the city, the Sylvia Center is working on putting together a special video for the upcoming Art of Cooking Gala on November 1st. Over the weekend, a production crew came to capture young people cook live in the kitchen. The video is about the relationship between teens becoming student leaders and building a healthy community.
August is here. This will be our last week of the regular seeding schedule for transplanting. Feels like we are in a race. A race against the weather, be it rain when we were harvesting onions to get them out of the field for drying or racing against time as we must start early in the mornings to harvest in the cooler temperatures before the sweltering heat and humidity of the afternoons. We can hardly breath in the greenhouses after lunchtime the heat is so intense, however the cherry tomatoes are loving it; and we’re racing against the limitations of our own physical strength in the effort to get it all done. Farmer Bob strategically choreographs our days, so we spend the hottest part either washing vegetables or boxes, or sorting, or packing, or some task that is out of the heat or the rain. Harvest time is the crescendo of the farming season. The intensity is growing and ripening as are our fields and it will continue until fall officially arrives and relieves us at least from the pursuit of the summer heat allowing the tempo of this race to step down a notch as we head toward the finish.
This month, The Sylvia Center had the privilege to work with PS21 and Perfect Ten in creating a community experience full of dance, music, and of course -- healthy eating. We had the privilege of cooking with a group of fourteen girls, ages ten to sixteen, from Perfect Ten’s programs last week. Each day, we had two, 1.5 hour rotations, spending meaningful time with both the younger and older students. In this program, we made a wide variety of healthy meals including: Mafé, Fresh Pasta with Ratatouille, Hand Pies, Triple Berry Cobbler, and much more. The variety of dishes we prepared allowed us to be inclusive of the many different preferences of our students. Some students enjoyed using seasonal fruits in baked desserts, while other students loved preparing savory dishes like pasta dough or making Mafé.
At The Sylvia Center, we take pride in giving our students the opportunity to have choices in the kitchen classroom. When the girls from Perfect Ten requested to make garlic bread, we were more than excited to help them learn to make one of their favorite foods. Together, both students and staff brainstormed ways to make a healthier version of garlic bread, putting our critical thinking skills and creativity to the test. At the end of the brainstorming session, the students came up with many innovative ways to make garlic bread healthy, while still retaining the bread’s deliciousness. The students decided to replace the bread with a whole grain bread, use olive oil instead of butter, and add a fresh tomato bruschetta on top. The end result was both healthy and delicious.
As the week progressed, the students challenged themselves in many different ways by learning to bake, roast, fry and cut with new ingredients. Many ingredients were items that some of the students had never tried before. Each meal provided this group of girls with the energy they needed to dance and drum for the rest of the day with Jamal and Company. Most importantly, sharing the meals allowed the group a time to build community and relish in their own successes after a day of growth, challenges, and hard work. One of their first challenges was creating a Triple Berry Cobber, making it the perfect meal to try with new young cooks:
Triple Berry Cobbler
2 cups blueberries
2 cups strawberries
2 cups raspberries
3/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
3/4 cup all purpose flour, divided
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 teaspoons sugar
Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease a 13x9 inch baking dish.
Combine berries with ¼ cup all purpose flour and ½ cup sugar. Toss to combine. Spread evenly in the baking dish.
Combine remaining flour, ¼ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a mixing bowl. Mix in the butter using fingertips or pastry blender, and mix until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
Add buttermilk, mix until moist. Combine dough into eight equal balls, and place evenly over berries. Sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 35 minutes, allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.
With the massive amounts of irrigating we were doing and the periodic downpours of rain we’ve been having, we are now dealing with an unbelievable growth of weeds. We’ve been using a lay down bed weeder to help us accomplish the task of weeding, making it much quicker and more efficient, saving our backs, hips and knees from many hours of bending, kneeling and crawling which we would have otherwise been doing. Today we discovered our peppers are suffering from an infestation of pepper weevils. We planted more peppers this year than usual so hopefully we will still have a healthy harvest. Finally, we’ve harvested one of our favorite crops of the season, sandia or watermelon, little “Sugar Babies”, averaging 5 lbs. each and so refreshing during this hot time of year.
In a partnership with Perfect Ten, an organization supporting young girls, high school aged girls learned how specific food, in addition to dance and music, are significant to the cultural identity of West African countries. Food is often a reflection of the traditions and geography of a specific place or area, making it intrinsically tied to the identity of cultures and regions. In Columbia County, Sylvia Center students explored the joys of healthy food and eating, and also the significance of culture.
In Perfect Ten’s programs, high school aged girls explored the food and culture of West African countries in a partnership with PS21, an organization supporting arts and cultural programming, and The Sylvia Center. In the week’s programs, students had the opportunity to learn traditional Malian dance and drumming from teachers at Jamal Jackson and Company through PS21. These young girls also learned how to prepare classic West African foods, like Mafé from instructors at The Sylvia Center.
Mafe is a stew recognizable by its groundnut (typically ground peanuts) and tomato sauce. An aromatic trio of onion, garlic and ginger, deepens the flavor, making it truly distinct. In West Africa, you’ll find Mafé served from one shared bowl during celebrations and when welcoming guests. The dish is a celebration not only of food and culture, but also agriculture, as peanuts are a major crop in regions across West Africa.
The version we created was served with vegetables, but traditionally, this dish is served with meat, usually lamb. The Mafé we prepared had a pleasing mixture of textures, balancing the rich, thick peanut sauce with a variety of vegetables. Mafé is often served over rice, couscous, fonio, fufu, or jollof, our choice for the day. Check out the full Mafé recipe on our blog.
At The Sylvia Center in NYC, our Teen Apprentices helped teach a cooking class to kids--ages five to seven years old in Long Island City, Queens. In this class, students learned how to make an Orzo Pasta Salad and fresh Lemonade from scratch. From the beginning to the end of the class, the young students showcased great energy and enthusiasm, enthralled by the many different fruits and vegetables set out for the day.
Before any cooking could commence, Theresa, the Community Chef Instructor, asked students to repeat the word orzo, and explained that although it looks like a grain, orzo is actually a variety of pasta. First, these young students were divided into two groups: one for making the lemonade and another for making the pasta salad. The lemonade group worked on squeezing lemons for lemon juice, carefully guided by their Teen Apprentices. The pasta salad group practiced knife skills with a butter knife, using the bear claw technique to cut cucumbers, red and green peppers, and tomatoes. After cutting their respective fruits and vegetables, one younger student exclaimed to a friend: “We are the masters!”. That was exactly right -- with guided practice, these young chefs were learning basic knife skills in the kitchen.
After both of the dishes were finally finished, the students started eating and drinking their creations. Some of the students were surprised that the peppers were not spicy, but actually quite sweet. Many students discussed their favorite fruit or vegetable from the pasta salad, with many differing opinions. One student liked the food so much, she wanted to bring some home with her to share with her mom. When class was over, students left the kitchen with a small helping of extras to share with their loved ones. After creating something delicious, the smiling faces proved that these young kids were enthusiastic about the dishes they made, and excited to learn more about food and cooking.
With rain in the forecast, we ended up starting the garlic harvest on Friday. It took us 2 days to get it all harvested and laid out in the greenhouse for drying. Both days were beautiful. Temperatures dropped to tolerable levels-- thank goodness-- and it seemed as if we flew right through the task. It started raining Saturday night, rained again Sunday night and looks like it will continue off and on all week. Time was of the essence. Bob got more fields plowed, seeded and sprayed and my daughters and I canned 2 dozen quart jars of dill pickles. It was a busy weekend. We are now halfway through the season. Four months in and four more to go. Stamina is the word of the moment now. It’s wonderful that the oppressively hot weather seems to have broken its long hold, the rain may alleviate the task of irrigating or at least some of it. I like to think mother nature is watching over us, sensing the limits of our capacity to endure this most difficult life of farming and pitching in to help when she can.
Students from Amenia, NY’s Maplebrook School visited the farm last week, eager and engaged throughout the day’s programs. Eighteen kids -- ages twelve to fifteen -- with a range of learning differences, came to the farm ready and engaged to participate in the day’s programs. They journeyed together beneath the vines and umbrella leaves to look for squash and cucumbers. By the end of the day, they harvested fruits and vegetables including: kale, tomatoes, summer squash, basil, raspberries, and mint. The experience allowed the students to view their vegetables in a whole new way. One student, Bella, said: "I liked the way onions look when they are growing, I've never seen that before."
For lunch, the kids used some of their harvested herbs, vegetables and fruits to create a delicious meal. The kids used the basil to create a summer pasta with basil and parmesan, and used some of this season’s raspberries to create a raspberry parfait with hand whipped cream and whole wheat graham crackers. One student, Jackson, used a pun to express his excitement over the raspberries, calling them, “berry tasty”. However, taste was not the only reason students enjoyed cooking their own meal today. Another student, Jessie said, “I love cooking because it relaxes me.”
By the end of the day, when asked if they tried something new, most of the students raised their hands, which demonstrated the rich array of new experiences by a single group in a single day.
In NYC, classes in Long Island City are in full swing. Last week, students ventured into the art of creating quesadillas and guacamole. Young students learned about the range of ingredients guacamole and quesadillas have, all while learning the technical skills necessary to create the delicious foods. When it was time for them to start cooking, they were hard at work, using the knife skills and techniques they learned previously. The class was also a family affair as two twin sisters worked side by side, mincing ginger and garlic together for the meal. The class was engaged, and thrilled with the result, ready to add a new food to their repertoire of potential meals and snacks they can make with their families at home.
In the Bronx, our recently graduated Teen Apprentices Halima and Isatou also led a class of younger kids featuring guacamole and quesadillas. They both were natural leaders, calmly leading a class of younger kids. When the class was asked what a quesadilla is one student called it a “sandwich” which gave both the students and the teachers a new perspective on the delicious snack.
After preparing the ingredients, the students became engaged with what they were cooking. They instantly started making connections between what was happening in the classroom, to their experiences with food in everyday life.
Overall, it was a delicious week for our kids at the farm and across the boroughs!