Monday, April 6, 2015

Get Those Little Hands Dirty

Posted By on Mon, Apr 6, 2015 at 9:00 AM

click to enlarge Herb tasting at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project - HEATHER BUNCH
  • Heather Bunch
  • Herb tasting at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project

Living amongst all these farms and sanctuaries and homesteads, you’d think we’d all be little agrarians. But, it’s not just a national epidemic that kids don’t know how their food got into those plastic packages, or what an eggplant looks like, or that, for many families, fresh, let alone organic, produce isn’t accessible. The problem is also a local one. So hands-on farm programs, with their child-sized wheelbarrows and big love of dirt, aim to change all that.

With work weekend events, preschool programs, and farm stands, the Kingston YMCA Farm Project is transforming the city’s midtown from a food desert into a cornucopia. And on April 11th and 12th, everyone is invited to help prepare the garden for spring planting. Your family can shovel, spread compost and wood chips, pull weeds, turn beds, and maybe even plant some pea seeds. Then, come back for Second Saturday Work Days throughout the summer where the tasks change with the seasons. You can do whatever’s needed and even be part of the harvesting. It’s a great way to learn about gardening, get moving outside, and be part of a community effort. Come for a little while or stay all day. There’s a playground and a big field nearby for bouts of romping.

The YMCA Farm Project also has a weekly drop-in program for children and their caregivers, led by the Farm Project’s farmer and experienced educator, KayCee Wimbush. Geared towards 3-5 year-olds (though all ages are welcome), the program includes a circle time with garden-related books and singing, and age appropriate garden tasks. Kids can plant seeds, water plants, harvest fruits and vegetables, and use small tools to engage with the garden. Each week, you’ll make a recipe using produce from the garden, and enjoy a tasting snack, which the children help to prepare.

You can buy your produce right there, or catch the Farm Project’s farm stands beginning Tuesday, June 16th. They’re in the YMCA lobby on Thursdays between 4-7p, and on Tuesdays, the bike-powered mobile farm stand stops at locations throughout the midtown Kingston community, like Benedictine Hospital, Yosman Towers, and the Kingston Public Library. They accept SNAP, WIC, and Department of Aging FMNP checks, as well as cash, check, and debit card.

Find the Kingston YMCA Farm Project on the corner of Susan and Summer Streets in midtown Kingston (park in the YMCA parking lot at 507 Broadway, walk towards River Radiology, and look for a big blue pop-up tent). Work weekend, April 11th & 12th; Second Saturday Work Days are May 9th, June 13th, July 11th, and August 8th; Little Farmers meets on Wednesdays from 10-11:30a, July 1-August 19, $5-15 per family, sliding scale; no gardening experience necessary; materials and supplies provided.
Mobile Farm Stand on Tuesdays throughout midtown Kingston, 3:30-6:30p; Farm Stand in the YMCA lobby on Thursdays, 4-7p.

There are similar educational farm programs in other counties. The Poughkeepsie Farm Project runs a member-supported farm with CSA shares, and they partner with schools and community groups to provide educational opportunities in the classroom and on the farm. And don’t miss Spring Planting Day on Saturday, May 16th, from 10a-2p, at the Sylvia Center’s Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, where families can plant the Children’s Learning Garden and harvest early spring veggies for a farm-fresh seasonal lunch to share.
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