Spring at the Youth Grow Local Farm

As spring passes into summer I wanted to take a little time to reflect back upon our third spring season at the Youth Grow Local Farm.  It's been a tough growing season so far with lots of cold weather interspersed with 90 degree days.  We keep joking at the farm that we haven't had one 70 degree, blue sky, white fluffy cloud day yet. 

But, let's back up to the cold days of March.  It all began in the East High School greenhouse where we start many of the plants that are currently being planted at the farm.  Kitty King (one of our partners in the farm) and her class worked each week in March and April to seed many flats of vegetables and flowers and keep the greenhouse watered every day. 

Youth seeding in a greenhouse

Seeding and spotting out seedlings in the East High Greenhouse

Plants in a greenhouse

Plants in the East High Greenhouse

Once mid-April arrives we move from gathering at the greenhouse each week to working out at the farm.  We had several groups join us this spring: youth in one of the special education classes at East High, all of the K/1 classes at Kennedy Elementary School (73 kids!) and the teens and adults in Goodman Community Center's TEENworks program.  We also had some groups visit us for workdays: Operation Fresh Start, Memorial High School Service Day Volunteers, Americorps and a group of adults in an international program sponsored by the State Department that consisted of folks from China, Belize, Turkey and Cameroon.  It was a busy few months with lots of new faces at the farm!

The TEENworks program sent their teens and adults three times a week to help plant, weed, water and mulch the farm.  Last year we planted about 2000 onions and it was one of our most popular crops.  This year I wanted to plant more than last year.  If you have ever planted onions, you know that it can get tiring working with the small seedlings and the exact spacing required.  Onions are best planted by the older youth at the farm so we really relied upon the Goodman groups to help us get the bulk of the onions planted.  In the first picture below you can see the tool we call the "dibbler".  It has prongs that are spaced 6" apart and we use it to create the holes for the onions at the exact spacing they require.  One of the interns from last year brought a sample of the dibbler one day for us to try and after we raved about it for several weeks she asked her dad to make us a whole set of them at different spacing for various crops.  We use them for planting all of our seedlings, and especially love them for the alliums! 

Planting onions at Youth Grow Local Farm Youth watering onions

                   Onion planting                                                                  Onion watering

The K/1 classes at Kennedy Elementary School (which is adjacent to the YGL Farm) joined us again this spring once a week.  They are wonderfully enthusiastic about helping at the farm and their teachers always tell us how much they love their visits.  We usually have stations for them to move through each week and as much as possible we fold them into the farmwork that needs to be done.  They help us plant seeds and seedlings, mulch paths and harvest.  This spring they did a lot of planting of peppers, brassicas, beans and potatoes.  Each week we also feature stations that are more exploratory in nature.  When helping us plant seedlings they always bubble over with excitement when they find worms, so we decided to create a digging station in one of the beds so that they could search for insects to their heart's content! 

Planting beans

Kids digging for bugs Kids looking at a cup of worms

                Digging for insects                                           Inspecting a cup full of worms

For their last visit of the season I borrowed a parachute from my neighbor for us to unfurl and play around with before working on the farm.   It was a really windy day and it was all we could do to hold on to the handles while the kids ran back and forth under the parachute screaming their heads off in excitement!

We now move into the summer session during which we will be out at the farm three mornings a week with a consistent group of middle and high school students from Goodman Community Center, and high school students from East and Shabazz.  Happy summer!

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