Launch School Garden & Good Flavor Farm CSA

We're starting a garden with a brand new middle school that just opened in Brooklyn.

What we have is a large ashpalt courtyard - what we envision is cracks in the concrete with lots of edible and native plants abound.

Students are currently in the process of visioning their own garden, with sketches and blueprints and site design and layout. In order to be a true communal school garden, it's not so much my vision that matters in this manifestation of a dream garden, but being able to synthesize the many ideas of our students. My dream garden is a dozen plus raised beds interspersed between basketball and 4-square courts, next to the artificial patch of turf and the 1/100th mile track. It's about transforming a schoolyard with twenty-foot high fences in the middle of bodega lined blocks into a miniature ecosystem.

In this first season, we've partnered with a farmer who wants to help us turn this vision into a reality, and she brings a vision of her own. Good Flavor Farms wants to help us design, build and plant our school garden AND drive down from upstate New York to set up a farm-to-school sliding scale CSA. Out of the goodness of her heart, our farmer wants to sell organic seasonal produce using a CSA model to our families. More than ninety percent of our students qualfy for free lunch, with a majority with asthma and respiratory problems, diabetes, and obesity. What better way to start to create a healthy school than by offering students and their families healthy choices?

One of the most direct ways to break the cycle of oppression is to give individuals the opportunity to liberate themselves. Learning how to plan, plant and tend a garden, and reap, cook and eat the harvest, will provide untestable, but palpable and real, learning experiences for our school.                                                           

                                                            

Step 1: Site Survey / Garden Proposal 

For this portion, I'm including a sketch of our school courtyard. Having worked in a south facing window since August, I know that our propsed courtyard site receives more between 9-10 hours of light during summer months. We have eight trees planted in our courtyard that will be the only shade barriers, and they are currently all approximately 7' tall. Water is readily accessible through multiple spigots attached to the side of our school. We'll also be talking with the local fire department about hydrant access.

This is a first go at the garden design.

This is proposed site #1. It is directly outside our school on our shared playground. There is a water spigot located ten feet from the back benches visible in this photo. This location has constant use and would be a featured part of our school. It is visible from half of all classrooms, and also from the street. Currently there are some trees planted to surround the courtyard. There are fences, with access to the street and to the school campus. There are also low-traffic areas around the benches where it would be ideal to locate the raised beds. Students play on the adjacent playgroud to the right (out of sight), and the basketball court to the left (out of sight). This area faces south, and receives more than eight hours of sunlight per day, with ample drainage.

Step 2: Resource Assessment

1. List any Useful Organic ‘Waste’ Materials on site or nearby:
• Can you harvest rainwater onsite in barrels? Yes, we plan on harvesting rainwater in barrels.
• Are there trees to collect leaves if you plan to make your own compost? Not really, but we'll be working on compost with our cafeteria, and working with the park across the street for some of their fresh clippings.
• Identify any local other businesses that create organic waste products
2. Bring Giveaways into your Inbox:
• Get on newsletters for local garden groups and receive announcements about seeds, lumber,
compost, & soil giveaways (Greenthumb, Green Guerillas, & NYRP in NYC) CHECK :) 
• Garden conferences usually have seed and seedling giveaways in March. March 21st is
GreenThumb Grow Together in NYC. Just Food March 29th may have some giveaways. Attending GrowNYC plant giveway, and BBG "extras" giveaway. 
4. Tap Your Social Networks
• List your top 5 challenges & obstacles and any major missing ingredients to all your networks
• Who are the people that are supporting you on this journey and how might they get involved? See below
5. Get to Know Your Soil or Growing Medium
• Before you start planting, do a soil test, and continue doing a soil test each year
• What is the soil structure and texture?
• Can you find out the history of the soil?
• Is remediation necessary?
• Does soil farming make sense for this site? If not, where will your nutrients come from?

We will be gardening in raised beds on top of asphalt. The soil is hopefully being donated by a variety of organizations, with some potential funding coming from a grant.

We have lots of resources, both material and human, in our neighborhood. Here's a list of good people who are helping, and how they are going to lend a hand:

Name: Eric

Organization: Weeksville Heritage Center, mircofarm director

Opportunity: Eric has agreed to let us (adults and students) help their formation of the expansion of their garden into a microfarm just down the street. He is a seasoned and well connected community gardener with a wealth of knowledge and resources. 

Name: Claire Lynch

Organization: Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, 2004 Fulton Street

Opportunity:

Urban Farm Tour “The garden tour can accommodate a group as large as 20-25 students. Depending on the day of the week and time, there might be an opportunity for students to lend a hand with composting spoiled produce, which is one of the primary garden activities we still have going during the winter months, We have a Green Teen Program, and the participants are our compost experts. Your group would need to come during a time when the Green Teens are working, and I would have to consult with the Green Teens in advance to ensure that they're able to help out as compost instructors. The best times to work with them are Tuesdays from 1-3pm and Wednesdays from 11am-3pm. Hosting a couple of trips during the week after Thanksgiving is definitely feasible.”

 

Name: Greg (community garden director)

Organization: Imani Farms, corner of Dean and Schenectady

Opportunity: Community garden tour to look at three styles of farming: food (veggies in raised beds), chickens (50 chickens!), aqua (raising fish). Community garden director would be willing to lead a small talk about where does food come from, seasonality in the garden, food and culture, with 28 students at a time. He has flexible dates if we schedule at least two weeks in advance. He is also open to having students do some basic maintenance work in the garden, and has longer-term projects if we are interested.

Name: Nora Painten

Organization: Student Farm Project / IS 323  (Eastern Pkway and Rockaway Blvd)

Opportunity: Nora started a student run farm on a vacant lot (SEEDFOLKS!) She is willing to talk to students about her experience of starting a garden, the seasonality of food in New York City, where does food come from, and how food decisions affect our future. She can also show off her chickens and bees and discuss them. She also has composting, maintenance and beautification work that can be done on a visit. Here is a description from her website: There are thousands of acres of abandoned lots in New York owned by the city.  We are starting with a space in Brownsville. At the corner of Sutter and Rockaway Avenue, across from Public School 323, is our sunny 8,000 square foot corner lot, currently full of weeds and trash.  We will transform this lot into a urban teaching farm that will beautify the neighborhood, educate local youth, and provide a source of fresh produce for the community.

Name: Miriam Latzer

Organization: Good Flavor Farms

Opportunity: Miriam is the kind hearted spirit who wants to grow and sell food with our students. She is willing to start seedlings, provide site design consultation, visit with students as we begin construction, and be a general guru for how to do this. She has lots of land on her farm, but has also helped start city farm projects. We're partnered through Just Food to begin our farm to school CSA.

& GrowNYC, Green Thumb, BKFarmyards, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and so many more amazing local organizations that are working on food justice.

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Step 3: Budget and Materials

We're a school, so our budget is small. We received a mini-grant from GrowNYC that will help us get started, but most of our materials will be salvaged, borrowed, and donated.

Construction (whatever you’re going to use to build your infrastructure)
Lumber & Screws- donated! 

Equipment (whatever you’ll need that you can reuse each year)

Some needs:

Long-Handled  Garden Hoe
Long-handled Shovel 
Trowel  
Fan Rake
Kids Hoe
Kids Shovel
Kids Trowel
Kids Fan Rake
Kids Steel Rake
Kids Hand Cultivator
Herb, flower and veggie seeds
Starter seedling Tray
Soil / bagged
 
Plastic plant Labels
Wooden Stakes
 
Hand Trowel
Prefabricated plastic Storage Shed
 
Standard Wheel Barrow
 
Rain Barrels for collecting water
Compost

Seeds - donated!
Water costs - free :)

Labor (whatever you’re going to pay other people to do)- Love :)

Personal Development (memberships and trainings)- Looking into BBG program for teacher training, and opportunity for youth farmer development over summer

Fees, Permits, Insurances (applicable for community projects)
All insurance is covered by school, Good Flavor Farms, and Just Food

Step 4: Action Plan

Our wonderful farmer has crop plans completed for plant and transplant dates for all seeds (unfortunately I don't have access to them right now).  We are still working on a maintenance schedule, summer schedule, and class schedule. At minimum, we'll have up to 100+ students moving through the garden at least four hours per week. Our math, science, and art teachers have all committed dedicated time and lessons to the creation of the garden. Our first step is this week, as students check out the HSPS Youth Farm Video, and begin the vision and drafting of their own garden design.

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Step 5: Self Assessment

Propagation- 7. I've sown seeds for a 500 sq foot garden before, and had moderate success with germination and transplanting.

Transplanting - 8. When given a healthy seedling, I've had strong success in school and personal garden transplanting at appropriate times to ensure strong and healthy roots.

Compost Management &  Soil Fertility- 9. I'm a certified master composter, and took a 12-week class with Stopwaste.org in Oakland, CA. I've run three-bin systems at a school, at my parent's home garden, and assisted community organizations in starting their own garden. 

Irrigation - 7. I installed a drip irrigation system at my former school. I would like to know and learn more about SIP, and also about construction and usage of rainwater. I've seen some pretty complex designs that capture roof rain water, and know about the potential for toxins for the first batch of water that comes from these areas, so am curious how to use release valves to flush "dirty" water and use the good water.

Cultivation-?- I'm diligent about weeds, mulching and cover crops.

Pest & Disease Management- 6. I've taken some classes in integrated pest management, and would love to learn more about this area, as aphids had fun at my last school garden.

Harvest & Food  Handling. 8. Growing up in a rural area of Ohio with a larger-than-average backyard garden, I've been harvesting since the age of 4, and have a pretty good sense of when to pick and eat.

Managing Farmstand or  Farmers Market- 5. I helped a neighboring school run a farmstand, and helped with sales, marketing, budget, and other components that go into this work.

Managing a CSA farm- nada, which is why I've enlisted Miriam for her expertise.

Community Organizing- 7. As a teacher, a lot of my work is around organization of community, and getting our school into the neighborhood, and the neighborhood into the school. I've run successful work and harvest days in the past with more than 100 people in attendance (families, local business and civic members).

Meeting Facilitation- 9. It's what I do almost everyday, and I had the opportunity to faciliate garden specific development for 15 schools in Oakland.

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As stated at the beginning of this proposal, we have a small vision of what our school garden will look like. The important part for us is collaborating with students and families, using their vision, knowledge and expertise in the design, construction and maintenance of the garden. We intend to create this as an integral part of student daily learning, and as a space within our community that begins to demonstrate the power of resilience and self-sustainability.

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