2009-10-09 / Community

Urban Garden Teaches Nutrition And Agriculture

By Miriam Rosenberg

Eight Black Australorps chickens from Australia produce several dozen eggs a week that are donated to the community. Eight Black Australorps chickens from Australia produce several dozen eggs a week that are donated to the community. It's a food bank, day camp, farmer's market and provides workshops. The Culinary Kids Garden teaches young people about gardening and cooking. And if you look even closer you'll find adults are serving up a side dish of health, nutrition and science on a patch of land on the corner of Beach 30 Street and Seagirt Boulevard.

"We have to make them [the kids] understand what happens to the food from the ground to the plate," said Malisa Rivera who started the program out of the Redfern Community Center in 2008. It moved to Seagirt Boulevard this year.

"We teach farming," added Rivera, who said she started by teaching about nutrition, and has moved on to food, agriculture and now more science. "It's youth getting to help in a low economic community."

Culinary Kids works with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation's GreenThumb program. In August the Rockaway group partnered with Just Food City Chicken Project to build a chicken coop on the property, and yes there are real live chickens.

Malisa Rivera shows off strawberry plants in one of the smaller raised beds. Malisa Rivera shows off strawberry plants in one of the smaller raised beds. "We use technological skills to give back to community. We did a summer camp and are hoping to do one in fall and the winter," said Rivera.

Once a month the group gives food to a food pantry, including donating three to four dozen eggs a week from the chickens.

Currently they are preparing to move plants from outdoors to the greenhouse for the winter months and cover the outdoor ones. Among the crops are strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, sage and sweet basil and soon onion and garlic.

Chef Marion Moses says he hopes that the urban farm would "grow enough that we could start a soup kitchen and be self-sufficient."

He added that self-sustainable agriculture is the key. Urban farms are a necessity, Rivera and Moses point out, to provide food for those who live here, should the peninsula get cut off in an emergency.

"We're isolated here. What if something happened that we couldn't get food from the outside," said Rivera. "We need more urban agriculture out here. It's

October 2, Just Foods trainer Solita Stephens, second from left, leads a workshop on food justice. October 2, Just Foods trainer Solita Stephens, second from left, leads a workshop on food justice. vital."

Except for small grants from Green Thumb, Just Foods, and the Citizens Committee everything has been out of pocket for the program.

"There needs to be some kind of funding to be out here in the peninsula," said Rivera.

Yet, there are plans for the future. Moses said that next spring they will be planting row crops and he wants to teach the children about wind turbines and solar panels.

"Most important is to teach our children newer technology," continued Moses.

They also want to do more cycles of programs and to bridge the gap between youth and the elderly.

"We [residents of Rockaway] get our produce from off the peninsula so if we can sustain ourselves [outdoors or in our homes], it's important," said Rivera.

(Left) On October 2, volunteers built a compost for the urban farm. (Left) On October 2, volunteers built a compost for the urban farm. The urban farm on Beach 30 Street and Seagirt Boulevard includes a chicken coop and greenhouse in the background and several raised beds of crops, including potatoes, in the foreground. The urban farm on Beach 30 Street and Seagirt Boulevard includes a chicken coop and greenhouse in the background and several raised beds of crops, including potatoes, in the foreground.

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