2009-10-30 / School News

Rockaway Students Witness A Working Farm

When the students from Goldie Maple Academy and Ocean Bay Community Center heard they were going to a farm, they immediately thought they were traveling upstate for the day. They found, however, that only a short train ride away, was a thriving urban farm where they could dig into compost, haul hay, and discover new vegetables as though they were in the country.

The group of students who visited East New York Farms that day had been gardening with educator Iemanja Brown from Rockaway Waterfront Alliance all summer. They had seen how difficult it can be just to maintain a small plot of produce. What they got to see at this urban farm was young people in high school running a full farm, selling their produce at a farmers market, and educating others about what they do.

The students were taken on a tour where they discovered new kinds of foods like prickly pear, learned about compost at each level of its disintegration, threw stones in a manmade pond, and tasted strawberries sweeter than any that could be found in a store. After the tour, the students were put to work tearing up weeds, pushing wheelbarrows, and spreading gravel on the walkways of the farm. As they worked, the only indication that they were still in the city was the sound of the subway passing above them every few minutes.

When it was time to return home, the students begged to stay, chattering about what it might be like to have a similar farm right next to them in the Rockaways. "That was the whole point of the trip," says Brown. "We want to make sure the students are aware of all the great stuff that people their own age are doing, because we want them to be inspired to initiate similar projects right here in the Rockaways."

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