City Seeds: Phase II

Project Overview

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2007: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $10,000.00
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Leah Smith
The Poughkeepsie Farm Project


  • Agronomic: oats, potatoes, rye, wheat
  • Fruits: melons, berries (blueberries), berries (brambles), grapes, berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs
  • Animals: bees


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops, irrigation, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, mentoring, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, marketing management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: row covers (for pests)
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships, public participation, urban agriculture, community development

    Proposal abstract:

    City Seeds is an innovative program directly addressing the interconnected agricultural issues of a loss of agricultural skills and knowledge, declining availability of locally adapted seed, and urban food insecurity. This project draws on the best practices of organizations such as the Boston Food Project and Heifer Project International Urban Agriculture Program. The geographical focus of City Seeds is the Mid-Hudson Valley of New York, an area that forms the border zone between metropolitan New York City and the agricultural regions of the upper Hudson Valley. This region is affected by rapid suburbanization pressuring farmers to leave their land (the Hudson Valley is ranked as the 10th most threatened agricultural region in the nation) as well as urban underdevelopment that has left whole sections of the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon without sources of fresh food. Our local food system is challenged by a loss of farmland, agricultural skills, and infrastructure. With the average age of farmers between 55-65, and very few young people training to continue these farms, the future of farming in the area is threatened. For those who do wish to farm, there are many barriers, including limited opportunities for training and technical assistance, access to land, capital, and markets. Another key agricultural resource becoming less accessible over time is locally-adapted, open-pollinated seed. The control over seed production by a handful of large, for-profit corporations is an inherent threat to food security. The top 10 multinational seed firms control half the world’s commercial seed sales, leaving us all vulnerable to the business decisions and success of just a few corporations. There are only a handful of small companies growing seeds in the Northeast United States and providing sources of seed that are regionally adapted. A working knowledge of seed saving and the self-sufficiency it allows is almost lost among modern farmers and gardeners. Secure, locally-controlled and maintained seed sources are of primary importance to community food security. As our rural agricultural areas suffer, food insecurity and poor nutrition are becoming serious problems in our urban communities. Urban economic and social disadvantage is concentrated within the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon. According to the Hunger Action Network of New York State, the availability and affordability of fresh produce in urban areas of New York State is inadequate, while nutrition-related disease and obesity in our cities continue to increase. Young people in our area have not had opportunities to understand where their food comes from, or how to make nutritious food decisions. Many live in communities in which access to healthy food is severely limited. The Poughkeepsie School District has only just established a Wellness Policy in the past year, and its implementations are still in the earliest stages. Exacerbating the problem of economic disadvantage and limited access to nutritious food, young people have limited opportunities for employment. According to the Dutchess County Children Services Council, a growing number of children are not working or in school. Unemployment is a serious and persistent concern for young adults in the area; many face difficulties acquiring the knowledge, experience, and skills necessary to find or keep jobs and to advance in the workplace. Thus, the threatened vitality of sustainable, local agriculture and the health of our urban communities are clearly linked.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) operates an 8-acre farm in Poughkeepsie, NY, sponsors a downtown farmers’ market, runs a 240-member CSA, teaches community members and young people about food and farming, and collaborates with area organizations to improve access to healthy, locally grown food. The PFP is committed to building a just and sustainable food system in the Hudson Valley.

    In 2002, Cornell Cooperative Extension founded the Green Teen Community Garden project. With programs and market gardens established in Beacon and Poughkeepsie, the Green Teen program operates in urban communities. PFP and Green Teen have been collaborating and sharing resources since 2002 and evolved into the City Seeds project in 2006. The year 2007 will be the second year of our three-year plan developed in partnership with Heifer International.

    City Seeds revolves around two central concepts:

    1.) a program that guides youth through learning about and experiencing urban farming and marketing, and 2.) seed saving, and the creation of a seed bank of regionally adapted seed stock.

    The participants are 14-24 from the cities of Poughkeepsie and Beacon. In this project, young adults from neighborhoods in which food access is limited will learn the connections between food, farming, and their communities. They have opportunities to farm and garden, growing vegetables to nourish themselves and their communities. They also contribute to strengthening their local food systems by planning and carrying out action projects to reach out to the community, serving as advocates and educators for sustainable agriculture and local, nutritious food. Various ages and levels of interns will work together to organize events, support downtown farmers’ markets, and advocate for local and regional policies to promote community food security.

    There are four types of positions for participants that provide opportunities for advancement within the program. By attending conferences, collaborating with organizations, and participating in farming networks and meetings, our participants connect with others involved in agriculture and community food security work, providing them with resources to continue their careers. Creating a locally based seed bank will also be an integral part of the project.

    This second year will build on the success of
    the first. Youth will have an opportunity to advance in the program, apply what they have learned, mentor new participants, and take more ownership of the program. Our first generation of seed has been saved, and growing it out in 2007 will build the seed bank to a level ready for our first pass-on of seed to participants.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.