Hands in the dirt, kids in the kitchen, veggies on the table: Local produce goes home with campers at neighborhood day camp

Project Overview

FNE16-851
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2016: $13,950.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2017
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Miriam Latzer
Good Flavor Farm

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, celery, cucurbits, greens (leafy), onions, peas (culinary), peppers
  • Additional Plants: herbs

Practices

  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, community development

    Proposal summary:

    The Kingston YMCA Farm Project is a beloved and highly visible new fixture within a treasured neighborhood institution. In addition to a bike-powered market and a large garden plot located on the grounds of the Y, the Kingston YMCA Farm Project engages youth through a low-cost summer camp in which kids grow and harvest food with an urban farmer and prepare meals together with assistance from Chef’s Collaborative.

    Rave reviews from campers and their families suggest unmet demand for more fresh, local produce. The Kingston YMCA Farm Project would like to provide campers enough raw ingredients to recreate meals at home with their families. Good Flavor Farm, in its 5th year of certified naturally grown vegetable production, is capable of meeting that demand. Together we believe a modest initial investment in building a relationship between the Kingston YMCA Farm Project and Good Flavor Farm will yield a reliable source of income for a small-scale farm, and a more food-secure urban center.

    Through various methods outlined below project partners will expand the existing camp program and current produce sales in a way that can be measured and demonstrated to others. There are more than 750 CNG farms in the U.S. and at least 2,700 YMCA local chapters, which suggests abundant opportunity for adaptation and implementation. In the initial grant period we intend to share our experience with thousands of participants through the Stone Barn’s Center Young Farmers Conference and the Just Food Conference, as well as the SARE database.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Can we create a symbiotic relationship between a small-scale, certified naturally grown farm and a nearby community-based youth gardening project? Initially, the relationship we hope to build will begin with the expansion of Camp Starfish. Camp Starfish is a low-cost six week camp for kids, ages 5-12, offered at the Kingston YMCA. Campers seed, plant, water, weed, and harvest on the urban farm at the Y. In partnership with the Chefs Collaborative, campers attend hands-on cooking classes in the kitchen at the Y using the vegetables they help to produce.

    In the summer of 2016 the Kingston YMCA Farm Project leader, KayCee Wimbish will partner with Miriam Latzer of Good Flavor Farm to add a take-home element to the campers’ food preparation instruction. At the end of each weekly cooking event campers will receive a laminated copy of the recipe, along with the majority of the ingredients necessary to prepare the meal at home with a family member. The cost of ingredients for camp families will be set in increments of $4 in compliance with the FMNP nutrition program guidelines.

    In order to foster a symbiotic relationship between a small-scale, certified naturally grown farm and a nearby community-based youth gardening project, a thorough understanding of the strengths and challenges that exist for both partners is necessary. Both partners will look critically at their production and evaluate what crops are the most successful to grow and why, as well as the most nutritious while retaining popularity with campers and the customers who frequent the Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands. Consideration will also be given to those crops that are the most cost effective to grow, without sacrificing the values mentioned above. The partners will compare findings and begin to develop a common list of vegetables that meet these criteria. The project partners will also identify what produce can be grown by Good Flavor Farm to augment and expand the current produce available at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands.

    Because the success of the cooking instruction is due in part to the guidance, enthusiasm and expertise from members of the Chefs Collaborative, communication will take place between both project partners and representatives of Chefs Collaborative in order to develop a list of 6 recipes that can be used for the 6 week summer camp program. Each of the 6 recipes will draw heavily or exclusively from the list of vegetables that the project partners agree upon. Crop planning will reflect the time frame of the 6 week summer program, and the season for the YMCA markets/stands. The purchase of seed, and other farming tools and materials such as fertilizer, potting soil, row cover, etc. can be done collaboratively if that is desirable to both project partners. Project partners will develop a policy for the provision and purchase of packaging required for the sale of produce at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands.

    Project partners will work with a translation specialist to translate outreach materials and recipe cards from English to Spanish. We will work with a graphic designer, recommended by the project adviser, to develop, design and produce laminated double-sided English/Spanish recipe cards for use during the 6 week camp session. Project partners will also contract for the manufacture of cloth grocery bags for campers to bring home their produce, and purchase disposable paper bags, and plastic bags with handles for campers who neglect to bring their cloth bag on cooking instruction days. Both the recipe cards and the cloth bags will feature the names of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, Good Flavor Farm and Chefs Collaborative, in order to reinforce the relationship between the project partners within the community. Throughout the season extra cloth bags will be made available for purchase at Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands, proceeds from the sale of which will be earmarked for further collaboration between project partners or to off-set unexpected costs. Extra laminated recipe cards will be made available at these locations free of charge.

    As the market season and summer camp session approach project partners will stay in close contact regarding the performance of plants in the fields, and either confirm anticipated yields or identify the need for necessary changes. Throughout the growing season we will incorporate various measurements into our programming to demonstrate and test the value of building a relationship between the project partners. One useful source for establishing measurements stems from the work of our technical adviser through her efforts on the Poughkeepsie City School District Hudson Valley Farm to School Project – A Whole Systems Approach to Local Food Procurement & Community Engagement. Her project included a Fresh Vegetable Pre and Post Test, which demonstrated an increase in kids’ familiarity with basic cooking skills and the value of using local produce after project implementation.

    For the purposes of our project we will use our own Fresh Vegetable Survey to demonstrate whether being able to bring fresh, local ingredients and a corresponding recipe home from camp actually encourages campers and their families to procure and prepare more fresh, local produce in their homes together. In addition to measuring the success of the camp programming with its new take-home produce component, we will also test to see if a greater quantity and diversity of produce varieties at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands increase total sales. Good Flavor Farm will keep a log of all varieties, amounts and retail value of produce both delivered to and returned unsold from the Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands during the 2016 growing season. Good Flavor Farm produce will be kept in separate produce totes marked with a zip-tie to distinguish it from the produce grown on-site.

    Every year the Kingston YMCA Project develops an Annual Report. According to the findings of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project 2014 Annual Report: The bike-powered Mobile Market operated for 14 weeks in Midtown Kingston and served approximately 25 customers each week. The Mobile Market stopped in areas where access to fresh produce is limited, including the Oncology Support Center at Benedictine Hospital, Yosman Towers, and the Kingston Public Library. 90% of purchases at Yosman Towers were made using Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program coupons, distributed through the Department of the Aging. The Farm Stand at the YMCA operated for 20 weeks and served about 28 customers each week, representing a diverse segment of the population. In total, $6,200 worth of produce was sold, of which 14% was purchased using public assistance benefits.

    At the end of the 2016 growing season we will compare the findings of the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Annual Reports in light of the Good Flavor Farm log in order to demonstrate whether greater quantity and diversity of produce varieties at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands increase total sales. Finally, both project partners will take photos throughout the season for the purpose of documentation, celebration and presentation.

    Beginning in the final week of February 2016 the director of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project will spend roughly 3 hours reviewing the previous year’s crop plan and considering what worked and didn’t work from a horticultural prospective, as well as a community based assessment in terms of the popularity of various varieties with youth and adult customers. As the farmer/owner of Good Flavor Farm I will spend 3 hours reviewing my previous year’s crop plan and the various limitations due to crop rotations and other sustainable practices (eg. Rotating out of tomatoes in the greenhouse after 4 consecutive years, etc.). Together, as project partners we will spend 3 hours sharing our findings and deciding on which crops each of us will grow for our shared endeavor.

    In the first half of March 2016 the project partners will meet twice for 4 hours to select 12 different recipes in preparation for a brainstorming session with a member of the Chefs Collaborative. In the second half of March 2016 these same project partners will meet twice for 3 hours to finalize recipe choices for the 6 week Starfish summer camp cooking instruction. For the entire month of April 2016 project partners will meet for 3 hours each week to choose and direct the design of marketing supplies such as the cloth bags with various logos of supporting organizations, and the recipe cards. I will allot 1 hour each week to interface with the designer and the various sales reps necessary to obtain the final products by June 1.

    During the month of May 2016 project partners will check-in for roughly 1 hour each week on the progress of the plants, and address any obstacles anticipated with upcoming markets/stands and summer camp session. During the month of June 2016 project partners will share marketing responsibilities for 16 hours each week in order to introduce Good Flavor Farm into the mix at the existing Kingston YMCA Farm Project markets/stands. The 6 week Starfish summer camp will begin in July of 2016, and both project partners will be in attendance for all 6 cooking classes, which will require roughly 96 hours of labor for me. The pre and post Fresh Vegetable Survey will be administered to an adult member of the camper’s family by the project partners at the first and last camp day. Grant funds will enable project partners to offer a free trial for the first recipe and corresponding ingredients in exchange for filling out the survey form.

    Deliveries of produce to the Kingston YMCA Farm Project by me as farmer/owner of Good Flavor Farm will continue throughout the season until the end of October 2016, requiring roughly 4 hours of labor each week for the months of September and October. In the first half of November project partners will meet for 8 hours to review the season, comparing notes on field performance, and youth engagement as well as calculating the results of the pre and post Fresh Vegetable Survey. In the second half of November I will spend roughly 8 hours preparing a slide-show, formalizing documentation and developing a presentation to share our project details with the public. Project partners will spend roughly 3 hours collaboratively reviewing the proposed presentation.

    In the first week of December project partners will present at the Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns, requiring roughly 10 hours of time. In the second week of December project partners will spend 3 hours determining a list of any bulk materials that might reasonably be purchased together. I will then spend 3 hours arranging and ordering all bulk orders. In January of 2017 I will write a draft of the final report and meet with the director of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project and our technical adviser in order to make any necessary changes additions. Finally, in March of 2017 the project partners will give one more presentation at the Just Food Conference in NYC, requiring roughly 10 hours of time.

    On-going outreach throughout the grant period will include distribution of supporting media such as the recipe cards and cloth bags that bear the names of Good Flavor Farm, the Kingston YMCA Farm Project and the Chefs Collaborative, reinforcing the collaboration. The project partners will work together to create a useful final report for inclusion in the SARE database, and as a download on the websites of all project partners as well as HVADC. The report will include a crop list, from both fields of production, each of the 6 recipes we develop for Camp Starfish, any cooperative purchasing of seed, tools or farm inputs, the Fresh Vegetable Pre and Post survey and a summary of findings for the 2014, 2015 and 2016 Annual Report of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project as well as the 2016 log of related sales for Good Flavor Farm. The project partners will give a presentation at the Young Farmers Conference hosted by Stone Barns, which typically has at least 300 participants from around the country. We will present at the Just Food Conference in NYC. Now in it’s 6th year, the Just Food Conference had over 500 participants in 2014, and nearly 800 people in attendance this past year.

    As founding member of the Farm to School Council, which includes the education director at Stone Barns, the strategic growth and operations manager at Corbin Hill Farm Project, the project director at Just Food, the program associate at Hudson Valley Agribusiness Development Corporation as well as other independent farmers, I will provide updates at our quarterly council meetings on the progress of my collaboration with the Kingston YMCA Farm Project.

    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.