The Kingston YMCA Farm Project helps community children connect with nature and food
By Kaycee Wimbish
I have been growing food for more than eight years now, yet the magic and wonder of seeds awes and amazes me over and over again. It is wonderful and miraculous: you put a tiny, seemingly lifeless object into the ground. I wait — sometimes patiently, sometimes impatiently — until it germinates and sends a green shoot through the soil and exposes itself. Many times I almost give up hope. I think the seeds aren’t good; I did something wrong; the birds ate them. But then, it happens, they emerge. Every single time I rejoice, I marvel, and I celebrate. And then I watch that sprout grow and change and eventually I eat it. I think, “I grew this!” On top of being amazing, it is empowering! It is this joy, this wonder, this feeling of power that I hope every child is able to experience.
At the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, we get young people’s hands in the dirt, planting seeds, watering plants, harvesting fruits and vegetables and hopefully wondering at the magic at all.
Connecting young people to food
What I have seen with my work with children, is that there is so much that surprises them and makes them wonder because they know so little about where our food comes from and how it grows. I knew intellectually that most people are disconnected from real food and where it comes from, but what I repeatedly witnessed was very surprising. Teenagers saying “that’s what broccoli looks like” and not knowing that pickles are made from cucumbers. I did a garden scavenger hunt with a group of campers and they were unable to match names of vegetables to the growing plants (the counselors found this task just as challenging!) But despite their lack of knowledge, they love it; they want to know; they can’t believe it! The interest seems innate. The desire to pull that radish from the ground when you have never tasted a radish and have no idea what to do with it is very strong. The joy that children feel when they can harvest something and take it home to their parents to prepare is so beautiful. The smile that comes over a young person’s face when they are asked, “did you grow that?” is beyond compare.
Richard Louv says “The children and nature movement has perhaps even greater potential because it touches something even deeper within us, biologically and spiritually. An array of leaders from different religious backgrounds have stepped forward to support the reconciliation of children and nature. Such leaders understand that all spiritual life begins with a sense of wonder, and that one of the first windows to wonder is the natural world.”
Plant seeds and watch them grow
As parents, I invite you to share this wonder and magic and power with your children. Plant some seeds and watch them grow. You don’t need a lot of space or experience. You just need time and sun and a willingness. Nurture that plant, observe that plant, eat that plant. I guarantee you will never taste anything as delicious as the food you grow. Start small and build up. Growing food becomes addictive. The magic never wears off and it never stops being awesome.
Upcoming events at Kingston YMCA Farm Project
There are many ways to get your children’s hands in the soil at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project. We host Second Saturday Community Work Days, May 9, June 13, July 11 and August 8. From 10 am to 2 pm, we invite volunteers of all ages and sizes to do what seasonal work needs to get done in the garden.
School age children attending the YMCA’s School’s Out after school program work in the garden on a weekly basis during the growing season. Children attend the YMCA’s Camp Starfish have at least a weekly farm experience.
For pre-school aged children we offer Little Farmers, a weekly drop in program for young children and their caregiver. We read garden related books, do an age appropriate garden based activity and make a fresh from the garden snack. This program runs on Wednesdays from 10-11:30 am from July 1-August 19. There is a sliding scale drop in fee of $5-15 per family.
For more information, visit our website or visit us on Facebook.
KayCee Wimbish is an educator and farmer and is thrilled to have this opportunity to combine her two passions at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project. She has a Master’s in Education from Bank Street College of Education, and over 10 years of teaching experience. She taught elementary schooI for five years before pursuing her interest in farming. She currently teaches vocational English as a Second Language to adults who are studying to be Nursing Assistants. She has been farming in the Hudson Valley for the past 9 years, working at Hearty Roots Community Farm, a vegetable farm that uses the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) model. She also owned and operated the former Awesome Farm, a pasture based animal farm, raising cattle, sheep, turkeys and chickens.