This season, the 1-acre Youth Farm at the High School For Public Service in Crown Heights is expanding to include over 50 varieties of specialty cut flowers, grown by farmer Molly Culver and a crew of adult “flower apprentices.”
“Youth Farm Flowers” will be sold as a “CSA” (community-supported agriculture) share to local community members, bringing a new, colorful dimension to the meaning of urban farming in the city. The flowers will also be featured at the Youth Farm’s farmers market, and at Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain’s new flower stand, every Friday, beginning this Friday July 8th. The first CSA distribution will take place Wednesday, July 6th.
“Flowers add beauty to a farm, as well as an attractive source of pollen for bees, which in turn benefits our vegetables,” says Culver. “Our culture has largely been distanced from the many amazing varieties of flowers out there, as our delis mainly offer mass-produced flowers that are grown using harmful pesticides at the expense of the laborers.” “Growing flowers locally brings a new awareness to the scope and potential of sustainable, urban agriculture,” she adds.
Flowers to be Featured at Brooklyn Farmacy; Adult Apprentices Learn the Ropes
Five adult apprentices from Crown Heights and around the city currently work with Culver to manage all aspects of the flower farm, from sowing seeds to irrigation, weeding, harvesting, and marketing.
“We’re growing over 55 varieties – ranging from old favorites like Sunflowers and Zinnias to lesser-known beauties like Sweet Peas, Larkspur, Agrostemma and Bells of Ireland. Flowers provide a new educational opportunity for youth and adults on the farm, a new angle for discussing sustainable agriculture and social justice, as well as a new creative outlet for our youth,” says Culver. “Growing flowers is just as labor-intensive as vegetable growing, but the joy of working with them and the inspiration you can bring to it make it so worthwhile.”
“It’s great to be working with Brooklyn Farmacy and other Brooklyn businesses interested in supporting farmers – especially urban farmers!” says Culver. “Maria Fraser (heading up Farmacy Flowers) is a teacher herself and really sees the value of the Youth Farm’s mission and wants to support us – I think these kinds of partnerships are what will glue together a new locally-based economy,” she adds.
School Farm Was the Vision of Crown Heights Principal
In fall 2009, HSPS Principal Ben Shuldiner approached the Brooklyn-based farming network bk farmyards to discuss the possibility of transforming the school’s existing lawns into a productive urban farm. The Youth Farm is now a project of veteran community gardening organization Green Guerillas, run with volunteer labor from bk Farmyards, community members and adult apprentices.
The Youth Farm is integrated into the school curriculum and community through a yearlong “Go Green” class at HSPS, an afterschool “Farm Club,” and a summer youth program run by bk farmyards’ founder and education coordinator Stacey Murphy. Bk farmyards’ Bee Ayer manages the Youth Farm. The Youth Farm grows for a 30-member CSA, hosts a weekly farmers market from June-October that accepts EBT/Food Stamps and WIC checks, runs educational tours for the public and an adult apprenticeship program.
Farm Integrates Youth, Education and Healthy Food Access: Flower Growing and Bouquet-Making Workshops on the Horizon
The Farm will offer youth and adult workshops on organic flower production and bouquet making for the public later in the season.
The mission of the Youth Farm is to educate and engage the community in urban food production and food justice advocacy through farm-based curriculum. The Farm aims to empower youth to recognize and take action against the lack of fresh food in their community. The Farm provides opportunities for teens to develop the self-confidence, discipline, and social skills that will enable them to take on the challenges they will face in school, work and their personal lives.
bk farmyards is a new Brooklyn-based farming network providing locally grown healthy & affordable food to Brooklyn residents and education opportunities for youth and adults interested in food production.