Urban Farming

Nearly a month ago I posted about an urban farm in Brooklyn managed by BK Farmyards.  They have an Urban Agriculture Certificate Training Program, and I had sent in an application.

I am delighted (over the moon, actually) to say that I was offered a spot in the program, and I accepted!  I start this coming Monday, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!  I’ve been sitting on this news for a couple of weeks now, counting down the days until I start “Farm School.”

I love the group’s mission (taken from their website):


“We want to unite communities around the dinner table and hope to teach people about eating seasonally, growing food locally, storing & preparing food, species biodiversity & food democracy. We aim to build local food networks, enhancing the health of our culture, people & environment by connecting farmers & consumers as co-producers of the foodscape.  We transform underutilized land into farms, encouraging the communal celebration of food”

The “farm” where I’ll be training is an acre of land which is part of a high school – The High School for Public Service.  Students there get to take agriculture classes as part of their curriculum along with cooking and nutrition classes.  From what I hear, the kids set up cooking demos at the on-premises Farm Market stand to share new foods with people in the community and show them how to use them.

While it is a youth farm, I will be participating in the adult training program, and I’ll get a serious education!  The nine components of the program are:

  • Hands-on farm work
  • Informal workshops (taught by youth farm staff and guests)
  • Farm walks
  • Weekly farm meetings
  • Rotations (irrigation, propagation, vegetable and flower field work, market & CSA – community supported agriculture
  • Direct marketing
  • Working with youth
  • NYC Craft visits to other urban agriculture projects (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training)
  • Discussions on food justice

I’ll be on the farm 3 days/week for a total of 20 hours weekly, and the program runs all the way through November.  This schedule will allow me to work part-time on weekends and two weekdays, which will make it possible for me to pay for the training (and rent!)

Last October, when I lost my office job, I never dreamed I’d spend 2012 training on a farm.  It has been, in some ways, a really rough several months of being unemployed and lacking not only money, but direction.  I turned the big 4-0 two weeks ago, and needless to say the prospect of turning 40, being unemployed, not having health insurance, and still not knowing what I wanted to do when I grow up was pretty discouraging.

While I certainly haven’t answered all of the questions, I can say without doubt that I am doing what feels right to me now and going where my heart (and opportunity) seems to be leading.

C.L. Fornari really summed it up for me (without even knowing it) in this recent post on her spectacularly inspiring blog Whole Life Gardening:

“Whenever possible in life, it’s helpful to see change as an opportunity, even when we might not have chosen that particular circumstance as the ideal time to be adaptable.”

She was speaking in regard to having lost some plants and needing to decide whether to keep, move, or divide the remaining plants…of course her words always have a deeper meaning.  Six months ago I certainly did not want to lose my job or our health insurance.  It was not a job I was happy in, I was not doing something I really wanted to do or even supported, and it was really taking a toll.  Still, I never would have left of my own accord.  Had they not decided to replace me with someone who could speak Chinese (true story!), I might very well still be there, miserable, instead of about to embark on what I feel is going to be a wonderful experience.  Seeing change as an opportunity is a lesson I continue to have to learn.  Thank you, C.L., for the reminder!

As for the farm, I am eager to absorb and learn everything that I possibly can about growing food on a large scale, carpentry, and maybe even keeping bees and raising chickens if I’m lucky. It will be great to have conversations about food justice and policy issues as well.

I’m looking forward to posting weekly about the farm in addition to my own gardening projects, and eager to see where this knowledge and experience will take me!