Fresh veggies in the summer

What happens with our school gardens in the summer? Throughout summer, Hudson Valley Seed grows crops to be ready for harvest when school starts in September, and we also harvest throughout the summer for education programs and for donation to food pantries. We expect to donate more than 1,000 pounds this summer!

Looking to keep connecting your young ones with accessible healthy food over the summer? Check out these lists for the Newburgh and Beacon free summer lunch sites, soup kitchens, and food pantries that Hudson Valley Seed will be partnering with this summer.

Big thanks to Shayna Russo, Eat Smart New York Hudson Valley Region's Regional Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension, for creating these resources. Contact Shayna with any updates!

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GAMS garden spruced up!

The Newburgh GAMS school garden also had a successful garden work day! 4th and 5th graders helped to assembled 2 new garden beds, helped with weeding, and cleared out an area for a pumpkin patch! We are grateful to the GAMS families, staff members, and students in the after school program who came out to help in the garden!

New garden, Sargent Elementary School

All hands on deck! The Hudson Valley Seed staff, Sargent Elementary PTO, Building & Grounds crew and the Administration team have all come together to help create a beautiful new garden space at Sargent Elementary School in Beacon. This new space is large to allow for more variety and food for the students! This effort required the help of so many people and we are so grateful to all who participated.  All of the students helped move soil, bucket-by-bucket and put their energy into this new space as well. We can't wait to see their faces when the see the garden booming come September!

New garden, JFK School in Kingston

The building of the inaugural garden at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Kingston was a huge success! Every student in the school had a chance to participate in building the garden from the ground up! Kids laid down cardboard, built cedar garden beds, filled them with soil, and covered the paths and perimeter with wood chips. Fourth grade classes also had a chance to decorate pennant flags to hang in the new school garden. At 2:30 PM, the Hudson Valley Seed team and representatives from the JFK Elementary School were joined by Principal Dr. Perez, parents, teachers, leaders of other Kingston gardens, and the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon cutting ceremony and to plant of tomatoes and peppers in the freshly filled beds.

THANK YOU to everyone who made this possible! We're so excited to start teaching weekly garden classes at JFK this fall!

Garden Manifesto

We believe strongly in creating healthy, safe spaces for children and for wildlife. HVS transforms boring mowed grass fields with poor soil into vibrantly active garden spaces on school grounds. In our gardens we use untreated wood free of harmful chemicals for growing boxes and other structures. Pathways are covered with natural woodchips. We do not till the soil, which disrupts the underground ecosystem, but rather we build soil in place by layering mulch and compost that invites decomposers and other soil fauna to enrich and mix the materials. The result of this process is a productive growing space filled with worms, bacteria, beetles, fungi, and other beneficial organisms. In addition to making our own compost with garden waste, we use naturally processed, additive free soil and compost, including certified organic potting soil to start seeds. 90% of seeds we buy are organic and open-pollinated/heirloom, purchased from conscientious, regionally-based companies.  Sustainably sourced fish and seaweed based fertilizer is minimally applied to plants throughout the growing season. To manage weeds we use mulch hay and pull unwanted plants by hand. We use safe pest management strategies such as floating row cover, fabric that lays over crops creating a physical barrier to protect plants from insects. The only insecticide spray we use is a homemade garlic pepper solution that is applied sparingly. We try our best to maintain balanced ecosystems in our gardens. Endangered native ladybugs are purchased and released as biological control of aphids, an insect pest that attacks many garden crops. Our gardens serve the ecological community by offering a healthy habitat and food and refuge in urban areas. Alongside our vegetables we plant flowers for pollinating insects like native bees and butterflies. We have found praying mantids and toads living in intentionally created garden spaces. Many species of birds are invited to feast on the critters that live in the rich soil and the sunflower seeds. We leave standing dead sunflower and corn stalks throughout the winter for birds to perch on above the snow. Each garden has a compost pile where we put plant debris and kitchen scraps to be recycled into useable, nutrient-rich soil. In these piles we see interesting ecological interactions such as earthworms decomposing dead plants and spiders eating ants. These gardening practices are Hudson Valley Seed's way of caring for and improving the environment of the communities where we work.

Celery Experiments

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We were discussing how plants transport water from the roots to the rest of the plant in a 1st grade lesson. We set up a celery experiment, with a stalk sitting in colored water, allowing you to see the water to move up the “tubes” in the stem. Educators also cut up a piece of celery for students to eat, and encouraged the kids to look closely at the celery piece before eating it. Most the students took a quick look and then ate the celery. But William, a student in Mrs. Wokanick’s 1st grade class at Sargent Elementary, ran up to me excitedly because he had eaten the small celery piece very carefully and actually ate around a tube. “Look Miss Megan, I found the tube!!”

HVS always strives to inspire both students and teachers, so it is always exciting when a teacher extends a Garden Time lesson into other parts of the school day. Mrs. Lee, 1st grade teacher at South Ave. Elementary, was able to extend our most recent lesson in an engaging and exciting way for the students. Later in the same week when we had done the celery experiment, I ran into a class in the hallway and they all excitedly told me that the experiment worked! The students also told me that the teacher had extended the lesson by doing the same experiment again, but with a flower. In the hallway, all of the students were saying “Guess what Miss Megan!? The flower is starting to change color so the tubes in the flower stem are working!”

You can do this experiment easily at home - sure to delight kids of all ages!

Newburgh Veggie Taste Tests

On February 21st. Horizons on the Hudson Elementary School held Hudson Valley Seed's first cafeteria vegetable taste test in Newburgh! Students in Kindergarten through 5th grade were met with a special dish when they entered the school lunch line: "Beets n sweets," roasted beets with sweet potatoes, which were our featured vegetable of the month. Students that sampled the dish were given a sticker to add to a poster to use to vote whether they liked the vegetable or not. Students loved trying the sweet potatoes and really enjoyed participating in the voting process. The results were very encouraging: by nearly a 3-1 margin, students indicated that they liked the sweet potato dish! The cafeteria staff at Horizons got in on the fun and encouraged students to try it. Parent volunteers were on hand to help distribute stickers and also encourage students to try the sweet potatoes.

All in all it was a wonderful way to kick off cafeteria taste tests in Newburgh. In March we hope to hold taste tests in all of the Newburgh elementary schools where we work.

Butternut squash pancakes recipe

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This cold weather is the perfect time to enjoy hot pancakes made with winter squash. (They’re even gluten-free!)

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup roasted butternut squash, mashed

  • 1 egg lightly beaten

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 cup flour (almond flour for gluten-free version, or wheat flour if you'd like)

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
     

Directions:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the butternut squash, egg, almond milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract (wet ingredients).

  2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice (dry ingredients).

  3. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and stir to combine until any lumps are out.

  4. Heat a large skillet over medium with enough oil to coat the surface.

  5. Pour a scant 1/4 cup of pancake batter on the hot skillet and cook about 2 minutes, until the sides have firmed up and air bubbles rise to the surface. Flip and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until cooked through. Repeat with remaining batter.

Leaders in New Roles

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Omari Washington has been chosen by Hudson Valley Seed’s Board of Directors to serve as Interim Executive Director. He has served as Program Coordinator for the organization since the Fall of 2016. Omari replaces HVS’ founding Executive Director, Ava Bynum, who started the organization in 2012 working with an initial group of 56 young students at Sargent Elementary in Beacon, NY. Today, the organization provides garden-based food education for over 4,000 students at 9 schools in Dutchess, Putnam, and Orange counties.

With over a decade in leadership positions at environmental organizations in New York City and the Hudson Valley, Omari brings important experience to this position. He will focus on managing day-to-day operations of the organization, leading fundraising activities, serving as organizational spokesperson and maintaining strong relationships with school districts and community partners. In addition, Omari will lead the expansion of our program into Kingston this spring.

The board and staff of Hudson Valley Seed are pleased to have Omari take on this new role with the organization. Omari will serve as Interim Executive Director beginning on January 2nd, 2018. You can reach him at omari@hudsonvalleyseed.org. HVS is so grateful to our founding Executive Director, Ava Bynum, for supporting the entire Hudson Valley Seed team during this transition, and we wish her well as she transitions to exciting new endeavors!  

KeyBank Helps Newburgh Students Learn and Grow

Dec 1, 2017

KeyBank Foundation has granted $5,000 to help local nonprofit Hudson Valley Seed bring garden education to the students of Temple Hill Academy in Newburgh, NY.

KeyBank has supported Newburgh's students learning through Hudson Valley Seed for three years now, providing essential funding since the organization's first year teaching in Newburgh.

“It is important that all students in our communities have access to quality educational enrichment programs,” said Joseph Markey, KeyBank’s market president for the Hudson Valley.  “We are pleased to support the Hudson Valley Seed’s efforts to educate and foster an appreciation of good nutrition and healthy eating habits in our youth.”

Founded in 2012 with one garden and one classroom, Hudson Valley Seed now reaches nearly 5,000 students a year throughout the region, working with teachers, parents, and partnering organizations to teach in gardens at schools in Beacon, Garrison, and Newburgh, including Temple Hill Academy.

This year, KeyBank's support is helping Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade students at Newburgh's Temple Hill Academy learn in their newly-expanded school garden for an hour every two weeks.

HVS educators integrate nutrition education and experiential learning into public school classrooms by bringing over sixty classes each week out to school gardens to read and write, learn math and science, taste new vegetables, and learn about health and wellness. 

"Over the last year, it's been wonderful to see students take ownership of their school garden as a space to learn and grow," shared Sam Adels, Temple Hill Academy's Hudson Valley Seed garden educator. "Our new expanded garden space has allowed us to use the garden as a place to gather, read, prepare and taste fun recipes with fresh vegetables. Students have been trying tons of new veggies, including some that they've pulled from the earth themselves. We've really noticed students' increased willingness to try new things and appreciate vegetables, and to wake up their minds during the school day."

Through supporting hands-on learning, dynamic living classrooms, and engaged students and teachers, KeyBank is making it possible for Hudson Valley Seed to raise the bar of academic achievement one school at a time and build the foundation for Temple Hill students' lifetime of healthy eating choices.

About KeyBank Foundation:  

KeyBank Foundation serves to fulfill KeyBank’s purpose to help clients and communities thrive, and its mission is to support organizations and programs that prepare people for thriving futures.  The Foundation’s mission is advanced through three funding priorities – neighbors, education, and workforce – and through community service. To provide meaningful philanthropy that transforms lives, KeyBank Foundation listens carefully to understand the unique characteristics and needs of its communities and then backs solutions with targeted philanthropic investments. KeyBank Foundation is a nonprofit charitable foundation, funded by KeyCorp.

Contact: 

Air Nonken, Director of Development, Hudson Valley Seed: air@hudsonvalleyseed.org845-202-1091

Crop Shops = Success!

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It turns out kids love selling veggies almost as much as growing and eating them (i.e., a lot)! Throughout October we partnered with the Beacon Rec’s After School Program and Common Ground Farm to host eight kid-operated farm stands at South Ave, JVF, Sargent, and Garrison elementary schools. 

Students participating in the after-school program picked the veggies that were ripe in their school gardens, arranged them on tables and priced them, and then sold them to parents and neighbors at pickup time. Beyond what the kids picked themselves, we also were able to offer additional veggies provided through a partnership with Common Ground Farm.

Hudson Valley Seed’s staff Air Nonken shared: “I visited a Crop Shop right around the corner from my house, and was greeted by a small crowd of children very enthusiastic to tell me all about each vegetable, including which of the types of lettuce were least bitter, how many peppers they had picked that afternoon (105!), and which was the best deal (yellow beans, $2/lb). The young salespeople, most of whom were in 2nd grade, weighed my selections, tallied my costs, and figured out my change - I was impressed with their mental math!

Seeing their excitement about the tasty veggies, how eager they were to share them with others, how knowledgeable they were about the produce, and the tangible benefits of slyly incorporating math, writing, and more into the project gave me such delightful reassurance that our garden educators are, yet again, giving Hudson Valley kids an invaluable boost on essential life skills.”

Fresh Currciulum

Building on proven lessons of the past five years, Hudson Valley Seed has developed 68 unique lessons for K, 1st and 2nd grade. The goal of the new curriculum is to ensure each year builds upon the last through an intentional thematic arc. Each year ends with a culminating project that will help the students recall all the lessons of that year.

Beginning Gardeners

Kindergarteners entering the school garden for the first time may not have any experience with growing food, but they will learn the foundational aspects of gardening from planting seeds to watering to harvesting within the context of the four seasons. By getting their hands in the soil and seeing the garden change throughout the year, they will learn what plants need to survive and how we, as gardeners, help to meet their needs. Together, they will also create an Alphabet book that will build their vocabulary of garden elements. Throughout this first year, the students are introduced to diverse representations of farmers, in photos and books, to show that people of all ages, ethnicities and genders are growing food, which now includes each of them!

Scientific Gardeners

1st graders use their basic understanding of gardening to obverse the growing space and think critically about the relationships between plants and animals in this human-influenced habitat. Students will see that most relationships in the garden (and nature, in general) are based on "who eats who," but that there are other mutually beneficial relationships as well. As "scientific" gardeners, they will both zoom in on different elements of the garden and take a bird's eye view to learn how their management of the garden attracts and supports life while providing healthy food for human beings. They will explore how wild plants have become domesticated, practice observational drawings of different varieties of squash and draw maps of their gardens as seen from above.

Gardening Chefs

After deepening their understanding of growing food, 2nd graders will explore how we turn the food we grow into nutritious, delicious meals to feed our communities. Students will develop basic cooking skills as they learn how to chop vegetables, preserve their harvest through quick canning and create their own recipes, based on the vegetables growing in the garden. Other important topics include learning how to care for honeybees and how compost replenishes nutrients in our soil! Through these activities, they will begin to talk about the local food system and realize that they are connected to a larger effort in the Hudson Valley and beyond.

Educational Advisors

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On October 23, Hudson Valley Seed held the first of three meetings of the Education Advisory Committee, a new initiative of the organization to assess our new curriculum that was developed over the summer. The group of seven teachers was selected due to their high interest and enthusiastic participation in Hudson Valley Seed's program over the last few years. These teachers represent a good mix of our schools as well as all of the grades (K-2nd) that we teach. During this school year, the group will help us evaluate the clarity of concepts and effectiveness of activities in our curriculum. In addition, they will work with us to increase the connections made between the garden program and their classroom instruction.

For our first meeting, our friends at Drink More Good in Beacon provided the comfortable couch space in the front of their shop. We spent an hour and half discussing their past experience and the new changes to the curriculum. There was consensus that increasing class length from 45 mins to 1 hour was a positive step to cover the material more effectively. Given the longer class time, they appreciated that we are splitting the class into smaller groups and giving the teacher some activities to lead while the educator is doing a different activity in another part of the garden. We received great feedback about specific lessons, such as extending the Garden Alphabet book, which we create with our Kindergartners, from one lesson to something we work on throughout the year.

Our next meeting in January will address increasing evaluation measures and tailoring lessons to classes with exceptional learners (special education). All of these efforts will contribute to better outcomes for our students!

October is Farm-to- School Month!

As we enter the season of apple cider, pumpkin pie and soups made with delicious root
vegetables, Hudson Valley Seed and the Beacon City School District are excited to celebrate local food production as a part of National Farm-to- School Month!

In 2010, Congress designated October to be Farm-to- School Month in order to recognize and
support the efforts of students, educators, parents, nonprofit partners and farmers who have
worked together to bring healthy, locally-grown food to schools in their communities. According to data collected by the National Farm-to- School Network, there are nearly 43,000 schools in the U.S. that participate in some type of farm-to- school activities, which included nearly $800 million in spending on local food for school cafeterias in the 2013-14 school year!

In Beacon, school district spending on local food has already reached $11,000 in the first few
weeks of September, which includes purchasing of local broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower,
celery, cucumbers, romaine and green leaf lettuce, Spanish and red onions, green and red
peppers, potatoes, scallions, apples, watermelon and dairy products!

To continue this emphasis on farm-to- school efforts, October will be full of various hands-on,
educational activities, with the help of our community partners:

During their weekly Hudson Valley Seed garden time lessons, each 2nd grade class at all nine of our schools (in Newburgh, Beacon, and Garrison) will get a visit from a local farmer to talk about growing food in the Hudson Valley.

Some students in the Beacon Recreation Department’s after school program will set up Crop
Shops (small farm stands) outside of three of the elementary schools in October and November to sell produce from the school gardens and a few local farms to parents and community members on the following dates:

  • October 6 & 13 - South Ave. Elementary
  • October 20 & 27 - Sargent Elementary
  • November 3 & 11 - J.V. Forrestal Elementary

On Thursday, October 19, all Beacon elementary schools will participate in the Big Apple Crunch, joining millions of New Yorkers in taking a bite out of a New York State apple.

All schools have been encouraged to decorate the front of their buildings with local food
products - corn stalks, pumpkins, squash, and the like.

Over the next few weeks all of our students will be tasting and learning about bok choy, October’s featured vegetable. The Vegetable of the Month program brings a different locally-produced vegetable into school through a partnership with school cafeterias, Common Ground Farm, and Hudson Valley Seed. The students who participate in Hudson Valley Seed’s weekly garden education program taste the raw vegetable during their classes, then all students in participating schools (including all of Beacon!!) taste the vegetable in featured dishes in the school cafeteria throughout the month. This boosts kids’ access to fresh foods, increases their willingness to eat new veggies, and helps shift institutional spending towards supporting local farms.

We also encourage parents and guardians to tour a local farm, go apple picking, and visit the Beacon Farmer’s Market on Sundays from 10am-3pm at Veterans Place, next to the post office, the Newburgh Downing Park Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 10am-3pm, or your closest source of local food during this harvest season!

We here at Hudson Valley Seed are so grateful to have such a great collaborative relationships with Karen Pagano, Director of Food Services for the Beacon City School District, who has made many of these Farm to School month activities possible, and champions farm to school every day in Beacon’s cafeterias and beyond!

Please contact Karen Pagano at Beacon City School District (845-838- 6900 x2012) or Omari
Washington, Hudson Valley Seed (347-328- 4481), for more information.

School Crop Shop opening!

Imagine the coolest lemonade stand ever, but with vegetables!

As you may have heard, Hudson Valley Seed has partnered with the Beacon Rec’s After School Program and Common Ground Farm to open a farm stand! We are excited that our Food Fridays program will feature a kid operated farm stand with fresh produce donated by our partners. Each week, from October 6th through November 11th, staff from Hudson Valley Seed and the After School Program will be on hand to make sure the kids have a great experience and learn about produce, small business and salesmanship. The kids will be doing as much as possible to operate the stand. (Please be patient while a 2nd grader figures out your total and makes change!) The stand is open to the public, please feel free to visit all the stores at all the locations (and tell all your friends). The more customers our participants meet, the better the experience. Also, half of the proceeds go towards the tuition assistance program. Fresh delicious local produce for a good cause!

The stand will rotate through our program. The stand will be open for business from 4:45 – 6:00. The dates and locations will be:

    • 10/5 - Garrison
    • 10/6 – South – Front entrance near the handicap parking
    • 10/11 - Garrison
    • 10/13 – South – Front entrance near the handicap parking
    • 10/20 – Sargent – Lower cafeteria entrance
    • 10/27 – Sargent – Lower cafeteria entrance
    • 11/3 – JVF – In front of main entrance
    • 11/10 – JVF – In front of main entrance

If the weather is inclement, we will retreat slightly to be indoors/covered. We will be open rain or shine!

If you have wicker baskets, we would like to borrow them for display purposes. Those can be dropped off at the after school program at pick-up if you have a child enrolled in program or at the Rec Center. We will do our best to return them to you after the stand closes for the season.

We hope to see you at the stand!

Hudson Valley Seed recognized for excellence in E-STEM teaching

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You know your children and young neighbors are learning gardening with Hudson Valley Seed. But did you also know that while they’re in the garden, our students are also applying real-world STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) topics?

Hudson Valley Seed’s garden learning program was recognized this summer as one of the top ten environmental and E-STEM programs in North America, receiving a 2017 Innovative Education Finalist’s Award from UL and the NAAEE (North American Association of Environmental Educators).

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"for embracing ESTEM...

to inspire the next generation of business leaders, engineers, inventors, researchers, and scientists.”

During garden lessons each year, Hudson Valley Seed’s students learn to count and multiply pumpkin seeds, read planting instructions on seed packets, record weather observations and seasonal changes, hypothesize about and test germination stages, observe and cultivate food systems, dig to discover decomposers in the soil and explore to find helpful and harmful insects, experiment with stem absorption, understand their garden as a habitat, and so much more.

Hudson Valley Seed’s garden time is unusual in how hands-on we let kids be, how much we encourage questions and exploration, and how we combine up to six subjects into each integrated lesson! Our student-centered, experiential, democratic approach to learning fosters agency within students, both in the classroom and beyond. HVS students show increased focus in the classroom, improved test results, and increased school attendance.

And our students learn to love the earth - Through caring for their small gardens, we help children understand each human’s responsibility in caring for nature. By activating students’ interest in ecology and food systems, we lay the groundwork for an entire local generation of informed, engaged, capable environmental stewards.