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NYC's urban farms giving kids hands-on experience
For New York City kids, planting vegetables and tending to coops isn't usually typical. But thanks to a growing crop of urban farms, the opportunity to plant seeds, harvest vegetables and interact with chickens can be a reality. Schools without the space or resources to establish a garden themselves can take advantage of multiple green spaces throughout the city that have educational programs to give students a chance to dig in the dirt and learn about fresh produce and healthy eating habits.
Here's a look at three such innovators, found from the tip of Manhattan to a Long Island City rooftop, including one looking to expand.
BATTERY URBAN FARM
Located in Battery Park, Battery Urban Farm was created specifically to educate downtown Manhattan school children.
The one-acre, turkey-shaped farm hosts summer programs, field trips and a community garden dedicated for teachers.
"Teachers have their own space and teach themselves," said Camilla Hammer, Battery Urban Farm project manager. "It's a much more diverse group of students in terms of what they're learning."
A weekly program run by Battery Conservancy educators also teaches kids from kindergarten to third grade about science and agriculture through hands-on farm work such as planting and harvesting, food prep and tastings.
East side of Battery Park near State and Bridge streets, 212-344-3491, thebattery.org
City Growers hosts educational experiences for students from pre-K to 12th grade in hands-on lessons five days a week during the growing season at Brooklyn Grange's two rooftop farms, in Long Island City and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
Students can plant seeds and dig for worms on the farm, while honeybee programs offer lessons about the biodiversity of agriculture and the chance to taste the honey produced by the bees.
"Our goal is to give them the same opportunity as kids outside of the city to interact with nature, as well as increase environmental literacy and improve health by promoting a plant-based diet," said City Growers Executive Director Cara Chard.
63 Flushing Ave. in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and 37-18 Northern Blvd. in Long Island City, 347-948-3177, citygrowers.org
RANDALL'S ISLAND URBAN FARM
This 3,000 square-foot farm, a partnership between GrowNYC and the Randall's Island Park Alliance, focuses on nutritional education to teach kids where their food comes from.
School groups can plant seeds, harvest produce and use the fresh food to prepare a snack together in the outside kitchen, like butternut squash soup, garden salads and smoothies made with a bicycle blender. A chicken coop also gives students the opportunity to feed chickens and learn about egg-laying hens.
Because the farm has a waiting list of more than 300 schools, GrowNYC is looking to replicate a similar model in the city and has submitted a permit for a farm on Governors Island.
"We are only able to accommodate a portion of those schools wanting to visit," said Gerard Lordahl, GrowNYC's director of open space greening.
Located inside Icahn Stadium at 20 Randall's Island, 212-788-7900, grownyc.org