How do we create a successful and sustainable urban farm?
The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level.
The secret of joy in work is contained in one word-excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.
Pearl S. Buck
We created Morris Campus Farm in 2017 after spending several months planning and securing the budget to build it. One of the more important aspects of our urban farm model is hiring a professional, a farm manager that will be the caretaker of the functional aspects of the farm. Hiring a farm manager provides a unique way to ensure that the farm is successful. We have had three farm managers. Our new Farm manager was hired under the difficult conditions of working during a Pandemic. He has done an extraordinary job and worked hard to ensure that the production of the farm continued to provide fresh, pesticide-free products for the people of Morrisania. Our farm manager found a few minutes to chat with us regarding the factors that he professionally think are essential to ensure that Morris Campus urban farm is run successfully.
Morris Campus Farm Manager essential components of running a successful urban Farm;
Number one: Ensure that your urban garden is designed to support Biodiversity.
Every single plant and herb that is planted in the garden needs to support each other. The plant kingdom, insect kingdom and fungi need to work together to ensure that the farm is healthy and the products are nutritionally packed. The insects that should visit and live in the farm should be pollinators and natural insects that eat plants such as Prayer mantis and ladybugs. Every season the farm manager creates a crop plan design which takes into consideration what produce is geared towards growing during the early Spring, Summer and Fall which also includes harvesting time and when to prepare the farm beds with winter crops.
Number Two: Sanitation
The farm needs to be clean!!!!! You don’t want to have a disorganized and dirty farm that will attract rodents and roaches. This is a constant and consistent effort but is also how to close out the farm during the winter months and the first thing you do when you open the farm in the early Spring. A clean farm is a healthy farm.
Number Three: Soil
The plants and herbs live in the soil. The healthier the soil the healthier the plants. The soil needs to be pesticide free and provide nutrition to keep the chemical balance for the benefit of the plant life. The use of specific worms and naturally rich compost provides the natural nutrients to ensure that plants are healthy. If the soil is unhealthy the plants will suffer and bring insects and weeds that will undermine the growth and potentially die. It also has the potential to eliminate crops affecting the production aspects of the farm.
Number Four: Water
Water Water Water. The soil needs to be water. There are a lot of misconceptions promoted online about over watering and it is very dangerous to have a dry farm. You need to feel the soil and notice the plants leaves and health and ensure that they receive the water that they need. The School Custodian helped us connect the water access to the farm and with the support of students from NY Farm school, Bronx Green Up and the farm manager we built an irrigation system. The system needs to be maintained and this summer our farm manager did a few things to fix it as it had suffered from few ruptures. Water follows the cycle of nature and seasons as you can imagine the farm needs to be water more often sometimes twice a day during the summer months and less during early Spring and the Fall and nothing at all during the Winter months.
Number Five: Sun
Like water we all need the sun to live on this earth. Certain plants and herbs need more sun than others and that needs to be considered when the farm manager creates the crop plan. We also have a compost Bin that is located in an area of the farm that is shaded. The farm also has two hoop houses that were built to support the needs of some of the crops that benefit from a little shade from the sun,such as tomatoes.
And the last secret ingredient is … love what you do!
Your love of enjoying the farm work will show in your dedication and passion that you bring to it. The farm will love you back with their healthy green and luscious growth, increasing yield during harvest.
How can you build an urban farm in the concrete jungle of New York City?
Is a phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed. The created item may be intangible or a physical object. Wikipedia
One’s ability to bounce back. To be a resilient person means to be able to withstand and adapt to hardships, Including trauma. In some cases, it can mean finding a path that leads to a stronger position.
It is called terraforming. Elon Musk among other nations and billionaires investing in the new space race is literally already planning on terraforming Mars. Why can we not do it here on our planet earth. On the empty, abandoned and underutilized places that are all over the city?
People in the South Bronx have been doing it for decades!
When the South was abandoned during the fiscal crises of the 70s and endured one of the most oppressive existential dilemmas some of the Puerto Ricans and African Americans living there planted seeds of hope and endurance by cleaning abandoned places and growing fresh products for themselves and their communities. They created an oasis for the residents daily life and many gardens are still around with more opening up in the last 10 years. We consider ourselves as part of this tradition and opened up to the needs of the school community and the community at large.in order to build the idea of an urban farm in a high school we need it to consult with people that have experienced doing it so we partnered with Bronx Green-Up from NYBG. The Director, Ursula Chance and her assistant, Kadeesha Williams embraced our vision and have been supporting our farm since day one. In addition, we took a course at the NY Farm School on How to design a farm and we invited them to use the space that the principals and us determine will make sense to build the farm. Ben Flanner, the co-founder of Brooklyn Grange, was one of our teachers. We transformed 14,000 sq feet of a former handball court that was being used as a parking space for the campus and designed the space in collaboration with students from the school and the students from the Farm School design class.
There were several factors that we had to consider in order to design a space that will utilized the right amount of light and shade, water and rainwater, what amount of yield or how many beds do we wanted to build to ensure that we will be a serious production farm, how do we design the bed, the materials that we needed to use, how to cover the asphalt. where to build an herb garden, Compost station, vegetable washing station, spaces for students and adults to sit and relax, a casita that will allow a place to have small classes and a container to safeguard all of our materials and products. We also wanted the farm to be supported by its visual beauty. We partnered with two brilliant muralists who created two majestic murals on the abandoned handball wall.
The farm was built in March of 2017 . It was a collaboration of students, NYBG volunteers, The farm manager and us. We could not have done this alone! Every year we add new additions based on the production and educational needs of the farm. The farm manager is responsible for continuing to envision new ways to make the farm more beautiful, resilient, safe and productive. We have close to 50 beds of different sizes dedicated to the growth of vegetables and over 50 herbs in the herb garden. We also have Bamboo and other plants such as Dogwood throughout the farm. We are planning on the construction of solar panels for 2021 in collaboration with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) in order to support the energy needs of the farm.
Why do we need to create an urban production and educational farm in a High School?
When tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers therefore, are the founders of human civilization.
Morris campus Farm was created in 2017, for the sole purpose of solving a problem faced by the School community and the community at large, Morrisania .Basically ,the problem was and continues to be the health and socio-economic condition of the community. We know that we need to be healthy and we do that by creating easy and affordable access to fresh, pesticide free products that can be used in the school cafeteria and donate or sell to the community.
In addition, we wanted to expose students to the benefits of farming and the use of open space right in their own backyard. We partnered with the campus schools and Bronx Green-Up from New York Botanical Gardens and developed an educational component that includes daily farm visits, Paid internships and after school programs. We have a unique program because we actually hire a farmer to maintain and ensure that the farm works and meets strict farming criteria. The farmer also ensures that the farm is clean and free of pests and beautiful!
Last year we were able to produce close to 1,000 pounds of fresh produce and this year we are on our way to do the same in spite of the difficulties of the Pandemic.
The Pandemic and the Struggle for Social Justice
We believe in peaceful transformational changes that can lead towards the creation of a just and equal society. Morris Campus Educational Farm Inc. believes that building functional structures that supports the process of production and consumption of healthy fresh food is the first step. We can only be as strong as our bodies. A healthy body supports a healthy mind and spirit. A healthy population builds a healthy and strong community. Communities are the seeds of a country of a nation. Only a healthy community, strong in their mind and body will create a better world. The Pandemic have demonstrated quite clearly that health and preconditions that can easily be addressed by healthy eating habits have been one of the culprits of why working class and communities of color more than double those affected by Covid 19. We just know that what we are doing is one of the many ways that can address real social change.
Morris Campus farm became a member of a new collective of farms and gardens in the Bronx called the Bronx Food Hub. In spite of the school closure our farm manager has been able to keep the farm open and productive, and in collaboration with Morning Glory Garden, provide fresh pesticide-free products to the people of Morrisania. We have already donated close to 500 pounds and expect that number to increase by the end of the season.
Be Healthy and Safe
Morris Campus Farm
Morris Campus Educational Farm Inc.