The core mission of the garden is to provide healthy food to local residents free of charge. Sharing healthy food with an impacted, vulnerable community is easier said than done. It requires an educational component. It is a process of informing the community by introducing new options. The most receptive to these options are often young people. It is not only about education, but about creating a space where the stressors of the community can be left at the door, and light cast on the healing components of food, culture, and the opportunity to improve mind and body.
At the center of KSG is the essential idea of creating a green, healing space that not only encourages wellness through the participation in the growing food, but also understanding how putting our hands in the soil brings a sense of calm and release from the daily stresses of modern life. We encourage our gardeners and residents to take on projects of their own that correspond to the work of the garden with minimal supervision.. This year we will be bringing back onsite cooking demos by Chef Sia, yoga-in-the-garden, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and clay art workshops. One of our partners, Sacred Vibes Apothecary will be conducting workshops on plant medicine and community wellness.
The Garden Ambassador Program
The Garden Ambassador Program (GAP) addresses the need for economic opportunity while fulfilling the needs of the garden. It is also meant to foster leadership skills. GAP participants are encouraged to manage projects with minimal supervision.
With GAP, we'll elevate our work by providing skill-building opportunities for unemployed/underemployed neighbors, award stipends to finally acknowledge the value they create, and grow more fresh produce. Ambassadors work 4 hours per week April - October alongside the Garden Manager to strengthen several aspects of garden management, from planting to measuring outcomes.
Emergency Food Distribution
The Emergency Food Distribution has currently become the cornerstone of our work within the community and has raised our visibility as an important resource within the South Bronx. It directly addresses food insecurity, especially as it has been affected by COVID. Adding “Last Mile Delivery’ is an important step toward reaching those in need who do not have physical access to the market. Extending the timeframe for the Farm Stand from early spring to December will see an increase in our distribution to an estimated 60,000 lbs of free produce (We distributed 26,000 lbs last year.) Most of all, our partnership with Casita Maria and Community Access has widened our reach into the community. We have been averaging close to 200 families a week receiving fresh food.
The Garden as an Education Resource
KSG has evolved into a major education resource. We partner organizations such as Sacred Vibe Apothecary, Farm School NYC and Cornell Extension who have made the garden part of their training program. Yoga instructors were on site regularly to give free classes. Many workshops utilize plants grown in the garden. Others engage youth in planning and cooking their own meals based on what is available seasonally in the garden.
Moving forward, as part of a grant from Kalliopeia Foundation, we will be hosting a series of art, healing and cooking demonstrations onsite as part of our overall programming.
Our goal is to create a welcoming, healing green space that offers a sense of hope and purpose. Fully utilizing the space, both outdoors and indoors, will bring many positive and empowering tools to a community that has long been deprived of these kinds of resources. Developing long-term sources of funding for these programs ensures that our community members can flourish and grow, just like the garden around them.
Experience has shown that maintaining a space like this cannot be effectively sustained through volunteer labor alone. In our first season we observed that most volunteers only lasted about 6 months. People of all walks of life need income in order to be encouraged to stay committed. Through intensive networking over the first two seasons we established an extensive roster of partnerships that help to keep the garden a vibrant community resource.
Moving forward, KSG is building on this foundation by encouraging volunteers to take the lead on developing their