Sunday, March 28, 2010


Thanks to the fabulous help of students, teachers, and volunteers, we broke ground this weekend at the High School for Public Service (HSPS) Youth Farm! There is now less lawn to mow, and more space for harvest. As we dug, we realized how blessed we are: the soil has a great texture and plenty of worms. With stakes and twine, we laid out 4 foot beds with 2 foot paths. We dug up the sod in the pathways and dumped it on top of the future planting beds. Later, we will till it all together. Our soil tests showed slightly elevated lead levels, but still appropriate for edibles according to our Cornell Extension Agent. Soon, we will be adding some compost to boost the nutrient levels in the soil.

This weekend, I thought a lot about what it means to break ground. It's fascinating to me that destruction usually precedes new growth. Spaces have lives, and when they outlive their usefulness, they usually go through a period of decay and rebirth. Breaking ground is the physical manifestation of rebirth: it's the moment when people can finally see the plans that have been laid for a space. We have to break what is there before we can move on.

Architects usually use the term 'break ground' when they dig in preparation for the foundation of a building. In this case, we are building a foundation to teach students about food justice, health & nutrition, sustainability & the environment, and more. These tomato plants have a lot to live up to!

There was recently an article in the NY Times for High School Gardening for School Credit. We may just make that a reality at HSPS. All the volunteers can attest that digging is good exercise: we also incorporate stretching into our work days since working the farm can keep you hunched over too long if you're not careful. Because it was a chilly day, we also incorporated some jumping jacks to keep everyone's blood flowing.

Our next work day will be Saturday, April 3rd when we will continue to break up the lawn and finish building our compost bins. Check back here for the time.