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NYC 'Teaching Garden' Gives Kids Farm Life Without Leaving The City

To see a real farm in action, you don’t have to worry about getting out of the city anymore.   

That’s thanks to GrowNYC’s Governors Island Teaching Garden, a 21,000-square-foot urban farm in the middle of the Big Apple where students can take free field trips to learn how to plant, grow, harvest and prepare organically grown produce and herbs.

Small-scale farming in the city that has the most of everything. 

The half-acre Teaching Garden has more than 20 vegetable beds derived from recycled plastic lumber, outdoor kitchen, solar oven, aquaponics system inside an old shipping container, high-tunnel greenhouse, fruit orchard, rainwater harvesting systems, rain garden, and a half-acre, small-scale farm now in its fourth season.

Compost is brought in from Earth Matter NY, while GrowNYC incorporates natural pest management to protect plants. 

GrowNYC is an organization designed to serve sustainability and education up to all New Yorkers.

GrowNYC was originally started in 1970 as a policy-based organization that wrote reports on air quality, noise and traffic throughout New York City. Since then, the group has evolved into a service organization providing environmental programs centered around farmers markets, recycling and education, and providing direct support to community and school gardens through volunteer days, training, and tool loans.

 “Our mission is to improve New York City's quality of life through environmental programs that transform communities block by block and empower all New Yorkers to secure a clean and healthy environment for future generations,” the group’s website says.

The Teaching Garden is accessible to New York City-based students, summer camp attendees, and on weekends to the public for tours and workshops during open season at Governors Island from May 6 through Oct. 8.

For many students, the Teaching Garden is their first glimpse of a real farm. 

GrowNYC told Inhabitat that most visiting students are from immigrant families and have never been to a farm before. That makes GrowNYC’s farm tours particularly fascinating; as guides walk visitors for the first time through planting beds and the orchard to harvest ingredients they can then sample in the outdoor kitchen, invite students to plant seeds, and educate them on various sustainable systems GrowNYC is working on, from rainwater harvesting to compost. 

The organization says that the farm is almost totally self-sustaining where food is concerned—at this point, they only bring in olive oil and spices to round out the palate of what is being prepared.

The farm continues to expand in order to increase its self-sufficiency, meet demand, and to make room for its newest projects, like an aquaponics setup inside an upcycled shipping container. Water from the tanks, which hold tilapia, gets pumped to the roof for veggies irrigation.  

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