- Have been growing seed crops as part of their education programme since 2006
- Seed crops grown by farm apprentices alongside local youth groups
- Seed bank contains at least 30 varieties saved at the farm
Poughkeepsie Farm project (PFP) was established as a community farm in 1999. Over the past 16 years they have grown from CSA scheme supplying 16 shareholders, to a non-profit organisation supplying over 500 members. They are committed to food justice, and run a year-round education programme, offering training and learning opportunities about food growing and healthy eating.
PFP started growing seeds crops in 2006 as part of a funded-partnership with the Green Teen Community Gardening Program, called Seeds of the Food System. Since then the funding has dried up, but the farm are committed to their seed project, and continue to offer teenagers the chance to participate in growing seeds. They work with the Green Teens as well as the probation service and several youth shelters.
Shelling beans: local teenagers learn the basics of seed saving through the farm’s Seeds of the Food System programme
How it works
PFP run weekly sessions at the farm which bring together several youth groups. The sessions run throughout the growing season and give the teens the opportunity to participate in all stages of growing a seed crop, from planting to harvesting to processing and packaging.
The farm currently maintains a store of about 30 different seed crops, including many popular open-pollinated varieties such as Tigrella Tomatoes, Red Russian Kale and Sweet Chocolate Pepper. They also have one or two more unusual varieties such as Gogosari Pepper, which was introduced to the collection from Romania by the PFP’s former executive director, who had been serving in the PeaceCorps.
The seeds are sold to raise funds for the farm and are distributed to other community projects and school gardens. The farm team, who grow produce for the CSA, also use a couple of varieties from the in-house seed store, however on the whole their demand is far greater than the seed project can supply.
PFP also hold an annual seed swap for the general public, as a means to educate about seed saving and distribute free seeds. They receive donations from the Hudson Valley Seed Library which are distributed at these events.
A range of seeds grown at the farm, for sale at their annual seed swap
Seeds of the Food System is a successful programme, involving roughly 50 young people, each year. Although not all of them participate in every stage of crop cultivation, they are taught about the lifecycle of plants (from seed to seed) and exposed to the idea of seed saving. As many adults are put off seed saving because they perceive it to be too difficult, it is valuable that these young people are learning first-hand how easy it can be.
Some of the seeds in the bank have been grown on farm for several generations and are starting to adapt to region. Jamie Levato, education director, has noticed crops grown from their own seeds are particularly prolific. The farm is nurturing a unique collection and valuable resource for those in their region. However, the challenge is disseminating the seeds to those who will grow them. The education team consists of two full-time employees and several interns, and inevitably they don’t get enough time to do everything they want to. There is as yet unrealised potential to make more use of the seeds on the farm itself and to get them out to the local community.
More info: www.farmproject.org
Poughkeepsie Farm Project