Good stuff already popping up at South Pine Street City Farm

Kingston gardeners who like to save their seedlings for the following spring’s plantings just got a huge boost — the South Pine Street City Farm and YMCA are partnering on a new greenhouse to be built at the Midtown YMCA Community Garden. A $5,000 federal Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant will help fund the greenhouse designed to be heated without electricity or fossil fuels, using compost made from used coffee grounds and yard waste, such as leaves and chipped branches.

Jesica Clark at the city farm last winter.

First-generation farmer and grant writer Jesica Clark, who’s in charge of the tilling at the city farm, said the proposed 12-by-20-foot greenhouse will be used for seedlings and winter production. The greenhouse will be open for use by the public as well, with a target for opening of the 2013 growing season.

“The greenhouse is primarily for education and a study to see if we can utilize compost to keep it heated, however all the stuff grown will be given to the folks who will use our community garden,” said Heidi Kirschner, CEO of the YMCA of Kingston and Ulster County.

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The YMCA started a community garden behind its Broadway facility several years ago, and has, with the help of volunteers, been expanding it every year. This year, as many as 15 beds were planted. Four beds will be available for SNAP food benefit recipients to use free of charge; they will also get free access to any seeds or plants grown in the greenhouse to cultivate their own gardens for themselves. The YMCA will charge $25 per year for the some of the remaining beds, are for the YMCA’s education programs in collaboration with the Kingston Land Trust and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“We have a lot of support coming in from the community to help with the different supplies — Dave’s Tree Service is giving us the mulching. Mike Schoonmaker from the YMCA here is putting up the fence to make it more attractive,” said Kirschner, herself the daughter of a master gardener. “We have to make sure it’s tastefully done and pretty so when people are walking around the neighborhoods it looks nice.”

The YMCA offers programming about growing herbs and vegetables, and even a cooking education class by Queen’s Galley called “Cooking Matters.”

Kirschner said she appreciates how community gardens feature different ideas and different techniques for exchange. The YMCA’s gardens are all organic, no chemicals, using natural pest control methods. She added that she would like to see a cistern in the back as well.

United by growing

Kingston Land Trust Director Rebecca Martin explained that urban agriculture is nothing new, and feels it is vital for communities’ self-sufficiency. “It’s very empowering for families to get back to growing their own food in this day and age and economic climate,” she said. “In a community like ours that’s so diverse it brings together the different generations the different ethnic backgrounds and all with a common goal that levels the playing field.”

Martin has headed up the Kingston City Gardens project, creating gardens such as City Hall’s Victory Gardens, by employing master gardeners, citizens, educators, families and kids. The KLT also has an Urban Agricultural Committee, which has been forming partnerships and working on proposed updated to city codes and policies.

South Pine Street CityFarm is just a young sprout, growing into its second season this year. Clark operates the farm in partnership with Queens Galley, Kingston Land Trust and the neighboring Binnewater Ice Company, which donated the land. The farm is a lush 2,300-square-foot dead-end road, not including paths. Initially, the farm was a community garden that started in 2009, and later Diane Davenport of Binnewater Ice Company gave over free use of the land to the Kingston Land Trust for the urban farm. Initial funding for the renovation of the garden space and came through Kickstarter.com campaign which raised over $5,500, and a materials grant from Learn and Serve America (LSA) to supplement the farm’s tool collection and towards a handy tool shed.