Catching up: Youth Leadership Council

It suddenly got cold in New York City. It’s a good time to remember what was going on in the garden this summer. One story we love to share is here (by Barbara Cahn):

This summer, our garden participated in the Youth Leadership Council, a program run by the city to engage high school and college students in volunteer work. Between April and the end of July, we hosted a group of students from around the city, most of whom had never gardened before.

Barbara and some of our students are inspecting their plants.

Our member Dr. Eileen Ain generously lent her plot to the group for the summer so that the students could get their hands dirty and grow their own vegetables and herbs.

Sara Jones taught them how to prepare the soil and plant lettuce and beans from seeds, and tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, chard and basil from seedlings. Our students even grew potatoes in a laundry basket!

The little plants got their markers, and the map shows where everything is. The “Enemy Territory” contains mostly harmless peonies.

The YLC members mapped the plot, made labels for the vegetables, and cast mosaic stepping stones to make a path. They learned to maintain the plot by weeding and watering, composted the weeds, sieved the finished compost and put it back to fertilize their plants. They also came to know the garden’s honeybees and butterflies.


New stepping stones line the path between tomatoes and Iris and basil plants. The potatoes are in the baskets seen in the back.

Several garden members taught mini-workshops in making sun prints (Erica Uhlenbeck),  hydroponics (Karin Kiontke), vertical gardening (Sarah Blakeley), drip irrigation (Jen Sloan), meditation (Eileen Ain) and seed saving (Barbara Cahn.)

The YLC students learn about hydroponics (growing plants without soil; most of your “baby kale”, “baby spinach” and “baby lettuce” is grown this way) and collect seeds from Barbara’s kale plants.

At the end of the program, the students harvested the produce they had grown, and turned it into salads, cooked dishes and desserts, and we invited gardeners and neighborhood residents to a party to celebrate the season.

Yummy cherry tomatoes and healthy kale are ready to harvest.

Party with food made from the harvested veggies: cucumber salad, pasta with pesto from our own basil, a salad bowl with lettuce and tomatoes from the student’s plot, of course the little potatoes, and to drink mint-strawberry lemonade. The lady in black is Eileen, who allowed the students to grow all of these goodies on her plot.

In August, we attended a graduation ceremony at the United Nations, which had the theme “Migration and Agriculture.” The students made a pretty poster and gave a presentation on how this theme relates to our work.

Graduates and teachers of the Youth Leadership Council at the UN on August 23.

For us, this was a valuable experience. Eileen puts it this way: “We have all learned so much and are thankful that we have become trail blazers to solving a global need for fresh, healthy food. Seeing the graduates at the UN gave me hope. Yes, I would give my plot again.  It was a vibrant summer with gardeners giving wonderful young New Yorkers tools for life. We are all in gratitude for these experiences in our community garden.”

We were very happy to welcome these students into our garden and hope they will be able to use their gardening experience in the future.