Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In the News

Que Pasa: Student-run farm holds grand opening
var isoPubDate = 'July 01, 2009'
July 01, 2009 6:00 AM by Carmen Ramos
NEWBURGH — The anticipated grand opening of Ashe Urban Farm, the only youth-run farm in Orange County, was held Sunday in the People's Garden on Gidney Avenue.
Funded by the 21st Century After School Program, the project began inside the classroom in March and involved students attending Newburgh Free Academy at the time.
The students learned different types of food production and food sources, then voted on what vegetables to plant, and the work began on a 680-square-foot piece of land in the garden.
The task was labor-intensive, as students tilled the soil by hand, sparing the use of machines in the cultivation process, but the planting of vegetables such as squash, onions, tomatoes and a variety of beans has been rewarding.
The group of teens worked two to three days per week, as early or as late as they could in an effort to avoid the warmest weather, said Tinisha Greene, a junior at Newburgh Free Academy. On rainy days, work on the farm halted and the students furthered their research of the crop and the process in the Mount Saint Mary College computer lab.
"I thought it was boring at first," said Robert Colon, who graduated from Newburgh Free Academy this year. "(But) when you do it, it changes your mentality."
In more ways than one.
When 26-year-old Decora Sandiford spearheaded the project, he hoped to open the students' minds to different, healthier and cost-effective ways of making food.
But for Colon and others in the group, the project also meant taking a piece of land in a place considered not so good and reaping all the positive results they could out of it.
"Newburgh's got a bad reputation," said Robert Tompkins, a sophomore at Newburgh Free Academy. "We're trying to show people we can make it a better place."
"Who knows what I'd be doing if I wasn't doing this," said Colon, who grew up hanging out in the street, exposed to crime. "(Instead,) we come out here on hot days and work."
Some of the students had no previous knowledge of farming. Colon's basic gardening skills were limited to caring for his mother's house plants, his gardening supplies limited to Miracle Gro.
The students learned the basics from their mentor, Sandiford, who learned farming in his midteens while living with his grandmother in Caguas, Puerto Rico, for two years.
A recent trip to Taliaferro Farms in New Paltz taught the group an innovative way to deal with weeds while farming and gave them a taste of what to expect from their crop when harvest season arrives.
"They know where it came from. They know who grew it. They get a sense of pride," said Sandiford, who looks forward to holding a harvest festival at the end of the month.

Independence Day concert — Railroad on the Green, Railroad Avenue, Warwick, 7:30-10 p.m. July 4, featuring Luisito Rosario and his 12-piece orchestra. Free. Call 987-4207.
14th annual Latin American Festival — Riverfront Park, next to Beacon Metro-North railroad station, Beacon, noon-7 p.m. July 12, featuring cultural food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, activities for children, and performances by Conjunto Imagen, Roby Rivera Orchestra and Sonando. Admission and parking are free, but donations are welcome for the Latino High School Scholarship Program. Bring your beach chairs. Call 206-5197 or visit
Seventh annual Kingston Latin Fest — T.R. Gallo Riverfront Park, next to Mariner's Harbor Restaurant, noon-8 p.m. July 19, featuring performances by Charansalsa, Grupo Taineri, and La Excelencia, cultural food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, and activities for children. Free admission and parking. Call 206-5197 or visit

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