Volunteer Profile: Jonathan Kong

July 4, 2016
Posted in Community Gardens

Volunteers are a major source of strength for nonprofits and GrowNYC is fortunate to have the time, effort and talents of so many dedicated New Yorkers. Whether they are corporate groups giving back to the community by helping with a garden build for a neighborhood or school or a single individual who feels passionate about what GrowNYC does, we are extremely grateful.  Want to volunteer with GrowNYC?

Jonathan Kong started volunteering with GrowNYC in 2014, quickly establishing himself as a tireless worker and enthusiastic supporter of all things GrowNYC.  But in 2016, Jonathan has taken things to a new level: Creating and undertaking The Greenmarket Challenge: a quest to volunteer at all 54 Greenmarket farmers markets in 1 year.  

We spoke with Jonathan what inspires him, which Greenmarket is his favorite, and much more:
 

How long have you been volunteering with GrowNYC?

This is my third year.

What is it about GrowNYC that inspires you to work with us?

I really like the environment, working outdoors, getting to interact with the public, doing hands-on activities such as the cooking demos, and learning something new about myself everyday.

Favorite activity when volunteering?

Cooking demos are always fun to do because I get to see the actual ingredients I'm using and use them with the recipe. Outreach is great since I get to see the diversity of people who live in different neighborhoods.

How many different Greenmarket locations have you volunteered at?

So far about 30, but I plan to volunteer at all of them by the end of this year.

Do you have a favorite Greenmarket?

I like Union Square a lot because there's a lot of different activities going on down there and it's really easy to get to. I also have favorite markets for each region: Forest Hills for Queens, Columbia for Upper Manhattan, Tompkins for Lower Manhattan, Fort Greene for Brooklyn, and Parkchester for Bronx.

Favorite fruit and/or vegetable?

I tend to go for tropical fruits like mangos, pineapples and coconuts, but they don't sell them at the markets.

What would you tell someone who was considering volunteering with GrowNYC?

Volunteering with GrowNYC will help you improve your social skills, build confidence in yourself, and feel comfortable working with other people.                                                                                                                         

Be a Greenmarket Market Manager!

February 20, 2016

Greenmarket is currently hiring seasonal market managers to manage our 53 Greenmarkets throughout the five boroughs. Click here for the job description, and read below for a first hand account of managing a Greenmarket from former Market Manager, Kathleen Crosby. 

From the streets of New York, our market manager Kathleen Crosby reports back on a typical day in the life managing the Tompkins Square Greenmarket, which has been transforming a corner of the East Village into a neighborhood center of sustainability every Sunday since 1997.

4:45 a.m.: Alarm goes off. I decide not to hit the snooze button this morning, and disable two other back-up alarms. I make a strong cup of tea and breakfast: Ronnybrook maple yogurt with peaches, bee pollen, chia seeds, and grape nuts.

5:25 a.m.: Carry bike downstairs and head off. It is not light out yet and the Brooklyn roads are empty.

6:05 a.m.: I arrive at the market site, before any of the farmers. Humidity is at about 80% and Tompkins is smelling RIPE.

6:50 a.m.: The first producer of the day, Red Jacket Orchards, arrives at market.

7:20 a.m.: I set up the market info table and tent. The Greenmarket van is filled to the BRIM today with equipment. A 40 pound kettle ball falls out as I open the back door, then work to cram my 10x10 ft. tent into a 7 ft. space between a tree and sign post. Decide on which recipes to display and put out our many pamphlets and handouts. Today we’re featuring tomatoes, so I go grab a bunch of heirlooms for a display.

7:50 a.m.: Harry arrives on the scene. Harry is a long time resident of E. 7th St. and knows all the best spots in the East Village. He usually wears a hat that says "stud" but not today. I'm thinking I should get him a little button that says "Honorary Mayor of Tompkins Square." Each week, Harry helps Jimmy Stannard of Stannard Farms set up and break down, gives breaks to workers throughout the day, and greets people he knows well by howling like a wolf. His friend "Red" walks by. He howls and she howls right back.

9:00 a.m.: Plaster farmers' stands with signage promoting EBT, Health Bucks, frequent shopper promotion signs, plus signs about our upcoming Salsa-off event.

9:15 a.m.: Pam from Ronnybrook feeds me ice cream (it's a tradition we have). Today's flavor is stracciatella.

9:30 a.m.: Do the market report. Today, all the farmers have complied with the rules: on time, farm sign out, price signs out, product labels on honey, meat, eggs, etc; tents weighted down, boxes of produce not sitting directly on the ground, meat, eggs and dairy chilled. Everything is in order. While at Norwich Meadow's stand, one of the Tibetan workers hands me a hot samosa.

10:00 a.m.: Quetsy from Meredith's Bakery needs a bathroom break. I sell a few scones and gluten-free loaves of bread.

10:15 a.m.: Now to work on my a-frame sign. First the letters are too big. Erase. Then too small. Erase. A regular comes up and talks to me for 20 minutes about the history of the East Village. How it has changed!

10:30 a.m.: Finish setting up the info table. Grab some peppers and tomatoes to decorate my stand with. Swiping EBT & Debit/Credit cards and giving out tokens and health bucks. Checking off frequent shopper cards. Try to get more people to sign up for the Salsa-off.

10:45 a.m.: Pam literally spoon-feeds me some of her second batch of ice cream, strawberry this time.

11:15 a.m.: A couple of neighborhood residents who are trying to start a CSA next week approach me about fruit. I introduce him to Jimmy Stannard and they work out prices.

11:30 a.m.: Go pick up some ingredients for the cooking demo. Since we're featuring tomatoes, I grab some ripe juicy ones, a few ears of yellow corn, a bag of okra, and some hot and sweet peppers. All donated by the farmers. Arielle, my helper, chops away. I run to the local Chinese take-out join to pick up a quart of rice to serve the dish. We'll call it...a summer stew.

12:00 p.m.: Do a little social media. Walk around and see what looks good. The sun is hitting Norwich Meadow's beautiful tomatoes just right. Post to instagram, check. Post to twitter, check. Post to facebook, check.

12:30 - 2:00 p.m.: Hand out samples into tiny cups until it's all gone. I think we have some okra converts. The key is slice it thin and toss it in the pan for a few seconds at the very end. Man is it getting hot.

2:10 p.m.: Samples are gone. Now we get to lunch. I'm having some zucchini pasta ribbons with basil, almonds and pecorino.

2:45 p.m.: Harry comes over with an idea. He thinks we should put together a little box of goodies from the market and give it to the owner of the Odessa restaurants across the street. The Odessa Cafe and uber dive-y Odessa Bar have long been fixtures of the EV, but unfortunately Odessa Bar had to close its doors a few days ago. The people at Odessa Cafe have been good to the market over the years letting us use their bathroom and serving up cheap iced coffees. I grab a crate from Jimmy and fill it up with an assortment of produce, bread, pie, and juice from all the vendors. Harry escorts me over and introduces me to the owner. He apparently doesn't come to the restaurant often, so I'm glad to have the opportunity to thank him. He happily accepts.

3:30 p.m.: An indie film location scout approaches us about using farmers' stands in a scene they're shooting in Tompkins Square park.

4:00 p.m.: Look at the salsa-off list and 3 more people have signed up!

4:30 p.m.: Haifa from Norwich Meadows finds out that I don't really eat meat. "You'll have an amino acid deficiency when you get older!" she exclaims, and thrusts some chicken into my hands.

4:45 p.m.: City Harvest arrives on the scene. They double park on 7th. I meet this week’s volunteer and give them some bags to collect unsold produce from farmers to donate to pantries.

5:05 p.m.: The first of Toigo's three trucks arrives from Carroll Gardens, soon followed by their second, much larger truck from Stuytown. Pura Vida packs up a little late, so these two trucks are double parked on 7th. I move my van and Acevedo's small truck so I can fit the smaller Toigo truck in.

5:15 p.m.: Pura Vida leaves but Toigo's big truck can't make that wide turn from 7th onto Ave A because of the City Harvest truck that is still double parked. I ask the CH driver if he can kindly go around the block to let Toigo through. He's cool about it.

5:20 p.m.: All the farmers have packed up for the day except for Meredith's, so now it's my turn. Play van-tetris for a half-hour getting all of the weights, tables, tents, bins, a-frames, racks, and banners in order.

5:50 p.m.: Forgot about the a-frame I have on 1st Ave. Run over and pick it up.

6:00 p.m.: Get a few bags of peaches, plums, and nectarines from Toigo, who are usually the last to leave.

6:10 p.m.: Say my goodbyes and start packing my backpack and bike panniers. Got too much stuff again, have to bungee some squash and peppers on the top of my bike rack.

6:15 p.m.: DANG! Somehow a peach got into my bag of EBT supplies and smashed right up against the keys of my terminal. Classic!

GrowNYC Builds 7 new gardens in 2015!

December 17, 2015
Posted in Community Gardens

GrowNYC's garden program had an eventul 2015, full of new gardens, rejuvenations of existing spaces, and several innovative garden projects that help make New York a greener city.

We built 7 new community gardens this year, giving the city 80,000 square feet of new open space.  These new gardens include:

Additionally, our garden program did major rejuvenation projects on 7 community gardens and 1 school gardens, totaling 72,000 square feet of existing green space that was transformed.  All of this work is done alongside great partners, including GreenThumb, 596 Acres, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, FDNY, and New York Botanical Garden's Bronx Green Up.  

Throughout 2015, GrowNYC built 12 new green infrastructure elements in gardens, including:

  • 10 new rainwater harvesting systems, in Crotona Park East (BX) East Harlem (MN), Governors Island, Greenpoint (BK), Mott Haven (BX), and Park Slope (BK).
  • 1 new bioswale, in East Harlem.
  • A new aquaponic shipping container at an urban farm in Far Rockaway.

GrowNYC completed our second year of programming at Governors Island Teaching Garden, an urban farm that provides free educational programming for public schools students and summer camp groups from March to November, as well as holds open hours for the general public on weekends during the general Governors Island open season.  

We made some great additions to our farm space in 2015, including a high tunnel greenhouse, a solar oven, a rain garden, and several rainwater harvesting systems.

This year's Governors Island Teaching Garden programming included:

  • Working with more than 2,500 kids from more than 60 school groups
  • Interacting with more than 5,000 visitors from the general public during weekend open hours.

This fall, GrowNYC helped build T5 Farm at JetBlue's Terminal 5 at JFK Airport.  The 24,000 square foot farm features more than 4,000 recycled milk crates growing blue potatoes - the same variety that TERRA gives away on JetBlue flights - as well as other herbs and vegetables.  T5 Farm was created in collaboration with GrowNYC Partners, a consultancy arm of GrowNYC that returns profits to the mission-based activities of GrowNYC - like the 7 new gardens we built this year.

We also continued our efforts to bring community gardening to affordable housing developments.  2015 marked our fourth year of working at Via Verde, where a 5,000 square foot rooftop garden is enjoyed by the building's residents.  GrowNYC also ran seasonal workshops about gardening, healthy eating, and much more.

In Long Island City, GrowNYC helped to design a 2,300 square foot rooftop farm on top of Queens' newest affordable housing complex, Hunter's Point South. The farm features 13 oversized raised beds and a beehive, and will also host a GrowNYC-run Fresh Food Box for building residents.

We'll be back working at T5 Farm, Via Verde, and Hunter's Point South in 2016, working to continue bringing innovative programming to each one.  We can't wait!

 

Giant Arch Pops Up in Union Square Greenmarket

November 15, 2015
Posted in GrowNYC

Anyone walking through Union Square Greenmarket this Saturday will find themselves looking at a giant orange arch made from cardboard tubes – representing a peek of GrowNYCs newst venture, Project Farmhouse: a new center for sustainability and education in the heart of New York City.

The arch will be up for five consecutive market days (November 14, 16, 18, 20 and 21), and will allow visitors to lean about Project Farmhouse. Anyone who makes a donation of $10 or more has a chance to pick at random a thank you gift, ranging from JetBlue TrueBlue reward points, kitchen appliances by Breville, gift certificates to restaurants, Greenmarket Bucks to shop at Union Square Greenmarket and more.  The arch is generously sponsored by TD Bank and is the concept of Interbrand, designed by Shift Space Design and features recycled cardboard tubes manufactured for and donated by Pratt Industries.

Project Farmhouse will be public education space of nonprofit GrowNYC. Opening in 2016, the farmhouse is a place where people can come and explore sustainability issues with us through the lens of food, horticulture, art, architecture and more.  It’s a classroom of cultivation. A permanent, physical space dedicated to getting our hands dirty, planting ideas and nurturing healthier, greener decisions and actions.

To learn more, visit www.projectfarmhouse.org

Project Farmhouse Arch Installation is generously sponsored by TD Bank.

Project Farmhouse is supported by the following donors: Breville USA, Bridgewood Fieldwater Foundation, Charles Ramat, Eugene Schneur, Gotham Bar and Grill, Interbrand, JetBlue, Jo-Ann Makovitzky, One Five Hospitality , Karen E. Meara, Liz Neumark, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, New York City Council Member Rosie Mendez ,Pratt Industries, Robert J. Kafin, TD Bank,The Caliban Foundation, The Durst Organization, The Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, The New York Community Trust (Colin Gardner Fund),  The New York Community Trust (Himelberg Fund), and Whole Foods.

Arch Installation donated itams are from the following Donors: American Test Kitchen, Bluebonnet Nutrition, Bodi Licious, Breville USA, ChicoBags, Crafted Hospitality, Dream Hotel, DSW, Gothan Bar & Grill, Great Performances, Green Mountain, JetBlue, LiteWing Naturals, Museum of Natural History, NCM - America’s Movie Network, New York Jets, Room & Board, Schmidt's Deodorant, Shake Shack, Shutterfly, Signatureurban, Sweet Green, TD Bank, Terra Cycle, The Hain Celestial Group, Timberland, Trish McEvoy, Two Boots, Weleda, Workman Publishing, and World Policy Institute.

Prepare for Possible Weather Events with our Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide

October 1, 2015
Posted in Community Gardens

In light of recent forecasts, which include the possibility of Hurricane Joaquin making landfall over the Eastern United States next week, GrowNYC is advising gardeners to consult our 2014 publication Resilient NYC Community Garden Guide

The guide, published in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, is a practical manual on making your garden more resilient, including step-by-step guidelines to minimizing storm damage.

From preventive pruning techniques to ways to secure garden features, we hope this guide will serve as a practical resource for you and your green space.

Get the Guide!

GrowNYC Pilots Green Beetz Health-Based Curriculum in 10 NYC Public Schools

September 30, 2015

Beginning in Fall 2015, GrowNYC will partner with Green Beetz to deliver the organization’s holistic food-based curriculum to over 300 elementary school students city-wide. GrowNYC will distribute and support teachers in implementing Green Beetz’s health-based curriculum to 10 elementary schools over the course of a one-year pilot in collaboration with Grow to Learn. Read the full press release.

Green Beetz’ mission is to empower middle schoolers to navigate the complex issues surrounding food in the 21st century. Green Beetz' innovative, holistic curriculum incorporates media and inquiry-based activities, inviting students to consider how food impacts the environment, their bodies and the world around them. The Green Beetz curriculum was developed in collaboration with The New York Academy of Sciences to ensure its alignment with age-appropriate STEM topics and Common Core State Standards. Since the non-profit’s founding in 2013 by Dr. Anna Chapman, Andrew Chapman and Tracey Kemble, the organization has worked in East and Central Harlem to test its holistic model.

Included in today’s announcement is the release of “Captain Trash Bag,” a Green Beetz original video promoting the curriculum. 

GrowNYC Builds 9 New Rainwater Harvesting Systems

September 11, 2015
Posted in Community Gardens

This Spring and summer GrowNYC completed several new rainwater harvesting projects and updated several existing ones.

At Governors Island Teaching Garden, we installed 3 systems from a child sized shade structure that collects into 2 - 5 gallon containers and allows children to open and close valves which divert the flow of water either to the containers, a see through hose or a drain to the adjacent rain garden. 

To collect rainfall from the adjacent former Coast Guard housing, a 500 gallon tank was installed to collect from a large area of roof and two 50 gallon barrels collect from a smaller roof area. A flow meter was installed on the 500 gallon tank to monitor water usage. These installations were completed using funding provided by the NYS Pollution Prevention Institute through a grant from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. 6,000 visitors have interacted with the Green Infrastructure projects on Governors Island this season.

At  the Brook Park Community Garden in the Bronx, GrowNYC worked on a week long effort with  community gardeners and volunteers from In Good Company to install 3  new rainwater systems. A 1000 gallon cistern captures rainfall from the downspout of an adjacent home, a 250 gallon tank collects from an existing shed and 2 - 50 gallon barrels store water captured from a chicken coop.

GrowNYC staff worked with 10 youth aged 14 to 18 from Brotherhood Sister Soul in West Harlem to repair an existing rainwater system and install a new system in the Frank White Garden. Each system has 100 gallon storage and collects from existing shade structures in the garden. The youth learned about the New York City combined sewer system as well as getting hands on building experience  developing pollution prevention solutions.

GrowNYC staff completed a shade structure in the Morning Glory Garden in the Bronx which collects rainwater into a 300 gallon tank.

A new 300 gallon tank was installed at the Greenspace on Fourth Garden in Brooklyn. This new garden on land atop a water tunnel access site is a native plant garden where the gardeners installed a rain garden in collaboration with Brooklyn GreenBridge . The overflow from the rainwater system is diverted to the rain garden.

A 1000 gallon rainwater system at the St. John Cantius Garden in East New York, Brooklyn was reconnected to the adjacent building after it had been disconnected due to a change of ownership of the building.

These new and reconnected systems now bring the total number of rainwater harvesting systems in New York City Community Gardens to over 140 systems with the capacity to collect more than 1.5 million gallons of rainfall per year. An interactive map of these gardens and all rainwater harvesting sites can be found here.

GrowNYC Releases Green Design for Students Manual

September 1, 2015

GrowNYC is proud to announce the publication of Green Design for Students, a manual of all of the major environmental and infrastructure issues that impact our daily lives, such as energy consumption, water treatment, agriculture, waste management, and sustainable construction, written specifically for Grades 7-12.

Green Design for Students was created and overseen by GrowNYC's Director of Environmental Education, Mike Zamm, who has over 45 years of experience in NYC schools designing and teaching topics related to the environment and sustainability. . The manual is designed to augment the common core curriculum and provide exposure to critical real-world issues that are frequently overlooked in a standard lesson plan.

We encourage teachers to use and share the Green Design manual and help educate future generations about these pressing issues.

Please view the embedded manual below or save the PDF for future use.

 

Five Million Hi-Fives to Greenmarket Composters!

August 3, 2015
Posted in Recycling | Tagged recycle, compost, greenmarket

Spring, winter, summer or fall, New Yorkers are increasingly dedicated to building a collective compost pile, facilitated by Greenmarkets and community composters throughout the city.  In partnership with the NYC Department of Sanitation, GrowNYC has diverted more than 5 million pounds of residential food scraps from disposal.  Material dropped off at Greenmarkets is distributed to a network of local compost sites, such as Earth Matter on Governor’s Island, where chickens get the first “peck” of the scraps, and Red Hook Farm, where unwanted scraps are transformed to nurture a new crop of Brooklyn-grown vegetables.   Whether your haul is large or small, we thank YOU for your contributions to this effort!  Learn more about food scrap collections at Greenmarket.    

           

Big Lift Winners Achieve Zero Waste!

July 14, 2015
Posted in Recycling

Eleven Recycling Champions schools participated in this year’s Big Lift: Zero Waste contest. The schools blew us away with their uncontaminated collections that definitively showed what studies have told us: 90% of school waste can be diverted from landfills!

The Big Lift challenged schools to reduce waste and recycle as much as possible during one school day, aiming for zero waste to landfills from classrooms, offices, and the cafeteria. The first place organics collection school, PS 130M, achieved an astounding 93.60% diversion rate and the first place non-organics school, PS 221Q, achieved a 57.78% diversion rate. The average diversion of all participating schools in this year’s contest was 58.88%, exceeding the 50% diversion rate for schools targeted in the Mayor’s Zero Waste Schools program.

In preparation for the Big Lift, participating schools planned publicity campaigns that included announcements, classroom visits, pledge walls, posters, and even video “commercials” shown in every class. These impressive efforts increased student and teacher awareness about recycling, reinforcing classroom and cafeteria recycling practices put in place over the course of the school year.

Meet the winners and their tips for school recycling success:

 

PS 130 Manhattan, 1st place organics school—93.60% waste diversion
Best Practice: Principal involvement and classroom paper monitoring charts

Mr. Fong is a first year principal at PS 130 Hernando DeSoto in Manhattan. With all of the other demands of his role, he made recycling a priority. Mr. Fong’s hands-on involvement in the cafeteria as students mastered the new organics sorting routine, demonstrated to all in the school the high importance he places on school wide recycling.

Sustainability Coordinator, Wenmin Nicklas, worked with the Green Team to create a system to monitor and display the results of classroom paper recycling. Once a week, each class received a rating based on how well they are separating paper in their classroom. The weekly rating chart is displayed in the hallway by the main office for all to see, prompting students to look at their class’s rating and strive to achieve “smiley stickers” on each Green Team check in. 

 

PS 90 Queens, 2nd place organics school—87.60% waste diversion
Best Practices: School wide involvement and recycling monitors

At PS 90 Horace Mann recycling education extended beyond the students and staff to include a letter sent home to parents. Custodial staff were key in implementing successful cafeteria recycling, volunteering to monitor the stations until student monitors were assigned. Currently, PS 90 has a monitor system where students from their grades volunteer during lunch hour.

 

PS 221 Queens, 1st place non-organics school—57.78% waste diversion
Best Practice: Presorting at tables

For NYC's youngest students, sorting recyclables can be a balancing act - many are barely tall enough to see into the recycling bins! Sustainability Coordinators Danielle Rothenberg and Laura Arnold at P.S. 221 noticed that students understood which items were recyclable but had trouble placing them in the bin, so they created a system where students presort all plastic items. Each table has a blue, plastic basket and is assigned a student who transfers the plastic items in the basket to the recycling bins. Presorting has transformed the cafeteria by allowing students to focus just on emptying liquids from their drink cartons, recycling them, and throwing out the tray.

  

PS 197 Brooklyn, 2nd place non organics school—42.59% waste diversion
Best Practices: Tackling changes one at a time and showing appreciation

Sustainability Coordinator, Phil Richford, has two strategies for success: implement big changes one at a time and continually thanking everyone involved in making recycling a success. Phil implemented tray stacking in the cafeteria as a first step to reducing waste and increasing sorting. Once students were in the habit of tray stacking, the Green Team focused on making sure students separated recyclables from their landfill waste. It only took a few weeks before each habit was a part of the everyday routine. Now that the habits have been formed, students easily adapt to slight changes in the routine such as stacking the new, round, compostable plates introduced at the end of the school year.

Knowing that none of the school’s recycling success would be possible without the custodial staff, Phil always expresses his gratitude and encourages others to do so. Students made thank you posters for the custodians which are proudly displayed next to school’s Big Lift winner announcement.  In turn, seeing the importance of recycling to the school community, the custodians work patiently with Phil to problem solve any issues that arise.

We are proud of what these schools accomplished on the day of the Big Lift: Zero Waste contest. RCP worked with 90 schools in the 2014-2015 school year, helping them to implement lasting recycling programs. Thank you to all of our schools for your efforts to recycle, for making NYC a greener place for all, and for a great year of partnership!

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