Steinhardt Celebrates Fall with First Harvest of Food Studies Program’s Urban Farm Lab

New York University’s Urban Farm Lab Project, a joint venture between the NYU Food Studies Program at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development and the Silver Towers Tenant Association (STTA), celebrated fall with a harvest celebration on Thursday, September 26, 2013.  Guests picked the final harvest of the summer’s crop of watermelon, tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, sweet and hot peppers, beets, arugula, mixed lettuces, and herbs.

The NYU Urban Farm Lab was the brainchild of Daniel Bowman Simon, a doctoral student in the food studies program. Jennifer Schiff Berg, clinical associate professor and director of the program, and Amy Bentley, associate professor of food studies in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health brought the idea to fruition with funding from a Green Grant from NYU’s Office of Sustainability.

Berg and Bentley envisioned the space serving as a center for learning, research, community building, and environmental stewardship on NYU’s Washington Square campus.

“We wanted to create an urban farm lab that served as an outdoor farm classroom to allow for and promote research in urban agriculture and food systems on the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels,” Berg said.

The farm is designed as a research plot where students taking urban agriculture and food studies courses can explore the most effective ways to grow food in cities—a question that will become increasingly urgent as the 21st century wears on, Bentley says.  A community space shared by NYU students and faculty, Silver Towers residents, and the children from the University Plaza Nursing School—the most dedicated farmers of all, Berg says—the Urban Farm Lab will also produce vegetables that can be enjoyed among those groups as well as shared with community soup kitchens.

In the coming week, the students from the “Intro to Urban Agriculture” course in Steinhardt’s Food Studies Program will be turning over the original ten beds for fall and winter crops.  The course offers hands-on learning as well as theory and research on urban farming.

“We will be using season extension techniques to grow the food,” said food studies instructor Laurel Greyson.  Greyson’s students will be planting various types of beets, carrots, brassicas, mixed greens, radishes and other cold hearty crops.

“Whenever we’re out in the garden, passers-by want to know what’s going on: who is sponsoring the garden and what are we growing,”  Bentley said.  “When we tell them, the response has been unanimous approval by all.”

The NYU Urban Farm is located behind the Silver Towers residences on the corner of Wooster and West Houston Streets in New York City.

(Photos:  University Plaza Nursery school children pick fruit at the Urban Farm Celebration; Jennifer Berg (left) gives welcoming remarks with Amy Bentley (right).  Photo Credit:  Debra Weinstein.)