A Spring Letter of Thanks to Our Supporters

—March 2022

Dear Friend of Garden Kitchen Lab,

We’re celebrating the first days of spring and standing in awe of the beauty of nature as it awakens. As we prepare the gardens to welcome students next month, we wanted to acknowledge all that you have helped us accomplish over the past years and share an update of our activities. 

While the last two years saw our in-person programming curtailed by closed facilities and reduced, social-distancing compliant class sizes, we doubled down on efforts to grow our footprint and opened two new sites that will enable us to reach new communities and scale our production (did you know that last year we harvested 340 pounds of vegetables and herbs?).

Just as the pandemic was starting, we opened a Garden Kitchen Lab program at the Dyckman Farmhouse Museum in Inwood Manhattan. This is our first historic garden, our first Manhattan location and we are charmed every day by its beauty and significance. The site became the enchanting backdrop for our virtual programming when we had to transition to online teaching. And in homage to the landmark’s history, we hosted workshops using crops harvested by the indigenous Lenape people and the enslaved West African people who once inhabited Upper Manhattan and the 280 acre Dyckman farmland. 

Last year we built a brand new Bronx garden in Hunts Point thanks to a New York Restoration grant. When it opens to the public next month, it will be our largest site with twelve raised beds and beautiful arch trellises. We plan to partner with the St. Ignatius after-school program and the NYC Parks Recreation summer camp program to offer classes throughout the year. And our ambition is to support local community families with produce donations throughout the growing season. 

The slow down in activity also gave us an opportunity to assess our garden infrastructure and NYC Parks GreenThumb helped us do some much needed repairs to our existing gardens: 

  • Thanks to their support, we reopened our St. John’s garden (which was our very first location in 2014 and needed some TLC) just in time to plant for the spring 2021 season and welcomed a combination of community children and teens for the Crown Heights summer program. Generous individual donations and fundraising support paid for a part-time educator.
  • McCarren garden in Greenpoint also received a facelift and our program was able to host dozens of children last summer. We are grateful for our partnership with the Parks summer camps and are happy to provide an additional offering to their very well-attended and successful program.
  • And finally, our Sunset location was rebuilt last year, although it stayed closed to the public due to COVID. Take a look at our beautiful new garden that will be opening soon!

None of this would have been possible without the wonderful support of our community, donors and grantors: 

  • The Con Edison grants we received in 2020 and 2021 allowed us to augment the Hunts Point garden with Corten steel raised beds and steel arch trellises for tomatoes, squashes, and cucumbers, and will pay the salaries of an educator and a garden manager this year.
  • City Parks Foundation’s Neighborhood grants helped purchase garden and kitchen educational supplies and garden maintenance tools for Hunts Point.
  • Funds raised via individual donations allowed us to pay for staff time and the upkeep of garden and kitchen educational supplies in our other locations: replacing rolling pins, mixing bowls, spatulas, cutlery, pans and a blender, financing a Titan squash trellis and cucumber and tomato trellises and purchasing large plastic containers to store supplies.
  • And finally, we want to recognize Katie’s Krops, one of our earliest supporters, who awards us yearly grants to buy seedlings and essential organic garden products for all of our gardens.

We couldn’t have accomplished any of this without our fantastic volunteers and staff members. A huge thank you to Alejandra, Beatrice, Carmen, Dianne, Diana and Jasmine for their wonderful dedication to giving youth in food deserts the opportunity to learn about, access, and benefit from healthy food. 

In closing, as the spring sun warms the air and stirs growth in the earth, please find a message of hope and renewal from one of our program participants, Madison, 9 years old: 

In 2021 “we planted and watered the plants, and we watched them grow. We had a plant named Bessie. She was lettuce, but she died because we planted her in the winter. Now Bessie is compost, so she is not dead anymore. [… and she will be] good for the plants because compost helps them grow more.”

With gratitude for all the support that you have given us throughout the years,

Fabiola Caceres – Executive Director
Agathe Blanchon-Ehrsam – Board President
Dalit Paradis – Board Secretary
Karsten Chi’en – Board Treasurer

#St.John’s #St.Johns #Dyckman #Sunset #HuntsPoint #McCarren #Mccarren