Children learn about farming first-hand at City Green

AFP Correspondent

CLIFTON (Dec. 1, 2016) —  It’s not a rolling farm landscape, but it’s a touch of country for Daisy and Brownie Scouts from Clifton.
City Green’s demonstration farm is a city-owned parcel that was preserved as open space and turned over to the nonprofit for educational programming.
For more than 10 years, City Green has been sharing knowledge of farms with urban residents.
Many of the programs are for adults, but some are designed for children, to help them learn where their food comes from and how they can help grow it.
The Three Sisters Program for the scouts teaches a Native American method of planting.
The Aquaconack band of the Lenape tribe planted corn, beans and squash together.
Jenny Schrum, City Green’s director of youth programs, said the Lenape planted corn facing the four directions, the quadrants of the sun.
Pole beans were planted so they would climb the tall corn stalks and squash, planted on mounds, grew under these plants, its leaves sheltering the soil to keep weeds down.
The scouts, all ages 6 and 7, planted the “Three Sisters.”
The scouts also learned to make a salad using corn, string beans and squash. “The kids chopped vegetables and help with the vinaigrette,” Schrum said.
After the planting and cooking, the girls were enthusiastically feeding Earl, Jerry, Alfalfa, Ricky and Phillipe, the City Green goats.
“We’re already thinking of our next trip here,” Troop Leader Elise Swartz said. “We’re getting their schedule and planning events. The girls can learn so much about growing things.”
She only wanted to give the first names of the girls: Isabel, Isabella, Lillianne, Jessica, Zahra, and Nafitieri.    
Some of the children already knew about gardening when they arrived at City Green.
Co-leader Suzanne Addabbo has a small garden every year.
Another mother from the troop who grew up on a farm in upstate New York has taught the children many things about where their food comes from.
“Whether or not they retain everything they learn, we know they retain some,” she said.
“They grew cherry tomatoes,” Swartz said, noting they also ate them right off the vines.
Learning to garden the way Native Americans did goes along with the lessons they will learn in school about the Lenape,” Swartz said.
The Aquaconack were the band of Lenape who lived in what is now the Newark and Clifton area, Schrum said.
There isn’t a lot of scholarship on them, but children enjoy learning what they can.