Summer 2015 Radix Youth Employment Program

Summer is almost gone, but not without lots of fun and growth at Radix! We held a successful five-week program with Albany youth through the City’s Albany LIGHT/Youth Employment program.  We teamed up with AVillage and offered  youth fun and educational weekly workshops and field trips, and worked in the gardens.

Throughout the program we grew food for the Radix Farm Shares and the South End Farmers’ Market at the Radix Center and the Brother Yusef Garden at the Trinity Alliance.  They also tended AVillage’s Our Children’s Garden and Broad Street Garden.  The youth worked hard to keep the gardens healthy and to harvest our best to feed the neighborhood.  They learned about planting, harvesting, weighing, and presentation.  Laurie Kirchman, Radix’s Entrepreneurial Coordinator, taught the youth how to do online invoicing for the Farm Shares.  Youth also learned hands-on organic pest management techniques.  Click here for gardening pictures.

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Our aim was to steep them in enjoyable learning experiences in science, nature, and community.  The program demonstrates how to live sustainably in an urban setting, how to have more local access and control over essential resources such as food, water, waste, and energy, and how to use this knowledge to create a working green business model.

Week one introduced the youth to the neighborhood, to Radix, and all of the living systems and communities in both!

In week two, we learned about compost and recycling, with some demos at Radix and a tour of the County Waste Recycling Facility! It was large, loud, and impressive – a lot of this region’s recyclable waste is sorted there!  Click here for more pictures.

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In our third week, we visited Soul Fire Farm in Grafton. It was a great opportunity to connect with land and each other in ways it can be hard to do in the city. We explored the land, harvested hundreds of heads of garlic, and cooked an awesome burrito meal together, with food harvested from the farm!

We brought all of that energy back with us to Radix, and with fresh eyes we saw just how much life truly exists in the city.  Back at Radix, we discussed urban biodiversity and explored our surroundings with new vision.

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Week four was a group favorite. We went down to the Corning Preserve Boat Launch, and launched a floating island wetlands restorer into the Hudson. The restorer was built as a participatory project by local youth earlier this year.  It consists of repurposed used plastic bottles wrapped together to create a buoyant matrix to which water-filtering wetlands plants are affixed.  The root mass of the plants creates attachment sites for microbial biofilms that can assist in the degradation of biological pollutants in a water column.  Pictures here!  

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Afterwards, we went kayaking in the Hudson River. None of the group had been down here before, even though some of them live only a few blocks away! It was great to connect with the peace and openness of the river, without having to leave the city. Everyone had lots of fun, and many of the youth tried (and enjoyed!) kayaking for the first time.  Click for more pictures!

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We also built rainwater catchment barrels this week.  We reused 55 gallon drums that had been used for food storage to make DIY rain barrels for AVillage’s Our Children’s Garden. The process involved cutting out the top, drilling an overflow hole on the top side, installing a bulkhead and faucet on the bottom side, and covering the top with screen to prevent critters and mosquitos from accessing the stored water. It has been placed under the downspout at the garden. It was great to see the youth help each other get over their discomfort with power tools, so that every one could contribute to the project.  More pictures here.

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Week five was a wrap-up week, celebrating the work and learning we’d done together. We visited Grafton Lake, and in another first for some, explored the beautiful undeveloped lake in boats.  Pictures here.

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Our last day together, we harvested veggies from the garden and prepared food for a lunch feast. We made zucchini-carrot muffins, salsa fresca, kale salad with pear and parmesan, a carrot/savoy cabbage slaw with a creamy miso dressing, basil pesto, and turkey burgers. It was a fun and tasty way to end our time together.  More pictures here.

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We’re all looking forward to working with some of the youth during the school year, and meeting new young people next summer!

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