by Jodi LaMarco
The Kingston YMCA Farm project is the brainchild of farmer and educator Kaycee Wimbish and Lee Anne Albritton, the center’s former childcare director. Albritton has since gone across the river to become director of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, but Wimbish remains at the YMCA, implementing creative programs for kids and providing access to fresh, organic produce for all.
Wimbish is a former elementary school teacher, and had also been involved in large-scale farming before joining the YMCA.
“I wanted to focus my efforts on urban farming and on incorporating education into that,” she says. Together, Wimbish and Albritton planned and raised funds for the Kingston YMCA project, and in 2014, the quarter-acre farm in midtown Kingston was born.
Small though it may be, Wimbish is milking the potential of this tiny plot. Camp Starfish is a six-week day camp hosted by the YMCA, a program Wimbish says has evolved as the needs of kids and families have become more apparent.
“The kids were so excited to harvest stuff and work in the garden, but a lot of them didn’t know what the vegetables were,” she says. Campers work in the garden once per week, but are also given lessons on how to prepare the vegetables by a chef from the Chefs’ Consortium. New to the program this year, families in the Camp Starfish program will have the option to buy a bag of vegetables that correspond to weekly recipes for just four dollars.
The YMCA also offers a youth employment program called Dig Kids. Through the program, three children between the ages of 14 and 16 will be hired to work on the farm and in the farm stand over the summer.
“It’s meant to be a first employment opportunity,” says Wimbish. “They’re learning basic job skill in the context of also learning about food production and customer service.”
Wimbish is also something of a farm stand pioneer, bringing fresh produce to places few vegetables have gone before. On Tuesdays throughout the season, the intrepid farmer loads veggies into a special trailer which she often hauls via bicycle to locations throughout Kingston. The so-called mobile farm stand makes stops at Kingston Hospital, the Kingston Public Library, and the Yosman Tower senior housing complex.
“The whole idea of the distribution of the food is to make it accessible and affordable, in the town specifically, and to attempt to remove as many barriers as possible for people to access fresh local foods,” she says. The farm stand also accepts all forms of public assistance, such as SNAP and WIC. In conjunction with Good Flavor Farm, the YMCA hosts a weekly farm stand in its lobby every Thursday between 3:30-6pm until the end of October.
The little farm also has big plans to expand. Communities of the Hudson Valley gave the YMCA a $4,000 Farm Fresh Food grant which it will use to enlarge its physical growing space this fall.
“There’s a vision to turn the whole six acres owned by the YMCA into a much more accessible, user-friendly public park facility,” Wimbish says. “It’s a long-range plan, but the farm would work into that vision and has the potential to expand within that vision.”
Kingston YMCA Farm Project