Passionate About a Community’s Food
Current member Kaycee Wimbish of YMCA Farm Project’s
Compiled by Jodi La Marco
Kaycee Wimbish, founder of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, is passionate about her community. Here’s what she had to say about The Hudson Valley Current, and how it ties in with her dream of creating a sustainable Hudson Valley.
What inspired you to start YMCA Farm project and when did you launch?
Our first season was in 2014. I had been a teacher, and then a farmer, and I was interested in being able to combine those two passions of mine. I wanted to use growing food and an urban farm for community building, and to have more ability to reach a group of people who weren’t necessarily being reached by the local food and CSA movement. I also wanted to have that educational component so that kids could experience what it’s like to grow foods and eat extremely fresh foods.
What do you think kids are learning from YMCA programs, and what do you think it’s doing for the community at large?
For many kids, it’s their first experience of seeing how food grows. Part of their curriculum at school is learning the parts of the plant and what a plant needs to survive. Then they’re able to come here and see that firsthand. They also begin to make the connection that everything they eat comes from a farm. We also try to do a lot of cooking with the kids so that they’re able to have a positive experience with vegetables.
Kids are excited to come here, but they’ve never actually tasted some of these things. Sometimes, they’ve never seen certain vegetable varieties and don’t know what they are. Giving them the experience to actually prepare the food and then eat it is really powerful and important.
I think the biggest way we connect to the community is by setting up at places that are easily accessible. We want to get fresh produce to people who haven’t always had access to it or who haven’t felt included in the local food movement. Maybe they can’t get to the farmers market, or maybe they just don’t feel comfortable there. We want to make sure that as the Hudson Valley revitalizes, lower-income folks and communities that are already disenfranchised don’t get left behind.
What makes YMCA’s farm stands different from traditional farm stands?
Because we are a nonprofit, we are essentially subsidized so we can keep our prices low. We take food stamps and we take Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks. We’re also going to places where people already are. The mobile market goes to Yosman Towers, which is senior housing. We go there because for many of them, they can’t go somewhere else to get food.
How has the YMCA Farm Project grown, and how would you like to see that growth continue?
This year, we’ve definitely been able to increase our production. We’ve added seven beds to the farm. We’ve increased our number of people served, and we’re continuing to work on that. One demographic we’re always trying to reach are people who get WIC and Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks. The last statistic I read is that only 55 percent of those get used, so we’re always trying to figure out how to better reach those folks.
How do you support the local economy?
With the youth program, part of what we really want to do is expose young people to job opportunities, specifically in the local food movement. There’s so much growth in that industry, and we want to give kids the opportunity to see what those opportunities are.
Why does the Kingston YMCA Farm Project use Currents? How does using local currency fit in with your vision of community sustainability?
I believe in spending your money locally, and I think that the Hudson Valley Current is such an important way to be able to do that. We need a lot of support services, like designers and printers, and we try to really emphasize using local people and local businesses. I know that our printer, Prime Print Shop in Poughkeepsie, uses it and was excited to hear that we would be using it. We recently purchased tomatoes with Currents from Seed Song Farm in Kingston for our annual fundraiser dinner. When I look at the list of participating businesses or service providers who use Currents, I know that we are of the same mindset, and are trying to prioritize the local economy and the building up of local businesses. That makes me much more inclined to use their services. Knowing that those businesses are out there and that they’re on the same wavelength is really exciting.