Nafisa’s Onondaga Earth Corps Chronicles: Chapter 2

Mid-summer harvesting at Salt City Harvest Farm in Kirkville, New York, where New Americans can grow crops from their family cultures. Photo by Nafisa Tabassum
Nafisa Tabassum:
Most of the week of July 13 was spent working at home because of a potential COVID-19 exposure, but fortunately I was back in the field by the end of the week. While I couldn’t spend much time in the field, I had several days to work on my AmeriCorps leadership project. As an AmeriCorps member, I must complete a set amount of hours doing direct service, such as pruning trees or tending green infrastructure. I am also responsible for completing a leadership project, which has to serve the community, Onondaga Earth Corps, or both.

My interests lie in urban forestry as well as urban agriculture. Syracuse has areas designated as food deserts, areas in where there is little to no adequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables. This is turn causes health and wellbeing issues for families and communities living in those areas; such issues are especially concerning during a pandemic. I was searching for a project that could benefit my community members who are affected by food deserts.

I reached out to Syracuse Grows, as organization I used to volunteer for when I was in college. I got in contact with Matt Potteiger, who is not formally involved with Syracuse Grows anymore but rather has his own farm in Kirkville called Salt City Harvest Farm, an incredible space where New Americans, particularly refugees, can cultivate their own fresh produce.

Matt suggested the idea of creating a guidebook for a few common garden weeds that are edible and high in nutritional value. That is how I came to be working on this project, a guidebook that will contain five common “weeds” and a short description as well as two recipes per plant.

Clearing weeds from around the greenhouse at Jubilee Farm in Syracuse.
On Friday the 17th, I worked at Jubilee Farm, an urban community-based farm located on the South Side of Syracuse. The Jubilee Farm is preparing to celebrate their anniversary in early August. This farm needed some love because people couldn’t in good conscience give their time in early spring when COVID-19 first appeared in New York. I cleared some small shrubby trees near the greenhouse and pulled copious amount of hedge bindweed, or morning glory, from in and around the raised beds. My favorite part was probably tasting the cherry tomatoes and admiring squash blossoms – I would highly recommend!

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