This is the first installment of “Our Food”, a series of interviews with Kingstonians about their relationship to food. Kaycee Wimbish is the farmer and creator of the Kingston YMCA Farm Project, located behind the Y at 507 Broadway. The Farm Project has a farm market at the Y on Thursdays and a mobile market that Kaycee propels via bike! For readers who are unfamiliar with the Farm Project, here is the logo of the Farm Project and a bit from their website at http://www.kingstonymcafarmproject.org/:
“Great things are growing at the Kingston YMCA Farm Project! The quarter acre farm uses organic methods to grow fruits and vegetables from arugula to zucchini. The Farm is a place of education and community food production: Young people in the Y’s after school programs and Camp Starfish work in the garden, learning first hand how to grow food. The Dig Kids program employs urban youth to work on the farm and at our farm stand. Pre-school aged children are invited to Little Farmers, where we read garden stories, work in the garden, and make a farm snack. We provide hands-in-the-dirt experiences for school groups, camps, and organizations.
The Farm Project also hosts community work days and farm based events, providing opportunities for people of all ages to contribute to the farm. We have two farm stands, a bike powered mobile market and a stationary stand in the lobby of the YMCA. We accept SNAP and WIC and Department of the Aging FMNP checks.”
Kaycee Wimbish of The Kingston YMCA Farm Project was interviewed by Trish Hawkins, of Eat Well Kingston and South Pine Street City Farm.
Trish: Kaycee, how did you eat when you were growing up? What are your early memories of food?
KAYCEE: My mom cooked most nights and I remember a lot of pork chops, spaghetti, green beans, hamburgers from the grill, corn on the cob, and beef stroganoff. We all got half of a grapefruit most nights. We also ate out a lot. But my family almost always ate dinner together which I really appreciate. When I was 15 I became a vegetarian and I started doing some of my own cooking.
I associate certain foods with my grandparents. My grandpa made pancakes on the weekends and always said, “hot cakes, get them while they are hot.” My grandma cooked for the whole family for most holidays and I associate her with lamb and mint jelly, scalloped potatoes, and jello molds.
KAYCEE: I went to college in New Orleans and became quite interested in vegetarian cooking during that time. It wasn’t easy being a vegetarian in New Orleans and I missed out on some amazing food, but that is when I learned to cook (and went to my first Whole Foods). My mentor was Mollie Katzen as I cooked many, many dishes from the Enchanted Broccoli Forest and learned to cook by following recipes.
Trish: What is something that you might share with us about nutrition and the importance/enjoyment of organically grown food to you and your family?
KAYCEE: Vegetables are the best thing ever and we should all be eating more of them. My family prioritizes organic food and we spend a significant portion of our budget on food because it is a priority.
Trish: How did you become a farmer?
KAYCEE: I was living and teaching elementary school in Manhattan, and I was getting very restless with both New York and my job. After spending my summer vacations working on farms, I decided to take the plunge. I wanted to be within a few hours of NYC, so I began looking for farms in the Hudson Valley. I landed at Hearty Roots in Tivoli and worked there for seven years. I learned everything I know about growing vegetables from Benjamin Shute and Miriam Latzer.
Trish: What do you like/treasure about the experience of farming and the Farm Project?
KAYCEE: I love growing food. It is such an empowering process and converts us into a producer instead of a consumer. I love sharing food with people and providing people with healthy food. Food connects us all as we all eat and we all need food. The Kingston YMCA Farm Project is in such a public place and people are always wandering by and eager to share their experiences growing food.
Trish: What is your favorite food and why?
KAYCEE: My favorite food is the beet. You can do so many different things with it: boil it, eat it raw, roast it, and I make a chocolate cake with it. You can also eat the entire plant which I love!
Trish: Do you have any ideas/plans for the future that you’d like to share?
KAYCEE: I am really excited to grow the youth employment program, the Dig Kids. Eventually I would like the youth to be warriors of good and accessible food in Kingston. I’d love for them to become Community Chefs teaching their peers, neighbors, and community how to cook up delicious vegetables.
Thanks, Kaycee, for this interview. Other Kingston citizens who have stories about their special relationship to food and health will be interviewed in the future. If you would like to share your thoughts with the Eat Well blog via interview, please contact Trish at firstname.lastname@example.org.