Student Success Story: Maya Stansberry at KCC Urban Farm

CEWD KCC Urban Farm 1 9.15.14If you’ve read any of our recent posts about KCC Urban Farm, you’ve probably seen photos of one of our most dedicated and energetic student aides: Maya Stansberry. Before the holidays I sat down with Maya to talk about her work on the farm and her future plans in urban agriculture.

What is your interest in urban farming and where did it come from?

Growing up, gardening was a pastime that my mother and relatives eagerly shared, and something that I learned to appreciate as well as enjoy. While my family has no professional/educational background with gardening, we always had gardens or small, indoor greenhouses going on somewhere. As a result, and I feel like a hippie saying this, I love being outside and connecting with the earth. There’s something exciting about putting something in the earth and getting something else back.

I wouldn’t say that my interest in urban farming comes from growing up in Baltimore, but more comes from growing up in a family with a southern/country heritage where gardening/farming incidentally runs in the family (my fraternal grandfather, who grew up on a farm, has his own vegetable garden which I helped tend to in my early teens; my maternal grandmother has a vegetable garden at her church; my mom encouraged my siblings and I to attempt to grow things, etc.).

How did you get connected with KCC Urban Farm?

CEWD KCC Urban Farm 2 9.15.14I had chosen to study at KCC for the Culinary Arts program, which was appealing both from a financial standpoint as well as the fact that it kept my options open. I guess you could say my reasons for not going to ICC or CIA were for financial. The real appeal to KCC was that it came with a degree, not just a certificate, and a liberal arts foundation which I liked, as I was encouraged by my mentors to keep in mind transferring for further education. But what really sealed the deal was when I found out there was a farm on campus.

While I was seeking to get in contact with the culinary arts program director, I saw a flyer on the door of the Tourism and Hospitality department about volunteering at KCC Urban Farm which I thought was unbelievable and immediately checked it out.

IMG_1702What do you do on the Farm?

In addition to farm maintenance, planting and harvesting, I led cooking demonstrations and have led a few on campus panels about local/global food systems and healthy eating. (more information about these activities below)

Did you work while you were at KCC?

This last semester I was interning at Lot 2, a farm-to-table restaurant in Park Slope, while also working as a baker at Made Fresh Daily in the Financial District that focuses on fresh, local and organic American cooking.

Do you have a specific educational/career track?

Well, I just graduated from KCC with my degree in Culinary Arts. A few weeks ago I got an acceptance letter for an apprenticeship with the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in California. It’s a 6-month program that combines education, farming and business. After that, my path is still open. I’m considering an Environmental Design program at Buffalo, or maybe Brooklyn College’s Urban Sustainability program.

As for a career, it would be creating spaces for young adults/families to collaborate in kitchens and farms to learn new skills, build on old skills, and unearth/nurture their power to create. Essentially I’d like a career that allows me to take part in educating people and give them the tools to make farming and cooking a part of their lives, so that they can feel more connected with their capabilities to be self-sustaining.

Did you participate in any food sustainability/farm events, on/off-campus workshops, conferences and/or demonstrations?

Oh yeah. All that good stuff. Especially having Silvia (Silvia Torres, Farm Manager), expose us, the student aides, to available opportunities. She’s probably the coolest person I’ve ever met because she’s great at including everyone in the work that needs to be done on and off the farm. Plus she gives a vibe that she wants to see everyone succeed, and that in itself is very energizing.

As far as workshops go, another student aide, Daphne Brunache, and I created a really cool workshop together as a part of the KCC Reads Eating Animals conference. The workshop we put together was called “Making Seasonality a Reality” where we talked about how to make seasonal eating work in our city. We talked about food systems and how the act, or lack of seasonality, can affect the sustainability of a food system. We gave people an overview of what foods are local to the New York region according to the four seasons, and opened up conversation about challenges that we face and how we might overcome them. We also gave people an introduction to the Farm—surprisingly there are many people on campus who still don’t know we exist.

During harvest season of the farm I ran the cooking demonstrations on the farm or at KCC’s Single Stop office. The mixture of creating recipes, gathering food the morning of harvest, and 10347616_799270403428310_6608861896861844107_ntalking to people made for a really fun experience. Students and faculty would come back willing to talk about what they made the week before—how they adapted the recipes to fit the produce they took home and what other ingredients were available in their kitchens. Going through life and also by studying culinary arts, you begin to learn that recipes are just ideas, so I love to hear how people are able to open up once they know the basics.

Tell me something I don’t know about the Farm.

We have an apple tree that just magically appeared.

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