Local Sustainability Emphasized at #PkEarthDay

On a rainy Friday afternoon, Poughkeepsie residents of all ages gathered in City Hall’s courtyard to celebrate Earth Day 2017 with music, food and educational information tables about local environmental groups.

“The weather wasn’t 100% on our side and it would’ve been great to see bigger crowds from Poughkeepsie,” said organizer Laurie Sandow. “But we have some great partners and tables here.”

Most tables involved local sustainability initiatives, such as the Poughkeepsie Plenty Fresh Market at Dutchess Outreach, the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, and the Environmental Cooperative at Vassar Gardens.

Sarah Salem from Dutchess Outreach emphasized the urban farming and hunger relief programs that the organization works on. “We have this mobile farmer’s market, which is in its third season, and along with that we have an urban farm in the back of our building that’s about 15,000 square feet where we grow our own produce. So we’re growing food right in the heart of Poughkeepsie and trying to provide for the local community.”

Salem along with other Dutchess Outreach workers.

Some of the farmed food from the urban plot of land goes directly to the Dutchess Outreach food pantry and is used in their hot meal program. Other produce is stocked in the mobile fresh market pictured above, which acts as a food truck selling the produce to local city residents. The mobile market also accepts public benefit assistance in exchange for the produce, according to Salem.

The mobile market attempts to address the issue of inaccessibility to local produce in Poughkeepsie, as well as local food waste. “We also try to glean fresh food from local markets that they can’t use, so we have great partnerships with places like the Poughkeepsie Farm Project and Fishkill farms,” said Salem. “We try to work with as many local farms as possible because the sad truth about farming is you almost always produce more than you sell, so that excess has to go somewhere and we try to take care of that and limit local food waste.”

The Poughkeepsie Farm Project was also in attendance at the Earth Day event. They use the same 15,000 acre plot of land mentioned by Salem to provide education initiatives for local elementary students, and their CSA program, which has about 500 shareholders according to Jamie Levato, Education Director at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project.

“We work with several thousand children and adults each year in our education programs,” said Levato. “We have annual summer programs for educators in terms of how to use gardens to teach, and we also have a ‘farm to school’ program in partnership with the City of Poughkeepsie schools. The kids come out to the farm for field trips and tastings, and we also come in and do cooking workshops and gardening lessons in the classroom.”

Another local sustainability group at the event was the Environmental Cooperative at Vassar Barns. “We’re out on the Vassar farm and ecological preserve right across from the Poughkeepsie Farm Project. We mainly do outreach programs like film screenings, talks, workshops out at the farms, as well as local clean ups and walks. We actually helped organize the clean ups and the March for Science tomorrow,” said Kat Rosemond, Outreach Coordinator for the Cooperative.

Rosemond at her table during the Earth Day event.

Other tables aimed to give residents information about renewable energy opportunities for their homes, health care solutions, and local affordable housing.

“I’ve been keeping up with developments in ecology for many years, and I’ve found that a lot of it revolves around what’s being done locally, so that’s why I came out today,” said lifelong Poughkeepsie resident Nick Kalogris. “It’s also just a great way to connect with the community and see old friends. And that’s the best way to find out what’s going on in Poughkeepsie. It’s the type of community that the more people you know, the more you learn about the community.”

In addition to the educational opportunities and local food, Grammy nominated, Blues Hall of Fame guitarist Joe Louis Walker played renditions of his own music along with selections of everything from The Beatles to gospel music. He was accompanied by Murali Coryell on vocals.

Coryell and Walker on stage in City Hall plaza.

Earth Day events continued Saturday with a city-wide park clean up in each ward and the Hudson Valley March For Science.

The Groundhog

An alternative news source for Poughkeepsie, New York, and environs, produced by journalism students at Marist College

Shannon Donohue

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The Groundhog

An alternative news source for Poughkeepsie, New York, and environs, produced by journalism students at Marist College