The FarmPlate Young Farmers Series: Doug DeCandia From the Food Bank for Westchester Food Growing Program
Jeff Gangemi Jul 05, 2012 Young Farmers 0 comments
NAME: Douglass DeCandia
Give a description of your farm and how you got into farming:
The Food Growing Program is a production operation and a vocational program. At each of our gardens, I, along with students, inmates and community volunteers grow food which is donated to the Food Bank and distributed throughout the county to individuals experiencing hunger. We have gardens on five sites throughout Westchester County (NY) including:
1) Leake & Watts - school for emotionally disabled youth (Yonkers)
2) Woodfield Cottage - school and juvenile corrections facility (Valhalla)
3) Westchester County Jail - penitentiary (Valhalla)
4) Edenwald - school for emotionally disabled youth (Pleasantville)
5) Westchester Land Trust - private residence (Bedford Hills)
Our production practices focus on producing high quality food through supporting a healthy soil environment. We feel strongly that a healthy soil produces healthy plants and thus healthy people who eat those plants. At each of our garden sites we provide a hands on education to as well as work directly with the "at-risk" populations at the site (students and inmates) to grow the food, all of which is donated to the Food Bank for Westchester.
I got into farming after learning about current environmental and social issues that are facing our local and international communities. I wanted to be a part of the progression toward what I feel are better ways, and to be active and connected while doing it.
What did you do before you started farming? Have you found it be an easy transition from your previous job?
I began my agricultural work while I was in college in Vermont. I did not have a career, other than a student, before then. I did find the transition from an “inside” student and idealist to an “outside” student and practitioner an easy one.
What made you choose New York?
I grew up in the Lower Hudson Valley of New York, in the town of Katonah in Westchester County. I went away to college, and while living and attending college in Vermont developed a passion for good work, environmental health and social well-being. I found that I could further develop these passions as well as my physical, emotional and spiritual journey through the practice of an ecological agriculture. I wanted to bring what I had learned, and what I had yet to learn, back to my home. So I returned and am grateful that I did.
What do you produce?
We grow vegetables and provide vocation skills training to “at risk” individuals.
What difficulties have you had, or are you overcoming, and how?
One of the biggest difficulties I have had is how to make money growing food. After a few years of producing food for sale, I found I did not enjoy the marketing or the limitations it created to who received the food I grew. I needed to find a way to make money growing food and to be able to provide what I grew to individuals with limited access to good food, without selling it. I found that ability through the Food Bank, who I currently work with.
What are your goals in the next 5-10 years?
To continue my education and skills as a practitioner of an agriculture which is based in ecology and focused on nutrition.
What advice do you have for any other young farmers who are just starting out?
Note: This post is part of FarmPlate's new series about young farmers. If you want to be included, know someone we should profile or have comments/questions about our series, please contact Jeff Gangemi at firstname.lastname@example.org.