Newsletter, Spring 2021

Welcome to the PSN’s first newsletter since our launch back in the wintry depths of January. It’s an exciting time – and not only because our beautiful Hudson Valley home will soon be in full spring bloom. The PSN’s first programs and collaborations are underway, new projects are being planned, and a small but dedicated network of neighbors has come together to grow, learn, support each other, and help feed their community this summer through the simple act of gardening.

The newsletter includes updates on projects, info on things we have planned in the next few months, upcoming events, and some resources of sustainability, resilience, food production, and ecology we hope you find as interesting/useful as we did.

Finally, there’s a link to a survey at the end that takes ~15-20 minutes to complete. We want to know what your priorities are for a sustainable, resilient Peekskill, and hear from people interested in collaborating to make these projects happen.

Thanks for following and Happy Spring!

PROJECTS

Start A Garden / Feed Your Neighbors

Everyone with a backyard or even a windowsill can grow a portion of their own food. Everyone, regardless of income, should have access to fresh, locally-grown produce. Taken together, these two ideals form the backbone of our first project, Start A Garden / Feed Your Neighbors.

Designed to encourage hyper-local food production and support local nutritional assistance programs, PSN is harnessing the combined growing power of volunteer gardeners to get fresh produce where it’s needed most. So far, the project has:

  • Enlisted 17 volunteer gardeners from across Peekskill and of varying experience levels to get growing;
  • Provided gardeners with organic, heirloom seeds for 24 different varieties of vegetables, including corn, tomatoes, squash, beans, greens, and more;
  • Provided custom growing advice for each variety of seed we distributed;
  • Collaborated with the Peekskill Regeneration Farm to offer gardeners additional growing expertise;
  • Hosted a social media page for sharing progress, photos, and encouragement.

We’ve also coordinated with local gardeners to source of 20 varieties of vegetables, herbs, and fruit for a new educational gardening program launching this spring at Woodside Elementary School.

Pop-Up Micro-Nurseries

Inspired by Lobelia Commons’ Decentralized Nursery in the great city of New Orleans, we’re encouraging Peekskill gardeners with seedlings to spare to create their own pop-up micro-nurseries throughout the city. It’s simple!

  1. When planning your garden, plant extra starters or buy a few extra seedlings from the nursery.
  2. Get a small display set up (a table, shelving system, ladder, etc.) somewhere accessible on your property – or a public space you’ve gotten permission from.
  3. Place a sign near the nursery that says ‘FREE’ – you can use this template or make your own.
  4. Let people know! Share the location, hours, and types of plants available on social media. Or, shoot us an email and we’ll add your pop-up nursery to our map.

Plan your nursery to be open in mid- to late May, when the gardening season really gets going and people are looking for plants. Keep them watered in a nice sunny spot and watch as they get snatched up!

RESOURCES

Reinhabit The Hudson Estuary

Are you familiar with the term bioregionalism? Wikipedia defines it as a philosophy which suggests that political, cultural, and economic systems are more sustainable and just if they are organized around naturally defined areas called bioregions. Natural features such as watersheds and mountain ranges replace arbitrary political boundaries; we become residents not of Peekskill in New York State, but inhabitants of Mough-hikan-ituck – the Arm of the Sea that Flows Both Ways, or, the Hudson Estuary – in the bioregion of Laurentia, stretching from Newfoundland to Minnesota.

Intruder, illustration by Carol Zaloom

An interesting way to think about things, and perhaps a useful thought experiment to help us better identify with, and properly care for, this place we inhabit.

Reinhabit The Hudson Estuary, a project by a New Paltz-based collective of artists, ecologists, and designers, guides us towards this new way of thinking through a collection of essays engravings, maps, and poems. Check out their amazing The Hudson Estuary as Bioregion map, complete with regional totem plants and animals – Peekskill’s is the Red Ash.

Inhabit: Territories – Grow; an earthbound guide to the arts of existence

Inhabit is a newsletter and self-described open source library of collective intelligence on art, permaculture, design, community organizing, and more. They’re the brains behind the ongoing #1400challenge, encouraging those who can to put their stimulus checks towards small projects that build local autonomy – free micro-nurseries, community fridges, etc.

Their March newsletter, Grow, is dedicated to that greatest of springtime activities – gardening – with a focus on community food security. Check out the cool video on sunchokes aka Jerusalem artichokes (who knew partisans in World War II planted hidden plots of these in the forest for sustenance?), an essay on adapting to the Gulf Coast’s changing climate by planting banana trees, and this very unorthodox approach to growing tomatoes.

RetroSuburbia: The Downshifter’s Guide to a Resilient Future

David Holmgren, one of the co-originators of the permaculture concept, has made this massive, 500+ page book available online for a pay-what-you-feel fee (the hard copy is about $70 USD); you can download it here. Written with an Australian audience in mind, the book is still useful for suburbanites in North America seeking to “downshift” to a more sustainable, less energy-intensive future. Includes sections on energy, water use, gardening, alternative living arrangements, disaster planning, and more, with case studies.

EVENTS

April 21, 6PM – Bountiful Westchester – Free Webinar

In celebration of Earth Day, local landscaper PLAN it WILD will host a free expert panel discussing rewilding, sustainable yards, and the latest research on Westchester’s canopy cover. Panelists include Peter Groffman Ph.D. (CUNY), Midge Iorio (Bedford 2030), Peter McCartt (Westchester County), and Andy Reinmann Ph.D. (CUNY). Register here.

April 24 – Home Composter & Rain Barrel Sale, Spring 2021

The Peekskill Conservation Advisory Council is partnering with the Greenburgh Nature Center to bring reduced cost rain barrels and food scraps composters to Peekskill residents – composters are $65 and rain barrels are $75. Order yours at the link above and pick up at Depew Park on April 24th from 9am to 12 pm (near Veteran’s Memorial Pool).

April 30 – Peekskill CAC Environmental Film Series

The CAC’s Environmental Film Series continues on Friday, April 30th with a watch party at 6:30 and panel discussion at 7:30. Last month’s event showcased “Hope on the Hudson” by filmmaker Jon Bowermaster, and included partnerships with local food purveyor Samosa Shack and Dylan’s Wine Cellar. April’s film is TBD; check Eventbrite and our Twitter for the registration link soon.

Every Sunday through Spring – Morning Practice at Regeneration Farm

Readings, meditation, and farm work sponsored by the Peekskill NAACP Environmental Justice and Climate Committee. Every Sunday from 7AM to 9AM at Regeneration Farm, 800 Main Street (Lepore Park).

SURVEY

Our community survey is live here (and here, in Spanish). Take 15-20 minutes to get in touch, share your thoughts, and let us know what your ideas / concerns are.

As always, reach out to info [at] sustainablepeekskill [dot] net or find us on Twitter @SustainablePeek – get in touch!

Start A Garden │ Feed Your Neighbors

Join PSN’s 2021 Food Donation Pilot Program and Strengthen Peekskill’s Food Security

PSN is looking to support long-time backyard gardeners and help new ones get started by providing free, organic seeds and connecting participants with local nutritional assistance programs in the city. Here’s how it works:

  1. Complete this form (o este en español); tell us what you’d like to grow, how many seed packets you’d like, what kind of space you’re working with, and where we should send the seeds (all information will be kept private).
  2. In early March (or thereabouts) we’ll send you organic vegetable and/or herb seeds, with advice for planting and a timeline for harvesting.
  3. Throughout the growing season, we’ll check in by email to see what’s ready to harvest and offer growing advice if needed.
  4. Every 1 to 2 weeks, we’ll coordinate pick-ups and drop-offs of fresh herbs and vegetables for donation to a local food pantry or soup kitchen.

Pretty simple, right?

Backyard, front yard, window sill, fire escape – whatever kind of space you have, you can grow some of your own food. We’ll send you seeds that are suitable for whatever your situation is.

There is no pressure to grow pounds and pounds of food: the idea is to make your best effort, get your hands dirty, and have fun. By working collectively, we don’t need to grow a lot on our own – we just need to share what we can spare.

That said, the more people who participate, the greater impact we’ll make – so share this invitation far and wide! (within Peekskill, anyway).

That said, supplies are limited. We’ll do our best to accommodate everyone, but registration will close once we run out of seeds. (If you want to participate but don’t need the seeds, by all means, register: just let us know in the comments a) that you don’t need seeds, and b) what you’re planning on growing).

Any questions? Reach out to info@sustainablepeekskill.net or find us on Twitter. We’ll also keep a thread going in the Forum throughout the growing season for questions, comments, and encouragement.

The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.

Joel Salatin

Header Image: “NY Peekskill 1911” by snapshotsofthepast.com is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Founding Statement – Why a Peekskill Sustainability Network?

Hi! Thanks for being here. If you’re reading this, you’re either a) a Peekskill resident, b) a community activist, c) an environmentalist and/or nature enthusiast and/or gardener, or d) all of the above – and that’s great, because that’s who this platform is designed for. (If you’re only one or even none of these things, feel free to stick around and get involved, anyway).

Background

My name is Chris, and my wife Lis and I will have lived in Peekskill three years this coming April. I’ve been concerned about climate change for as long as I’ve understood the consequences of the problem, and that concern has informed my graduate studies, my work, my hobbies – it even played a role in us moving to Peekskill (the tightknit, walkable downtown; the ability to raise our family with an appreciation for and close proximity to nature; the privilege of having a backyard to grow food and make compost; etc.). I have a background in urban sustainability and I’ve sat on the city’s Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) since shortly after moving here.

In 2019, members of the CAC submitted the proposal “Peekskill 2030: Road to Resilience” in the Peekskill Community Congress, a community-wide event for presenting, voting on, and then implementing beneficial grassroots projects. “Peekskill 2030” proposed the creation of a city task force made up of a cross-section of Peekskill residents and stakeholders, charged with creating a 10-year plan for making the city more resilient, sustainable, and prepared for the future. The idea resonated with a lot of people, but unfortunately not enough to make the Top 3 projects.

This was a shame and a missed opportunity, and in many ways the Peekskill Sustainability Network is an effort to rekindle that conversation. But whereas Peekskill 2030 centers around a formalized city task force and depends on close involvement with City Hall, the PSN is meant to be more informal, grassroots, and neighbor-led. I’m not opposed to working with and through government, but I’m interested in what we can get done independently, at the household, block, and neighborhood level.

Purpose & Format

The PSN will hopefully serve two purposes: 1) to amplify and support sustainability, environmental, and mutual aid work that’s already taking place in and around Peekskill, and 2) to serve as a big tent and online gathering place for likeminded individuals to propose ideas, request support, share information, and organize together. We’ll also collect useful resources on things like energy efficiency upgrades, organic gardening and urban farming, suburban rewilding and habitat restoration, and more.

Hopefully, the actions that members are inspired to undertake on their own, and the collaborative projects that develop as a result of our discussions, will eventually start to constitute something like the vision outlined in Peekskill 2030: a cleaner, healthier, and more resilient city – not to mention a support network of neighbors with similar interests and concerns.

I’ve already listed a few of my own ideas here as a way of jumpstarting the conversation, but my hope is that this project list will grow as more people share their thoughts, gravitate towards ideas they like, and start collaborating together in the real world. These conversations can start in the Forum and on the PSN’s social media channels, before eventually shifting to in-person gatherings in a post-COVID future.

I’ve chosen this Forum format, at least in the beginning, because I like the archival quality of a message board and the ability to revisit and add to ideas over time. It’ll also allow people to drop in and contribute on schedules that work for them.

Why Now?

The short answer is, If not now, when?

If you’re here and reading this, you likely don’t need to be reminded of the extreme urgency with which we need to address climate change and transform the way our society functions. As the scientists, environmentalists, and a few brave politicians have been pointing out, we might have as little as a decade to take the kinds of actions necessary to avert irreversible and potentially catastrophic impacts. In other words: we needed to get to work yesterday.

The longer answer: The past ten months of the COVID-19 pandemic have hammered home just how fragile so many of our systems are – from food, to housing, to healthcare – and just how important strong community bonds can be in difficult times. Climate change threatens to push all those systems and more to their limits, making the insecurity we’ve seen throughout COVID an ongoing, long-term problem that only gets worse. Every forward-thinking city and community should be thinking about these challenges, and laying the groundwork now for their own food security and climate resilience.

Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday March 11, 2020

The good news is, I think Peekskill can meet these challenges – I wouldn’t have chosen to live here if I didn’t. My hope is that the PSN can connect other Peekskillers who feel the same way, and who are committed to being an active part of this undertaking in whatever capacity interests them.

If you’re interested in learning more and getting involved, you can read our Community Guidelines here, then register for and start using the Forum. Or, send me an email at info [at] sustainablepeekskill [dot] net. Finally, you can also follow us on Twitter.

I’m looking forward to hearing from and working with you!