Community Spotlight: Queens College FNES Garden

by Casey Dalrymple
FNES Garden

Name: Queens College Family Nutrition and Exercise Science Garden

What They Do: Nestled behind Remsen Hall and covering the area of a basketball court, the FNES (pronounced “Finesse”) Garden was started by Professor Clare Consiglio to provide the Queens College Nutrition labs with fresh produce for the program’s classes and experiments. Since 2017, Professor Stacia Helfand has been running the Garden, growing Prof. Consiglio’s vision into a cornerstone of the community, both on campus and off, featuring a farmers market every Thursday that distributes fresh, organic produce to neighbors, students, staff, and faculty alike, free of charge.

How They Do It: The FNES Garden runs as a circular system, with very little going to waste. Whatever is not used in classes and labs is either turned into compost for the garden or distributed at the farmers market. It is always well-attended, with community members from around the neighborhood around Kissena Boulevard lining up well-before the market’s opening at 10 a.m, many of them bringing frisbees and speakers, making it a social event.

The Garden is a truly communal effort, working in collaboration with The Knights Table food pantry and run by a small staff, supplemented by the faculty, students, and community members. According to Prof. Helfand, this core group produces thousands of pounds of food annually, including leafy greens, tubers, squashes, peppers, alliums, fruits and berries, and herbs and flowers. 

Core Programs: In addition to holding the weekly free farmers market every Thursday, Professor Helfand uses the garden to teach seasonality and sustainability in the context of her nutrition program. In addition to conventional growing projects centered on tomatoes, peppers, and asparagus, the Garden team is also developing a Three Sisters soil bed of squash, corn, and beans and is in the process of creating a greenhouse to extend their growing season.

Interesting Fact: Queens College is a highly diverse institution, situated in the most ethnically diverse municipality in the world, with over 800 different languages spoken in Queens. Students are encouraged to bring their own seeds, produce, and practices to the garden, reflecting the rich tapestry of cultures in the program.

Location: Remsen Hall, Queens College, NY

Number of staff: Two staffers

Number of volunteers: 50 volunteers and participants

Areas served: Queens College and the surrounding Kissena Boulevard neighborhood

Year started: Since at least 2010

Program coordinator: Stacia Helfand, MEd, RDN, CDN

Contact Information: @qc_fnes_garden on Instagram


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