They call themselves a company. Yasser, a rising eighth grader, says, “We’re called Brothers & Friends. I’m the founding father.”
Sixth-grader Ari corrects him. “Co-founding father. We all work together.”
For the last two weeks, these four middle-school interns–Yasser, Ari, Gabriel, and Nathaniel–have been taking the CitySprouts summer experience to the next level: not just taking care of an existing school garden, but building a new one from scratch.
“We thought there was some space that wasn’t getting used,” Ari says, gesturing around the courtyard of the King Open School. “We decided we could grow some extra stuff.”
By all accounts, Yasser–a returning CitySprouts intern–is the mastermind behind the operation. Armed with the garden knowledge he learned from his last summer with CitySprouts, he felt ready on day one to build a garden of his very own. He quickly attracted helpers, who easily match his enthusiasm. Every afternoon at one o’clock, when the work day for most CitySprouts interns comes to an end, the Brothers & Friends interns stay for at least an hour and a half to work on their garden, which now includes three beds with a fourth on the way.
The crew considers their work day carefully. “Today we have to finish sifting compost,” Ari says. “Yesterday the sifter broke and we had to staple it back together.”
With four garden beds, their plans are certainly ambitious. So far they have planted scallions, walking onions, and a young raspberry bush transplanted from the main garden. Their beds are in a shady spot, which they admit may present obstacles. But they are nothing if not resourceful: “We’re going to plant mushrooms,” Yasser explains.
What drives four middle-school boys to put in this kind of work? “I don’t see it as work — it’s just beneficial,” Ari says. Gabriel chimes in: “It’s good for your health. It’s good for your mood. When I get angry, it makes me feel better.”
Visitors to the King Open Garden Expo on Thursday, August 20 will have the chance to see the Brothers & Friends garden for themselves, and meet these remarkable young people. Yasser, who attends the Cambridge Street Upper School, intends to continue maintaining the garden into the school year.