The Underground Center (UGC) is a charitable 501(c)(3) grassroots non-profit dedicated to researching, practicing and sharing ways of living that are sustainable and socially just. Some examples of what we practice and teach are organic food growing, natural building techniques, off grid infrastructure like rain catches and solar electric, and economic models of sharing labor and resources.
In this time of environmental, economic, and social crises we believe the ideas and systems we investigate should be shared for free – and it is most important to share these skills with young people who have historically been locked out of the current sustainability-workshop culture. These are the folks best served to make critical change in our time. Since we don’t charge our participants we need your help to run our programs.
In 2018 our goal is to focus on projects that form experiential learning opportunities for local youth. One of these projects is to develop our newly acquired educational site. Our other project is to continue the Saugerties Free Food Program.
This year our focus is to develop our newly acquired educational site as a model of just land use and local resilient living. This work includes responsibly clearing forest and converting it into space for growing food, planting trees to protect the creek that runs through the property, building off grid infrastructure like solar electric, rain catchments and gravity fed water, establishing gardens and creating compost, and building structures to support our work like a tool shed and a greenhouse.
This summer, we will be working with local college inters to document our projects and share them on our website. In addition to photographing and explaining our work, we will also share detailed examples and schematics of off grid system designs. We will also be publishing curriculum that we use in the gardens and at local schools to teach young people the importance of sustainable practices and the skills to realize them.
These building projects will be structured as a learning experience for local youth. Along with teaching varied building skills, our infrastructure
projects are a direct effort to dismantle the current economic and cultural barriers that exist to sustainable living. Our organization’s primary mission is to teach young people who are economically disadvantaged and the most marginalized in our communities how to build inexpensive sustainable structures. These skills can then be used to build houses for their friends and families, build a home for themselves, or to start businesses or cooperatives to build sustainable homes in the community.
A second project we are leading is the Saugerties Free Food Program. This project is designed to be both an educational experience for the kids involved, and a model to demonstrate how residents can grow food locally and sustainably.
This work takes place as workshops in local schools where UGC staff teach kids soil building, and food growing techniques. Also, we introduce students to the science and philosophy of resilient and socially just environmentalism we advocate at the UGC.
We also manage a network of gardens to host experiential education programming. The gardens are overseen by our staff and interns, as well as the kids from the Saugerties Boys & Girls Club. The food from these gardens go toward healthy cooked meals for the kid and a local free farmers market.
Our work is split between the Saugerties High School garden, the B&GC garden, a community garden created from a previously empty lot in town (Re:seed Saugerties), and a small scale farm at the UGC site. The kids involved in this program gain experience farming in various conditions and learn how to grow, harvest and cook a diverse and delicious local diet. As we share what we learn, this cooperative growing system can be adopted by homes and organizations in Saugerties and beyond as a viable alternative to our environmentally destructive and expensive commercial agriculture system.