Growing with Our Children: The Springs Community Seedlings Project
Nestled north of the village of East Hampton is Springs, a neighborhood filled with both local traditions and an artistic past (Jackson Pollock is just one of the many artists who called Springs his home). I visited the Springs School this May to find out about their three-year old farming initiative, “The Springs Community Seedlings Project.” The project was the initial vision of two local chefs, Joseph Realmuto of Nick and Toni’s in East Hampton and Bryan Futerman of Foody’s located in Water Mill. Their fundraising led to the construction of a large greenhouse tucked next to the school’s playground and a garden which will celebrate its first birthday this summer. The garden boasts an array of fruit and veg including radishes, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and herbs. Teachers and close to 900 students have full access to both spaces throughout the school day, and after-school, to conduct lessons and put their hands in the dirt.
Thanks to a recent grant, the project is conducting its first summer program, “Seedlings Farm.” Forty students, ages 8-12 will be busy tending to their own garden as well as volunteering at neighboring farms to help harvest crops, which they will then donate to the local food pantry. Students will explore the environment with Group for the East End – identifying rocks, native plants and local wildlife and with the East Hampton Town Hatchery – clamming in Three Mile Harbor during the summer and helping to reseed clam beds in the Fall. The program is rounded out with lessons in cooking, photography and poetry. Throughout the project students will document their experiences and come together to produce a group portfolio, their theme being, “Stewardship of the Environment.”
The Seedlings are sponsored by Project MOST, a local 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to high quality after-school programs for children. In addition to running the Seedling’s after-school programs, Project MOST has sponsored two Springs School teachers to attend the Edible Schoolyard Adademy in Berkeley, California this summer. The experience gained will help to increase the scope of the greenhouse and garden program within the school day.
Funding, of course, is a crucial element to the program’s success. To sustain and expand the capacity of the program requires deep financial commitments from the community. To aid in fundraising, Project MOST and The Seedlings Project hold a multitude of fundraisers year-round, the largest of which is A Taste of Land & Sea coming up this July 8, 2011.