Inspiration and Information Sprout at Seeds to Schools Workshop

(Photo credit – Suzanne Clary/Jay Heritage Center)

From the Rye Record

More than 60 teachers, school administrators, parent volunteers, business owners, and representatives of non-profit organizations gathered on March 7, 2014 at the Jay Heritage Center (JHC) to share information about starting and sustaining school-based edible gardens.

Co-sponsored by the Rye YMCA and the Jay, “Seeds to Schools: Building Gardens, Building Communities” featured three panel discussions: The How To’s of Starting a Garden, Sustaining Your Garden, and Creating the Garden-Curriculum Connection. The panelists, who represented ten different schools and one business in Rye, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Port Chester, Dobbs Ferry, Katonah, and Mt. Kisco, shared experiences with their own gardens, evoking laughter, nods of recognition and lots of note taking.

Eighth graders Jackie Ascensio and Paula Torres opened the conference by telling the crowd how working in the Hommocks Middle School garden is not only a source of pleasure and learning, but also helps them cope with the stress of school. During breaks in the program, attendees were also able to visit informational tables set up by representatives of the Greenburgh Nature Center’s “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” leaf mulching campaign, Hilltop Hanover Farm and Environmental Center, and Green Jay Landscaping.

Since 2008, the Rye YMCA has supported school-based edible gardens by connecting schools with the resources they need to start, expand or sustain their garden. This work has included: securing a $10,000 grant to fund garden pilot programs at Milton Elementary School in Rye, Daniel Warren Elementary School in Rye Neck, and Mamaroneck Avenue School in Mamaroneck; hosting an edible gardens workshop in 2011; and, in December 2013, awarding grants of $1,500 each to Port Chester Middle School, Thomas Edison Elementary School, and JFK Magnet School to support school gardens at these Port Chester schools.

“We believe that giving students the opportunity to get their hands dirty — literally — fosters healthy eating and physical activity habits that last a lifetime,” said Rye Y Executive Director Gregg Howells. “We were thrilled to have so many teachers, school administrators, and community members gathered in one room to share their passion for school gardens.”

JHC President Suzanne Clary said, “The Jay Heritage Center was delighted to partner with the Rye YMCA and to welcome so many dedicated educators to our site. We share their vision to sow the seeds of environmental stewardship and sustainable practices in the minds of our youngest citizens. Like the Y, we have worked for many years with generous grantors like Con Edison to promote conservation through our Stewardship through Smart Choices and Our Footprints Matter platforms for visitors of all ages and demographics. The ongoing restoration of the Jay Estate landscape and gardens is being guided by exactly these same healthy, holistic green principles.”

The Seeds to Schools workshop was organized by a group of dedicated community volunteers, including Betty Comerford (Hommocks Middle School), Lori Fontanes (blogger and backyard farmer), Perri McKinney (Murray Avenue School Garden), Anne Mottola (New York Botanical Garden, Kaleidoscope Garden Design), and Melissa Yanis (Rye Country Day School parent volunteer). This group will continue to work with the Rye Y and Jay Heritage Center to continue the momentum started at Seeds to Schools.