Students get early lesson in farming

JULIE LANE PHOTO Shelter Island students on a scavenger hunt for edible plants at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

JULIE LANE PHOTOS
Shelter Island students on a scavenger hunt for edible plants at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm.

It was a busy Friday at Sylvester Manor when elementary school students descended on the farm field in early morning to learn that the staff was preparing for the first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) pickup scheduled for the following day.

It meant Friday would be a day of harvesting crops — radishes, scallions, kale, arugula and green garlic — that would be in the initial order.

Sylvester Manor launched its CSA program in 2009 and asks members to commit early each year to support the farm by purchasing a share that will help farmers meet expenses to buy seeds, materials and equipment needed to assure there will be a crop starting in the spring.

When Sylvester Manor’s program started, its 25 founding member families got involved in crop choices, seed orders, planting and harvesting. There are still some volunteer opportunities but core members supervise the operation and there are 120 participating families who pick up their weekly allotment of fresh produce at the farm. There are also pick-your-own offerings, including flowers, peas, beans, cherry tomatoes and blackberries when available. The farm stand is also available for members and non-members to purchase local natural meats, cheeses, bread, soaps and other goods.

Getting their marching . . . make that farming . . . orders last Friday at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm

Getting their marching . . . make that farming . . . orders last Friday at the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm

For the students visiting last Friday, it would be a day of crafts, gathering eggs from the educational farm’s chickens and engaging in a scavenger hunt to identify various edible plants with staff members and interns. They would also have the opportunity to learn about how the private preserve became a public entity bringing the community to the site to enjoy various activities throughout the year.

Each of the younger students was given a bag decorated with stickers picturing various edible plants and students were quick to identify the plants they needed to complete their hunt.

Students would also help with weeding, learn about beehives and visit the windmill that was the only Manor structure visible by the public for many years since it was brought to the Island in 1840.

Picture and cookie break under a tree outside the Manor House for second graders who visited the site last week.

Picture and cookie break under a tree outside the Manor House for second graders who visited the site last week.

Now it’s in disrepair, but about to get a makeover, expected to start later this summer, to restore it to full operation, able to grind grain to make flour and bread that will be sold at the farm stand.

Other students were brought to the area surrounding the Manor House to hear stories about early residents and activities that took place at the site. They would tour the garden and grounds surrounding the Manor House.

Students who had participated in the scavenger hunt got to take home their bags of edible vegetables to make their own salads while other students who decorated pots and planted seeds took those home to nurture.

The student field trips are a regular feature of Sylvester Manor activities.

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