Around the Island

From a little seed grows food to eat

Students get lesson in community gardening

Draw an orange chard. A what? Shelter Island School’s 4th graders, like most of the adults in the room at Shelter Island Library, had no idea what an orange chard might look like. But the intrepid 4th graders used their imagination and came up with everything from a pumpkin to a carrot and lots of interpretations beyond expectation.

Look it up — it does look more like a carrot, but is more stringy, kind of like celery.

The session last Friday saw elementary students learning about the vegetables they will begin planting in the school garden this Friday. That’s when the waking of the garden adjacent to the back of the school will happen with local farmer Chris DiOrio on hand to guide the process.

With the onset of cold weather last fall, the garden was prepared for its long winter nap, but it’s now time to work the soil and plant the seeds that everyone hopes will give rise to a healthy crop this year.

But this week, it was Youth Librarian Anthony Zutter who told the students about the library’s seed bank and introduced them to a number of vegetables they may not have known. He challenged them to take paper and crayons and to imagine what the seeds they’ll be planting will look like when the vegetables flourish.

In the past, students and staff got to enjoy some of the gifts from their garden in the cafeteria and that’s expected to happen again this year.

It all started back in 2013 on the Island when Vicki Weslek, spurred on by other East End schools’ edible gardens, Slow Food East End and farmers Ira and KK Haspel inspired her to create such a project here.

Working with school Maintenance Crew Chief Mike Dunning and volunteers, the idea took shape.

Ms. Weslek credited a team of volunteers —  Sarah Shepherd as the garden coordinator, Ira and KK Haspel, Susan Paykin from Sylvester Manor, then-superintendent Michael Hynes, Mr. Dunning, Business Manager Kathleen Minder and high school science teacher Dan Williams — when the heavy lifting began. Many others contributed funds for the garden.

From digging, edging and soil preparation to planting, nurturing and harvesting, the effort has become a labor of love for students, teachers and the wider community through the years.