When Myron and Susan Levine bought their first vacation home on the East End in 1979 at Whalebone Landing in Southampton, Myron planted a garden. Years later, sifting through family photographs, he discovered a photograph of his then five-year-old son, Joshua, weeding the garden — an image of a child discovering what would become a lifelong passion.
Now, it is in honor of Joshua’s memory that Myron and Slow Food of the East End hope to make local agriculture an intrinsic part of the lives of children on the Twin Forks, just as it played a vital role in Joshua’s life.
Joshua Levine may have come from New York City with a background in real estate development, among other entrepreneurial pursuits, but it was in farming he found a calling
After almost a lifetime of summering near Sag Harbor, Levine and his family moved to the region, and in 2008 he joined the Peconic Land Trust’s Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett as a volunteer. Levine became a summer apprentice in 2009 and a full time member of Quail Hill’s staff in 2010, his wide grin and affable nature on display each week at the Sag Harbor Farmers’ Market as Quail Hill’s Market Manager.
Levine’s life was cut tragically short in November of 2010 when he was killed in a tractor accident at the farm. Levine was 35 years old and was survived by his wife, Ann and his two small children, Willa and Ezra.
The community rallied around the Levine family, many in mourning, but later looking for ways to celebrate the life of Joshua Levine.
In an effort to pay homage to Levine’s commitment to agriculture on the East End, last year Slow Food East End and the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation — a charitable organization founded by Myron and Susan — teamed up for a dinner in Levine’s honor at The American Hotel. The proceeds for the evening funded the opportunity for two young farmers to work at Sylvester Manor, a 350-year-old farm on Shelter Island.
Myron said in an interview this week that Sylvester Manor benefited from the program was particularly poignant as Levine had been interviewing for a job directing the farm, but passed away before he was offered the position.
For the benefit dinner’s second year, Myron said the goal was to open the funding up towards something that would benefit the whole of the East End community. Slow Food East End, which has supported edible gardens in local schools with funding and educational resources, and the Levine family ultimately decided that aiding that mission was a worthy cause and one Joshua would have supported.
This year, the groups will hire three garden coordinators to work with the growing number of edible schoolyards on the East End.
According to Slow Food East End President Mary Morgan, two coordinators will be hired to service schools on the South Fork. One will work on the Southampton side, covering schools in Sag Harbor, the Hayground School, the Lower Ross School, Tuckahoe and Southampton schools, while the other coordinator will focus their efforts on the Ross Upper School, the Child Development Center of the Hamptons, as well as the East Hampton, Springs, Amagansett and Montauk school districts.
The third coordinator will work with schools on the North Fork, she said, as well as Hampton Bays and Quogue, said Morgan. All three coordinators will also work with schools that have yet to establish an edible schoolyard in the hopes of getting new programs off the ground, she said.
Applications are due, fittingly, by the Spring Equinox, next Tuesday, March 20, with the three coordinators selected by March 31. They will be celebrated at the charity fundraiser, the second-annual Joshua Levine Memorial Dinner, which will be held at The American Hotel on April 1.
“These are wonderful programs, but they need to be more self sustaining,” said Myron. “Parents leave, teachers leave, students leave and these gardens require the long-term knowledge and assistance to keep growing. We would especially love to see them grow in terms of the kind of curriculum schools develop around their edible gardens.”
That agricultural, education and the culinary arts were close to his son’s hearts only makes the funding more appropriate, said Myron.
“Josh was a truly amazing person,” said Bryan Futerman, the chef of Foody’s, board member of Slow Food East End and educational coordinator for that organization. “What we envision here is a passing down of agriculture traditions and knowledge, which he would have appreciated. It is important to reach young children and as they grow pass down this knowledge for them so that when they get older they turn around, like Josh, and teach others what they have learned.”
For more information about the internship program visit www.slowfoodeastend.org.
The Second Annual Josh Levine Internship will be held on Sunday, April 1 starting with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at Bay Street Theatre, followed by dinner at The American Hotel. Reservations can be made through Myron.Levine1941@gmail.com.