By Amanda Wyatt
From music and drama to sports and college prep, there’s a camp for everything these days. So while some kids will learn play soccer or the clarinet this summer, budding young agriculturists on the East End can look forward to a program of their own liking.
Starting July 30, the Bridgehampton School begin its second annual Young Farmers’ Initiative, a three weeklong “summer camp.” As part of the school’s commitment to sustainable agriculture, the initiative will provide youngsters with hands-on experience working with the school’s greenhouse and garden.
“I see this as a farm to table type of camp,” said Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, the program coordinator and a Bridgehampton teacher. “What we’ll be doing a lot is learning about where food comes from and how it’s grown, but also making that other connection between what’s in the garden and what goes on your plate.”
Carmack-Fayyaz, who has been a leader in Bridgehampton’s Edible Schoolyard Program, said the initiative was started because the school needed a way to maintain the garden during the summer, when crops are most active.
While high school students usually tend the garden, the 2011 Young Farmers’ Initiative was a way of introducing younger students to the project. Last year, high school students mentored elementary and middle school-aged children, and Carmack-Fayyaz hopes to do the same this year.
The program, which will run for 12 sessions through August 16, will also integrate lessons in nutrition.
“Part of the camp will be preparing salads, eating fruit, and celebrating the bounty of the garden,” Carmack-Fayyaz said. “What I’m thinking of doing is buying a salad that’s been in the supermarket and comparing it and contrasting it with the lettuces and other vegetables that are grown in the garden.”
Eating freshly picked vegetables, she noted, is a much different experience from eating a salad that’s been “sitting around for a couple of days or ripening en route from somewhere else.”
Peter Priolo, who works as a school garden coordinator for Edible School Garden, Slow Food East End and the Josh Levine Memorial Foundation, is also involved in the program as one of the school farm coordinators funded through the Levine Foundation.
“My role will be to teach the students about sustainable and organic small scale food production,” he said. “I will be working directly with them, engaging in teamwork and hands-on objectives related to planning successional planting schedules in order to provide a steady food supply for the school.”
Priolo said the approach is interdisciplinary, combining lessons about soil health, plant biology, harvesting and other agricultural topics with lessons in math, sustainability, history, culture, cooking and more.
Frank Roccanova, a local photographer and filmmaker who previously worked as the artistic director of Saks Fifth Avenue, has also signed on as a resource for participating students.
“[Roccanova] is a master gardener who’s volunteered to help us and has come up with a new plan for the greenhouse,” said Carmack-Fayyaz. “It actually looks a little bit like going through a department store.”
“Doing a layout of a garden is kind of like doing a layout for an ad or designing a page. It’s all related for me,” Roccanova said.
As part of the greenhouse’s reorganization, new signs and labels will have to be made, and this is where volunteer Austin Drill comes into the picture. Drill, who owns a sustainable building company based in Nicaragua, will teach the children how to make natural paint for the signs.
“The simplest way to create your own natural milk-based paint is to mix 0 percent fat cottage [cheese] with building lime and a coloring,” he explained. “We have set our sights on using beets to make a bright pink color, and we may find other natural options as the garden grows. Milk-based paints were in use well before latex, and they are certainly the more environmentally-friendly option.”
Drill says that his involvement in the project came out of a chance encounter.
“I was shooting hoops on the school’s basketball court when I noticed a group gardening,” he recalled. “I am a novice gardener, but I have a keen interest in it, so I inquired if I could volunteer as well. Happily, they welcomed me into their initiative. I help out in any and every way I can — weeding, planting, watering. I work with the students, and we teach each other as we go.”
Carmack-Fayyaz also mentioned that she hopes celebrate the wildlife that’s in and around the garden.
“We’re going to do activities to attract birds,” she said. “So we’re going to build some bird houses and create a couple of natural habitats within the garden.”
She added that she would like to celebrate the end of the program by inviting parents to the school.
“I wanted to have a little farmer’s market and a barbecue for the parents,” she said. “The children can prepare a little lunch and show their parents what they’ve learned, and to really celebrate the food in the garden.”
“This program is important because we need to depend on future generations to [put a stop to] the non-sustainable direction that big food production business is headed,” said Priolo. “With this experience they can make better decisions about the use of natural resources, and about what food to buy and eat.”
“A goal of mine is to have the kids walk away from this with a sense of ownership toward their environment,” he said. “If the kids feel like they have that connection to take with them, I think that’s key.”