How did the idea of holding a memorial dinner for your son first take shape?
After the accident, we were contacted by the East End chapter of Slow Food. They wanted to know if we would agree to do a benefit with the money going to his children. We said if they wanted to have a dinner in his honor, we’d be willing o do that as long as it would fund something related to organic farming.
Ted Conklin of The American Hotel agreed to donate The American Hotel for the dinner. Everything was donated. The first year, it was sold out.
We raised $12,000 to $15,000 and we used the money fund two interns for Sylvester Manor.
This year the fourth annual Joshua Levine Memorial Dinner will take place on Sunday, April 6. What have you got planned differently this year?
The dinner itself will again be at The American Hotel, but this year Dodds and Eder said they would like to host the pre-dinner party. Their space is gigantic, so we can get 250 people in that space and it wouldn’t seem crowded.
We were never able to have a silent auction before because we never had the space, so we have been going out in the community to get items for that. The generosity is unbelievable. We’ve gotten donations for foursomes from The Atlantic, The Bridge, East Hampton, Noyac, Hampton Hills, South Fork, and Sebonac [golf clubs] a two-night stay at The Huntting Inn and a gift certificate to The Palm; Topping Rose, Sen, the Cuddy, the Living Room, Marders, you name it.
Who will be the beneficiary of this year’s event?
The second year, they told us about the edible schoolyard project. That really appealed to me. If anything, that would really memorialize Josh and what he was all about. It was really about helping kids to understand. It has evolved now so what they learn in the garden is integrated into the classroom. These kids are passionate about it.
They felt they needed to bring some stability to the program by having master farmers who would work with the schools. We decided that first year we needed three master farmers. Slow Food East End actually had an application that went out to the farming community with a stipend of $4,000 each.
We did the same thing last year, but with 18 to 20 schools now involved, we needed an extra master farmer.
This year we are hoping to raise $40,000. Now there are 25 or more schools, so we’ll need one or two more master farmers. We are also trying to raise money for projects some of the schools need.
How did your son find his way from the city to farming?
Josh was doing real estate in the city. He was successful. He just didn’t like it.
We had been out here since 1979. I do a lot of gardening, so l guess it was in his blood. His wife, Anne, was born on a farm in Virginia and he just wanted to learn about it. He applied for an internship at Quail Hill with Scott Chaskey. Scott hired him and the next year promoted him to be the market manager.
He was looking to get an education and then looking to use it to do something else. He wanted to start a business helping families make organic gardens and then he’d come and help them care for them.
What does the future hold for the Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation?
The principal purpose of the foundation will be to continue to support the edible schoolyard program and other things Josh might have been passionate about.
It’s gotten a life of its own now. These gardens are really important. It’s not just about growing food, it’s about learning about life…. There are just so many lessons you learn in this program.
It’s also important for my grandchildren. There’s a selfish part to this. I want my grandchildren to know who their father was.
The Fourth Annual Joshua Levine Memorial Foundation Dinner will be held on April 6 at The American Hotel with a pre-dinner party and auction at Dodds & Eder in Sag Harbor. For more information or to buy tickets, visit joshualevinefoundation.org.