SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — In the ongoing effort to enhance farming in Sullivan County and raise awareness about the importance of agriculture and growing food locally, the Catskill Edible Garden Project was created earlier this year.
It involved starting gardens at the Jeffersonville campus of the Sullivan West Central School, at the Roscoe Central School and Cornell Cooperative Extension in Liberty. Students did the gardening. Erin Burch, who served as an educator and supervisor on the project, said, “Our goal was to offer this opportunity for hands-on youth development experience and to expose food and agriculture as important aspects of our community, our culture and also as a potential career opportunity.”
The students who did the gardening are Amber Conklin, Miguel Ramos, Matthew Edwards and Nicole Brennan from Sullivan West and Morgan Edelglass and David Porter from Roscoe. They also took weekly trips to the Cornell Extension to tend that garden.
Burch said a wide array of produce was grown, from carrots to kale, tomatoes to zucchini. Much of the produce was given to local food pantries. In the case of the Roscoe School, as the garden season was ending and the school year was beginning, zucchinis were used to make bread for the school cafeteria, while tomatoes and lettuce were offered at the school salad bar. Due to a wide array of reasons, it’s often not easy to get local produce into a school district. Burch said, “It was such a gift for us to know that could happen the first season.”
The initial season was such a success that possibly two or three more districts will be joining the program.
Emily Deans, the agriculture coordinator of Catskill Mountainkeeper, said a garden would be built at the Sullivan West elementary school later this month. Additionally, the Livingston Manor Central School District and the Fallsburg Central School District are considering signing onto the program.
She said they work closely with the districts when creating the gardens to get as many people involved as possible. “The most successful gardens are the ones where you have really enthusiastic buy-in and support. And you get a lot of that if people are out there hauling soil; people will be more vested in the project.”
The project is a partnership between Catskill Mountainkeeper, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Sullivan Renaissance, Center for Workforce Development and The Green Village Initiative. Because of the workforce development connection, the students were able to be paid as part of the Summer Youth Employment Program.
To cap off the season, the Slow Food Upper Delaware River chapter is sponsoring a barbeque in honor of the project and its participants. It will take place Sunday, October 14 at 12:30 p.m. at Hills Country Inn in Callicoon Center. With support from Jeff Bank, the event will feature a meal of locally sourced foods and a presentation honoring the students. Reservations are strongly suggested.
Go to slowfoodupderiva.org for more information.