SUFFERN, N.Y. - When the Suffern Middle School Green Team was formed back in 2010, their mission focused on making sure everyone was recycling.
Next, they started composting food from the cafeteria rather than throwing it away. And then they came up with a use for the compost is now going to benefit people in the community.
Around the back of the middle school is a 30-by-30 foot fenced in area with four garden beds, each 9-by-3 feet where radishes, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and three different varieties of lettuce are being grown by the Green Team.
Around 15 members of the Green Team and some volunteers from the high school were on hand for the first harvest on June 16. Club advisors Ficarella and Karen Mena oversaw the harvest, along with Kit Meenan and Donna DeSouza from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, who help provide guidance.
“They just hit the ground running. They’re really an amazing bunch of kids,” advisor Elio Ficarella said of how the children drive the program.
The funds to do this were donated by the REACH Foundation of Rockland through teaching grants, according to Faith Braut, a REACH Foundation representative and teacher at the school.
Everything was planted in April, and once harvested, will be donated to an outreach program coordinated by the Suffern Farmer’s Market and the Catholic Charities Community Services of Rockland (CCCSR), who will provide the produce to local families in need.
The conduit who helped connect the Green Team with the Suffern Famers' Market was Judy Sang, whose son Philip is a Green Team member and whose daughter, Michelle, is one of the volunteers that will care for the garden over the summer, part of a Girl Scout Gold Award project.
Sang's children were exposed to generationOn, a global youth service moment and are passionate about these projects.
"I also feel it's really important for them to have empathy at a young age," she said.
As summer neared, Sang asked who would care for the garden from June through August. And from there she approached the Farmers' Market about the vegetables.
The Green Team has high hopes for the garden; Ficarella has already applied for funding to add four additional garden beds.
He spoke effusively of the enthusiasm the Green Team has shown for these causes, like how the students take turns during lunch periods in the cafeteria making sure other students recycle.
“They’re really just an amazing bunch of kids. It takes a lot of gumption to do something like that and it’s just such a cool thing to be a part of, to be around that kind of energy,” Ficarella said.
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