Home Community Greenport seeks votes in grant contest to help grow a garden —...

Greenport seeks votes in grant contest to help grow a garden — and green thumbs

Third grade teacher Mary Ann Rempel and some of her students looking at garlic they planted last year in the Greenport school garden. File photo: Denise Civiletti

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need,” said Cicero.

Greenport School Superintendent David Gamberg firmly believes the ancient scholar’s words. He’s been the driving force behind the school gardens in both Greenport and Southold, where he also serves as superintendent. Gamberg believes Greenport’s garden needs to be much bigger to fulfill its value to the district.

Gamberg is spearheading a drive to secure a $20,000 grant from Seeds of Change Grant Program. The grant would allow the district to move Greenport’s small school garden from the back of the campus to the front of the building and enlarge it to five times its current size.

2016_0406_SEEDS_vote_badgeSeeds of Change is giving away $300,000 in grant money to schools around the nation to start or improve their gardens. The top 50 entries with the most votes will move on to the final judging phase. The district is asking the community and neighboring communities to support Greenport’s grant application by voting in the contest daily through Aril 18. (Vote for Greenport here.) It takes less than a minute to vote.

Greenport’s faculty and student body look forward to a larger garden. Third-grade teacher Mary Ann Rempel says, “We’d love to have a larger garden. All the kids want to be in it.”  Her students agree, although each of them who was brave enough to offer an answer had a different favorite garden activity.  Deshawn, 9, likes “putting the mulch out.” His classmate, Daniel, 9, likes “soil testing the best.” And Jenna, 8, “likes writing in our logs what we did for that day.”

The students’ comments underscore Gamberg’s belief that a school garden enriches the curriculum in all disciplines from art to science to math and writing. He’s convinced that if you give kids something to nourish they are nourished. If he has his way, he says, “eventually over time I’d like a barn and even some animals.”

Obtaining a share of the funds won’t be easy says Gamberg since the grant program is open to schools across the country. “It’s a challenge because we’re competing against some big districts, but we’re giving it our best shot,” he said.

The current school garden in Greenport during the growing season last summer.Courtesy photo: Greenport schools
The current school garden in Greenport during the growing season last summer.Courtesy photo: Greenport schools

Gamberg is encouraged because nearby school districts have pitched in to help spread the word about the vote.  He knows how fortunate we are to live in a place where neighbors help neighbors, even if they’re in the next town.

“Tell two friends to vote and have them tell two friends,” says Gamberg.

This video represents birth and growth of the Southold garden. “I want Greenport to have that caliber of the experience,” says Gamberg.

Of all of the school gardens from Riverhead to Oysterponds, the Southold garden produces the most.  “We would love to see Greenport capable of generating as much,” says Gamberg. The current garden can only accommodate a few students at a time. That’s not nearly big enough, Gamberg says. “A larger garden will allow a whole class or more into the space at once and it will yield more produce.”  He explains that the school garden in Southold is large enough to hold 75 to 100 students at a time for real-life, hands-on, interdisciplinary lessons. And, it produced an astonishing 1,000-plus pounds of produce last year, most of which went into the cafeteria and was eaten by the students who grew it.

When asked if the students appreciated the fresh food at lunch, Gamberg responded, “For sure – it’s more than just a novelty. And parents say the kids are more mindful of what they’re eating at home, too.”

April Pokorny
April is a writer, reporter and copy editor for the LOCAL news websites. She is a retired educator and proud grandma. April lives in Calverton. Email April