Rockland BOCES students in a variety of programs are lending their talents while learning at Cropsey Community Farm in New City, which is a project of the Rockland Farm Alliance (RFA). RFA Executive Director Naomi Camilleri said students from the and Career & Tech Center (CTEC) began assisting at Cropsey last autumn and are continuing this spring.
In the fall, they harvested chilies, basil, fennel and eggplant. Camilleri said culinary arts students worked alongside the farmers and learned about sustainable farming. Then BOCES Culinary Instructor Kendall Brenner showed them the next step and prepared a dish using the just harvested vegetables.
Brenner said the work at the farm provides valuable lessons for students.
“They’re really making the connection between food and farming,” he said. “They get more in touch with the ingredients that go into their food. They’ll do everything from planting to harvesting.”
Brenner said the food awareness of the 18 students, which includes high school and adult education students, has increased. The students in the spring program will visit the farm once or twice weekly. In addition to preparing dishes with the harvested vegetables, he said they will provide recipes for the members of ’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. That will bring another group of students into the fold, the graphics class, which will create the recipe cards.
Brenner is already thinking of how to expand the curriculum for next year. He plans to incorporate a math component and have students figure out how many seeds are needed to yield a specific size crop, how much land is necessry for growing a particular crop as well as determining which crops grow better in certain areas.
CTEC students joined their classmates in the fall and have been doing their part to help the farm run efficiently. The students learning construction trades are building a hoop house and renovating the barn, farm cottage and repairing plumbing. Students in the auto class are refurbishing the tractor.
CTEC Principal Kim Bell said the building services class students who worked on the Hoop House were joined by carpentry students who built the doors. She said 24 students from the Food Services Program helped plant garlic and onions.
"I think it's a great way to expand their skill base," said Bell. "They love doing real work. They see the benefit of their work from start to finish."
Camilleri said the farm serves as an outlet for the students to learning about farming and farm buildings such as the under construction hoop house which will be covered with plastic. Seedlings grown in a state of the art greenhouse at the county’s solid waste facility are moved to the hoop house and then planted in the fields when they reach a certain stage in their growth.
“This is an offsite classroom for them so they can build their skills in the various trades,” explained Camilleri.
Bell said it is a partnership between RFA and but the amount of work that can get done depends on the financial resources available to the alliance.
"When they need something, they call us," she said. "We can provide the manpower, the labor. We're kind of doing things a little bit at a time."
Brenner said the involvement with the farm and community helps students.
“They’re learning other skills as well as helping the community at large,” said Brenner.