Cutchogue girl growing vegetables for the greater good

04/02/2016 9:00 AM |

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Behind Sang Lee Farms in Peconic is a 1,000-square-foot plot where 11-year-old Victoria Witczak of Cutchogue spends at least one day a week planting tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, peppers and other vegetables. 

Victoria, who’s been part of Sang Lee’s farm camp for two years, will donate the produce she grows to local organizations for distribution to those who “don’t get the right nutrients and proper assistance vegetables give you,” she said.

The Cutchogue East fifth grader’s project is being funded through a $300 grant from Katie’s Krops, a national organization created by Katie Stagliano, a 9-year-old from South Carolina, in the hope of growing crops to feed the hungry around the country. Currently, the organization has 83 participating gardens and offers grants annually to children ages nine to 16.

Sang Lee Farms manager Lucy Senesac said that when she learned of the grant, she knew Victoria was the person she wanted to involve.

“She’s always wanting to do more,” Ms. Senesac said. “She’s got a good heart.”

Together, the pair has built a garden center and begun plowing the land and, when weather permits, will plant the seeds. Ms. Senesac said the grant money allowed them to create a larger garden and make it a community project.

Tonya Witczak, Victoria’s mother, said community assistance could come from local charitable organizations that will take the produce and donate to those in need. Ms. Senesac said the food could also be given to local soup kitchens. Another way the community can get involved is by helping with upkeep of the garden, Ms. Witczak said.

This garden project is just the latest way Victoria has asserted herself at Sang Lee, Ms. Senesac said. During her time at the farmers camp she’s planted numerous gardens, tried to grow the biggest pumpkin of all the campers and even began teaching younger children about farming. She also works in the school gardens at the Cutchogue-East Elementary School.

“What I like about farming is that you’re actually doing something, you’re making something happen,” Victoria said. “It’s not like you’re just doing something and then you’ll get rid of later. You will have to use [what you grow] eventually in gardening.”

Another lesson Victoria is learning through the garden grant to is the real life application of math and science, Ms. Senesac said. For example, she said, she gave Victoria the dimensions of the plot and the space each vegetable needs to grow and had her figure out the spacing between the seeds and exactly how many seeds they’ll need to fill the bed.

Overall, the duo is excited to start work on the project and hope the community is as well.

“I was so thrilled for her,” Ms. Senesac said of Victoria’s grant. “To me, personally, it’s really a culmination of everything I’ve tried to do working with school gardens and the camp, to inspire the younger generation to take an interest in where food comes from and being healthy. It just made me feel like, ‘Wow, what I’m doing is making a difference and Victoria’s going make a big difference in other peoples lives.’ ”

Photo Caption: Victoria Witczak at Sang Lee Farms in Peconic Saturday. The Cutchogue resident recently earned a grant to construct a vegetable garden to benefit the hungry. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

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