Southold students learn agriculture, gardening and history of potatoes

Southold Elementary School fifth-graders got a special treat last Wednesday that they helped grow and cook themselves.

The Agricultural Center at Charnews Farm in Southold, part of the Peconic Land Trust, hosted all three fifth-grade classes from Southold Elementary over the past week and taught them about gardening, Long Island agriculture, nutrition tips and the history of potatoes on the North Fork. The students then put all the ingredients together to make a potato soup that they ate at the end of the day.

“My favorite part was definitely making the soup, getting to try different kinds of potatoes and just having fun,” said 10-year-old Odaliz Monzon. “I really like coming here.”

Patty Mellas’ class of 22 students participated in the three-part program.

“It’s so important for them to understand how we get so much from our land and our waters, and to protect them because they could go away,” Ms. Mellas said.

First, students learned about the different types of agriculture on Long Island from volunteer and retired teacher Pat Sanders. Broken up into groups, students brainstormed different types of farms that help Long Island’s economy, like vineyards, sod farms, vegetable and fruit farms, among others. They were then given items including wool socks, rubber, aluminum foil and crackers and were asked to sort them according to whether they came from farms or the natural world. This exercise was meant to show students that every product has natural roots and that farming on Long Island is crucial.

“We try to make it fun, we want to have a visceral experience for the kids because that’s how they learn,” said Denise Markut, North Fork stewardship manager for Peconic Land Trust. “You’re out of the classroom for a reason. They remember things they had fun doing.”

Students excitedly harvested potatoes in the learning garden and got to explore the grounds with Ms. Markut while she stressed the importance of agriculture and explained how the Peconic Land Trust is preserving land on the East End.

“Everything is about agriculture and connecting people with the land,” she said.

Southold Elementary School fifth-graders got a lesson last Wednesday in the history of North Fork and Long Island agriculture, along with nutrition tips, at Peconic Land Trust’s agricultural center in Southold. (Credit: Rachel Siford)

Ms. Markut guided students around the farm and let them sample fresh peppers, tomatoes and basil.

“I liked getting to go behind in the garden and look at the different bugs back there and making the soup,” said Michaela Lynch, age 9. “I think people should come here regularly and learn about different things and maybe get a spot in the garden. I think it would be great education for people around the town since everyone is always in front of [computer] screens.”

Maureen Radigan, who teaches at The Child’s Garden Preschool at the Ag Center, set aside her day to show the elementary students how to read a nutrition label and how to cut vegetables for soup.

The Peconic Land Trust bought the land from the Charnews family in 2008 and established the community garden for educational programs.

“I definitely want to come back,” Odaliz said.

Top photo caption: Odaliz Monzon, 10, harvests a potato last Wednesday from the learning garden at Peconic Land Trust’s agricultural center in Southold. (Credit: Rachel Siford)

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