The Slow Food organization’s Education Committee has named Ross alum Sylvia Channing ’10 as the Master Farmer for Suffolk County schools. In this new role, Sylvia will help local schools, including Ross, Springs School, East Hampton High School, John Marshall Elementary School, Child Development Center of the Hamptons, and Montauk High School, grow their edible gardens.
Sylvia, a graduate of Oberlin College, was instrumental in getting the Spiral garden at the Upper School off the ground when she was a student at Ross, raising funds with a group of students to secure the resources necessary to establish the first student-run garden on the East End. She has remained key to the Spiral Garden’s success, currently serving as head gardener and working with students four days per week in an after-school program where they handle the planting, cultivation, and maintenance of the garden. Sylvia also manages the Summer Camp @Ross garden program.
Currently, the fruits of the garden are served in the Ross Café; recently, the harvest has included Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes. Sylvia has big plans to expand the edible garden, and she expects to establish a greenhouse later this fall. Students will raise the money for materials through a dress-down day.
Sylvia says working with the students has been personally rewarding. “It’s very important for every young person to be exposed to growing things to gain a firsthand experience with issues of sustainability,” she said. “We’re very lucky to live in a in a place with amazing resources.”
Part of the focus of the after-school program is to make the garden more accessible to staff and students, and to transform it into a place of meditation and relaxation. “The garden is such a beautiful and peaceful place,” explained Sylvia, “and we hope to continue to develop it into a tranquil destination by adding benches and eventually a stage for student performances.”
Other ideas that Sylvia is discussing with the students and fellow alumni is planting a native garden to grow traditional medicines. She is currently gathering resources and would appreciate support in gathering the items on her wish list, found below. Those who are willing to donate can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spiral Garden Wish List
1. Wood chips for the Spiral Path and seating area by the picnic tables. 2. Compost, potting soil. 3. Planters, pots, trays, harvesting buckets, bins. 4. Hand trowels, watering cans, garden gloves, a small manual lawn mower. 5. Trellises, plant climbing hoops, bird feeder, bird baths, sculptures. 6. Plants: perennials, herbs, fruit bushes and trees, butterfly bush, ferns, concord grapes, roses, wisteria. 7. Art supplies: pens, pencils, paintbrushes, watercolors, paper, easels. 8. Funding for a spigot in the garden. 9. Deer fencing. 10. Rain barrel.