School gardens offer bounty to public


When Laura Perkins moved to Peekskill in 2009 she reached out to every principal in the school district about her idea to have gardens on school property. Ten years later Perkins is seeing her dream come to fruition with the launch of Upstream Solutions, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) offering for residents of Peekskill.

Strawberry from Middle School garden

For a $10 share, a member will receive a distribution three times this season from the bounty of the gardens at Peekskill Middle School, Woodside and Hillcrest elementary schools. 
Perkins, who works as the garden and landscape manager at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills,  has been cultivating the idea of school community gardens as a way for children to learn about a connection to the earth and for the communities of the neighborhood schools to help maintain the gardens when school is not in session. She says the mission of Upstream Solutions is to connect people with each other and the land, and together shape the community for future generations to inherit. The name comes from solving problems at their source. “If we solve problems at their source, then we solve them less expensively, more effectively and more efficiently,” said Perkins. 
While Perkins was pitching the idea to principals a decade ago, John Cooley, a since-retired teacher at Peekskill Middle School was forming an environmental club and getting businesses to underwrite the cost of building a shed, seasonal greenhouse and raised beds for vegetables and flowers. MS signageThat space has been producing for some ten years and has the solid participation of neighbors. “Gardens need continuity,” said Perkins. 
Last Friday, May 30, was the official opening of a year-round greenhouse at Woodside school that saw the Parent Teacher Organization along with businesses raise $10,000 for the structure. The PTO contributed $3,000 and the rest was contributed by Bean Runner Cafe, MVP Health, Rotary Club of Peekskill and the Peekskill Education Foundation, all noted on a plague outside the greenhouse.
New year-round greenhouse at Woodside

PTO president Marissa O’Leary said two teachers at Woodside, Dr. Karen Wallis and Melina Cronin, did the research on the greenhouse and incorporate the garden into their lessons.
Perkins said she’ll accept about 20 more shares in the CSA for this season. She said the Hillcrest Garden is in need of neighborhood volunteers. In order to subscribe, you can reach her at [email protected]. 
“We recognize that the health of the individual is connected to the health of all.   Our growers and stewards nurture not only human health by cultivating fresh food, but also plants and places that support the well being of all members of our ecological community,” said Perkins.
Woodside Kids
Kindergarteners performing at Friday’s greenhouse ribbon cutting at Woodside.