By Christine Sampson
The latest community-supported agriculture program to be launched locally is coming not through a farm, as is typically the case, but through the Bridgehampton School District.
Community-supported agriculture programs (CSAs) are agreements with farms in which people pay a particular farm one fee up-front, almost like a subscription or membership, which gets them a “share,” or a basket of fresh produce each week, from that farm for the duration of the growing season.
The Bridgehampton School has partnered with Share the Harvest Farm in East Hampton to launch its CSA, which will operate at $150 for the whole summer — lower than many CSAs here — specifically to benefit low-income families with children at the school. The school, which is well-known for its garden and greenhouse, will provide a small amount of the fresh produce, but Share the Harvest and Bhumi Farms will provide the bulk of it by donation. Students will pack the bags of produce for the families, starting June 28.
“What I’ve found in my experiences living out here is it’s extremely expensive. It’s not affordable for a lot of people,” said Melissa Mapes, Share the Harvest’s CSA coordinator. “Everyone should have access to and be able to eat fresh produce. It shouldn’t be a privilege or an expensive thing you can treat yourself to.”
She said another benefit is that it’s all local, which cuts down on carbon emissions and costs associated with transportation, and the food is actually more nutritious when it’s fresher.
“The best part is it’s that it’s coming from your own community,” she said. “We’re all connected to each other through food.”
Dr. Lois Favre, Bridgehampton’s superintendent, said the school has a high population of students “in need of healthy meals,” and said the program “will help greatly.”
“There is a major focus nationwide on assuring healthy options for schools,” she said. “Bridgehampton has always been cutting edge, with the first East End [school] garden and now a major focus on wellness, attention to our local options and making connections about food, careers and the value of all that is available on the East End.”
Ms. Mapes reached out to the school with program applications last year when Share the Harvest first launched its CSA. Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz, a Bridgehampton teacher, said she realized the CSA would be a perfect fit for the school to begin offering. She said it is one more step in transforming the way the Bridgehampton School approaches nutrition and wellness for its students.
“There are so many layers and challenges associated with the way food is obtained and served,” she said. “…Even though we’re surrounded by food and farm stands, it’s expensive. I think this will give people a way to have access to those foods and then also to eat better.”
The CSA is just one way the Bridgehampton School is ramping up agricultural initiatives. It will again operate the farm stand it launched last year, “Sprouts at the Patch,” which it obtained through leases with the Hampton Classic and the Babinski family and support from the nonprofit organization Paddlers for Humanity. Not only will it provide an outlet for a student-run business program, selling things like flowers, pumpkins and more, but it will also feature an educational bug garden.
The school also kicked off its involvement in a $100,000 farm-to-table grant that it received from New York State and is sharing with the Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts. It will help them negotiate prices and coordinate production demands with local farms to help get locally-sourced food into school cafeterias.
Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz acknowledged it’s an ambitious slate of initiatives. But with the help of some paid student employees, whom the school board was expected to formally hire at its Wednesday night meeting, along with the help of quite a few more faculty members and two interns from Cornell Cooperative Extension, she said there’s no doubt it will succeed.
“We’re much better when we’re working together,” said Jeff Neubauer, another Bridgehampton teacher involved in the projects.
“There’s no resting on our laurels,” Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz said.