Vegetables are important, but unless you’re completely self sufficient, even more vital is the farmer that grows them. At Sang Lee Farms, Lucy Senesac has pioneered a farm camp she hopes will teach participants appreciation for where their food comes from and grow the next generation of East End farmers.
Sang Lee Farms is ahead of the curve, whether by anticipating niche specialty food back in the ’50s as one of the major wholesale producers of Asian vegetables for the United States, being among the first batch of organic farms on the North Fork a or using the first FAA certified drone on the East End for crop management (and awesome footage). Now, in large part due to Lucy Senesac, who created the camp, farm education for children can be added to the growing list.
Senesac, 28, grew up in Laurel and got her start with agriculture at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County in Riverhead, but never really got her hands dirty in the field (literally) until she started WWOOFing in New Zealand where she worked on 10 different farms in six months. Back home, she began working at Sang Lee, and in six years, she worked her way up in the fields to serve a vital role. When she is not busy running the CSA or a stall at a farmers market, she is maintaining the North Fork’s edible school gardens for Slow Food East End or educating children at the farm. In addition to the camp proper for, this season includes younger children, “sprouts,” and works with school groups, scout groups and the like.
Working side by side with Senesac, the kids learn farm operation, good maintenance practices, composting, the importance of pollinators and biodiversity, and seasonal crop rotation. Most effective, however, is the sensory experience of tasting vegetables in the field or on top of wood-fired pizza made right on the farm.
A few of last year’s campers loved camp so much they are returning for another season. Rudy Bruer, age 11 and soon to enter sixth grade, loves how Senesac turns education into a game. An important lesson he learned is “animals make the crops grow without chemicals. ” Another returning camper, Victoria Witzzak, age 10 and soon to enter fifth grade, will help Senesac guide the younger group this season. “We have life in our hands,” she says, ” and make stuff by ourselves, work all day and learn so much about all of the plants there.” She and her family planted a home garden and have a plentiful crop of carrots, tomatoes, kale, and onions thus far this season.
Witzzak, like Bruer, is learning that farming means more than food; gardening is about man working in harmony with nature to create and sustain more life to come. The growing program at Sang Lee is nurturing a future generation of East End farmers; good soil and great things are ahead on the North Fork.
Farm Camp times and pricing are as follows, and you can register online here:
Sprouts. Ages 4-6, give or take. Thursdays, July 9 – August 13 (six sessions). 10 a.m. – noon. $40 per session/$175 for all six weeks.
Young Farmers (Buds?). Ages 9-12, give or take. Tuesdays, July 7 – August 11 (six sessions). 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. $80 per session/$400 for all six weeks.
Adults shouldn’t feel left out; they offer a farm camp for us too. Four a la carte sessions are available on Thursdays, July 9, July 16, August 6, and August 13 from 5 – 7 p.m.