MLS Science Teacher, Stephen Yesko, was recently awarded a scholarship to attend the National Agriculture in the Classroom (NAITC) Conference. This conference is designed to promote ‘agricultural literacy’ in the classroom. “The New York Chapter of NAITC, under the direction of Cornell University’s Agriculture Extension Service, selected 40 educators to attend the conference in Portland, ME, at the end of June. “The scholarship will allow me to improve my knowledge for how best to grow vegetables and plants in our greenhouse and other spaces. In addition, the conference will provide guidance for how to build a first-rate greenhouse and urban agriculture educational program in an urban setting at MLS right in the middle of Queens.”
Mr. Yesko has been driving the Greenhouse Initiative at MLS, with the help of some eager students. “I applied this winter for the NAITC scholarship, thinking that MLS had a good chance being that we are in an urban area. We want to make greater use of the greenhouse and potentially transform other spaces that can be used for educational programming and for growing healthy, nutritious food.”
The ultimate goal of the Greenhouse Project is to be able to provide a Community Supported Agriculture (or CSA) Model. A CSA Model would allow consumers of the food to be closer to the producers of the food. “If we can expand and scale what we are trying to do with the greenhouse to the point where we are able to produce quantities of wholesome, nutritious, organic vegetables, what we would ultimately be able to do is provide food for the cafeteria and to students and their families who may struggle with food-insecurity."
Mr. Yesko explained that food insecurity is a big problem in New York and New York City. “Many families are food insecure or do not eat healthy food and if we can successfully expand this program, we can have a very substantial urban agricultural initiative…that is what I envision.” Mr. Yesko is also passionate about how this project helps us support MLS’s mission…saying, “I can’t think of a better way to fulfill our Christian mission than by feeding people who are most in need of quality nutritious, organic, and wholesome food.”
Mr. Yesko’s Chemistry class just finished planting herb gardens for Mother’s Day. Everyone in the class was able to take home a plant they grew in school. They are currently focused on planting milk crate vegetables, where the garden is entirely contained in a milk crate. “We’ll plant tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and other vegetables. Going forward we’ll want to plant seedlings so that we can support our own needs as well as the needs of other Lutheran Schools for educational purposes.”