PAWLING, N.Y., Sept. 1, 2021—A bounty of produce grown on campus, including tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, eggplant, squash, and a variety of lettuces, awaits the students at Trinity-Pawling School in Pawling, N.Y., when they return to campus this month.
Trinity-Pawling, like many independent schools, encourages its students to get involved in extracurricular activities. Many at this all-boys school in rural New York State near the Connecticut border take part in athletics, making the school an annual powerhouse in football, lacrosse, baseball, and other traditional sports. For students a bit more agriculturally minded, a farming program allows about a dozen of them to channel their physical energies into tilling soil, hauling and turning compost, and tending to produce, grown in campus greenhouses and gardens, that is then served in meals they and their classmates eat in the CulinArt-managed dining hall.
Dining services associates strive to reduce food waste in preparing students’ meals, resulting in a fair amount of raw compost material that students take to compost bins. Maintenance crews add leaves and grass clippings, and both students and maintenance workers spend time turning the compost until it is ready for blending into the greenhouse’s raised beds. Planting takes place in the spring, naturally, but then things slow down: seeds take their time to germinate, students take their final exams and leave campus, and the school enters its off-season, with a handful of teachers and school employees keeping an eye on the plants during the summer.
“Once we come back in August,” says Jason Swartz, dining services manager, “that’s when the foodservice piece comes into play.” The school gardens produce between five and 10 pounds of produce a week during the fall semester and serving line signage identifies the products being served. “This lets the students know that ‘this item just came from the gardens at your school, that your classmates worked on and put time and effort into,’” Swartz explains.
What begins, then, as kitchen scraps ultimately becomes fuel for students’ athletic, academic, or other pursuits. “We try to incorporate as much of the produce from the greenhouse as we can into our menus,” Swartz adds. “The composting is an educational tool for the boys as well. Instead of sending compost out, we use it in-house. We are not wasting it; it comes full circle.”