Sunday, September 1, 2013

Yale Alums Help Scarsdale Garden

The Scarsdale garden donates to local food pantries
Drive around Scarsdale High School, and notice the large garden that yields large amounts of fruits, vegetables, and herbs year after year.  It often expands to about 7,500 square feet of organic produce.  Maggie Favretti '85, a faculty member of Scarsdale High School, presides over the production with support from Scarsdale students, local volunteers and other Yale alumni in the area.  The garden has broad, ambitious goals, but it has made a difference in the community.

Favretti leads activities and campaigns on its behalf, encouraging community members and students to help tend it, use it or learn something from the experience.  This past May, Favretti and other Yale alumni led a Yale Day of Service outing at the garden.  BK Munguia '75 and Mark Yan-Ming Chang '94 Ph.d. joined her for the afternoon. Munguia's husband Jon Mark, Dartmouth '69, also participated in Yale's Day. (Munguia is also Vice President of the YWAA board.)

The garden relies on assistance from community volunteers
The garden is unique because it donates what it produces to food pantries in the area.  In fact, Favretti says the Scarsdale garden donates about 1,000 pounds of food each year to local soup kitchens. In the past, that has included such pantries as the Ecumenical Food Pantry of White Plains and the White Plains YMCA.  "So far this year," she adds, "We've exceeded our summer goal of 500 (pounds)!"

The garden, she says, has other goals, too.  Toiling in the garden requires hard work, time and attention, but working together helps build a community of friends, students, family and area volunteers.

The garden shows local residents and volunteers how to grow their own food, as well as food for others in need. Favretti says it does it "without damaging the environment."  Volunteers also learn to "experience how awesome food is," she says, "and how much fun it is to get great exercise outdoors, doing work that doesn't feel like work."
Mark Chang '94 Ph.d lends a hand at the garden in Scarsdale

The garden contributes to Scarsdale High School by acting as an outdoor classroom for all disciplines.  Teachers from several departments at the high school have used the garden, whether it's physics students taking measurements, art students looking for inspiration, or the school's garden club doing a variety of chores.

The Yale Day of Service project in May involved preparing the garden bed under Favretti's guidance.  The Yale alumni group pulled weeds, spread wood chips and prepared seedlings for future replanting. Some helped clean the school's former automotive shop, which will be used as a makeshift greenhouse.

Support from the Yale Day of Service is over (at least for this year), but the garden still requires continual assistance and gladly welcomes other groups from the community to help. And remember, they get to bond with each other in an important effort and learn something about ecosystems, the environment, and growing food.
BK Munguia '75 in the garden during Yale Day of Service

The food donated by the garden is healthy by comparison.  "Most of the food given to soup kitchens is processed," Favretti told the Scarsdale Daily Voice last year. "We're trying to keep it local, organic and nutritious."

"Our Yale volunteers are part of a crucial aspect of our garden," Favretti said this summer, with expectations that Yale Westchester will return again and again.


(Photos from Favretti, Zak Fillia,

Maggie Favretti '85 (fourth from L) directs activities at the garden in Scarsdale
Jon Mark engages in heavy lifting at the garden

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this great write-up. Most of our food goes to and through Grace Church to the other White Plains facilities and also to and through Jan Peek House in Peekskill to supply some northern Westchester kitchens. We welcome all support. Maggie Favretti '85