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by Sam Levin

Sam Levin is one of three co-founders, along with Sarah Steadman and Natalie Akers, of Project Sprout, an organic, student-run garden on the grounds of Monument High School in Great Barrington, Mass. Now in its second year, Project Sprout supplies the school’s cafeteria with fresh fruits and vegetables, helps feed the hungry in the community and serves as a living laboratory for students of the Monument school system.

Sam, a Sophomore at Monument, gave a speech at the opening ceremony of Terra Madre ’08 in Italy, and inspired thousands of delegates from around the world who traveled to Turin for the event. The Slow Food USA blog is thrilled to share his remarks with our readers.

Exactly one year ago Monday, I walked through the doors of my public high school in Massachusetts planning on presenting the idea of Project Sprout to my Guidance counselor. And that’s all it was, an idea. I had not one detail worked out, only that I wanted the students of my school and the people of my community to begin paying more attention to their food, and in turn the natural world around them. I was already an avid naturalist, and when I wasn’t in the woods or swamps, I was spending time on the farm down the road from my house, playing soccer with the pigs or riding the cows. So, after talking to my guidance counselor, Mr. Powell, I connected with two other students, Sarah a junior who loved gardening and children and Natalie a sophomore who was desperate for delicious vegetables in the cafeteria, and together we began refining the idea and figuring out the details of the project. Within weeks we had a plan.

The plan was simple. Create a student-run organic vegetable garden on school grounds, that would be used as an educational tool for students ages 2-18, provide delicious produce for the school lunches, and ultimately build connections with nature and food for the children of our district. And with that plan, along with some energy, excitement, and motivation, we began working towards our goal.

We met with local farmers and gardeners, landscapers and designers, teachers and groundskeepers. We worked with non-profit leaders and most importantly, we worked together. I couldn’t walk by Mr. Powell’s office without stopping in to talk to him. Sarah and Natalie and I met in between classes and during lunch, after school and before school. Although we hadn’t even known each other before October, as time went on, our relationship became unbreakable. As we know, food brings people together. But as I have learned, working to save food creates unbelievably powerful bonds between people.