Building Community through Sustainable Living

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The Town of Hempstead, in partnership with and funded by Nassau County Soil & Water Conservation District (NCSWCD), has developed a sustainable suburban agriculture program to provide unique learning opportunities, while growing native plants and vegetables for various community programs. Through this collaborative effort we hope to demonstrate how to build neighborhoods with sustainable local food systems and native plant landscape practices that support a vibrant and resilient suburban community. 

Goals & Initiatives 

  • Native Plant Propagation 
  • Vegetable Plant Propagation 
  • Support Habitat Restoration Efforts 
  • Support Rain Gardens & Green Infrastructure Projects 
  • Support Native Planting Efforts 
  • Create Internships & Training Opportunities
  • Engage with Students and Local Community                 

Since initiating this project in 2018, we have started a garden box education program focused on sustainable practices for growing vegetables, which has succeeded in engaging students from Camp ANCHOR, BOCES Rosemary Kennedy and Hofstra University; and in 2021, constructed and commissioned a fully functional greenhouse focused on sustainable practices, that can operate year round, with electric, water and heat, which will be utilized for the purpose of plant propagation for both the garden box program and native plants, where we have already supported internships with both Hofstra University and Farmingdale State College. 


The restored greenhouse has provided partner organizations an opportunity to learn about different growing techniques, while allowing the Town to produce native plants using local ecotypes. This allows the Town to use more sustainable landscaping practices, while also providing resources for local wildlife.  The greenhouse is separated into several sections to accommodate various projects: 1) Seedlings; 2) Microgreens and Vegetable Plants for Garden Box Programs and Farmers Markets Plant Sales; 3) Native Plants for Wildlife Sanctuaries and Preserves, Rain Gardens, and Saltmarsh Restoration; 

Plants are grown in the greenhouse starting from seedlings using traditional and hydroponic methods, which are then transferred to raised garden beds surrounding the Net-Zero Solar Energy Home. To ensure the growth of vegetables, an ebb and flood system is utilized in conjunction with plant starting plugs in order to grow seedlings for future transfer to a second dutch bucket hydroponic system, to soil containers, or to be planted in garden beds. A separate Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydroponic system grows microgreens to maturity from seedlings in order to have a continuous harvest throughout the year. An electric boiler, overhead watering system, and LED lights, temperature sensors and a smart greenhouse system, are utilized to control the greenhouse climate to allow growth during all seasons. 

Garden Boxes

The facility includes raised garden beds that will utilize organic farming techniques and rainwater recapture, both examples of sustainable practices that will be taught.  Once the plants are ready to be transferred from the greenhouse, they are placed in the raised garden boxes. Gardening supplies are available to allow students to work in the garden boxes. Students visit the site 1-2 times per week to help with garden box maintenance. 

Projects & Programs

A description of the many projects that have already resulted from the construction of the greenhouse and garden boxes:


The greenhouse allows the town to grow native plants from seed collected in the field from species exhibiting the native ecotype. This allows these plants to be used for landscaping, and restoration projects while maintaining a local species genepool. These propagation methods also allow the Town to aid partner organizations such as the Hempstead Plains in replanting projects, and already contributed to a newly planted native pollinator gardens at the Clean Energy Park in Point Lookout. These gardens provide monarch butterflies, honey bees, and other beneficial insects with habitats, and food that  allow these species to thrive, and aid in the pollination of vegetables. 


BOCES and Camp ANCHOR work with the Town staff to visit the greenhouse and garden boxes one to two times per week for any necessary maintenance. Kiwanis will be able to help larger maintenance needs for targeted projects a few times per year. 


BOCES has a small greenhouse where they seed some plants to be transferred to either the greenhouse or the garden boxes. In future, BOCES and Camp ANCHOR students can assist with this process in the new greenhouse. 


Additional plants are sold at local farmers markets through a partnership with Long Island Green Market.  Hofstra students help support outreach and education about the various Sustainable Living projects. 


The program includes native plants grown in the greenhouse, that could be used by NCSWCD for rain gardens and other native planting projects; the Town of Hempstead to provide plants for our wildlife sanctuaries, preserves and facility landscaping; and plants and grasses will be grown for planting in Hempstead Plains.


The Rosemary Kennedy School is designed for students with moderate to severe developmental disabilities, and consists of elementary, middle and high school students, where community based instruction is an essential part of the curriculum.  Town staff will work with BOCES and Camp ANCHOR programs at the greenhouse and garden boxes, to provide student mentorship opportunities.  Hofstra students will also help with developing a new curriculum for the Sustainable Living program and pair students with teacher training opportunities connected to the program. 


Hofstra students will help quantify and evaluate the outputs of the program including sustainable and organic practices, student participation, how many pounds grown, utilization, distances traveled, etc.