Grow Food honors the late Peter Kocot

  • Shauneen Kocot, widow of late state Rep. Peter Kocot, works with a student at Grow Food Northampton on Monday. The farm welcomed students on a field trip and state and local officials to honor Kocot’s legacy of education and agriculture. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Students get a taste of lemon balm in the Medicine Garden at Grow Food Northampton on Monday during a field trip at which the late state Rep. Peter Kocot was honored. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Students paint a new sign for the Giving Garden at Grow Food Northampton on Monday during a field trip at which the late state Rep. Peter Kocot was honored. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • State Rep. John Sciback, D-South Hadley, weeds with students at Grow Food Northampton on Monday. Sciback and other officials were in attendance to honor the late state Rep. Peter Kocot. SUBMITTED PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 6/19/2018 11:09:22 PM

FLORENCE — It seems only fitting that Grow Food Northampton dedicated one of the last farm field trips of the school year in memory of the late state Rep. Peter Kocot.

The Northampton Democrat, who died in February, had a passion for agriculture and education, which is why Grow Food became a special place for him over the last few years.

The 120-acre farm in Florence provides community members with plots of land to grow their own produce, and is a destination for numerous field trips throughout the school year thanks to state funding Kocot helped secure for the farm’s education programming.

“One of Peter’s top priorities was always education,” Kocot’s wife Shauneen said. “He was always pleased in any way that he could help children learn. He loved gardening himself. I think his passion for gardening helped him determine that it would be helpful for children to learn how to grow their own food and where it comes from.”

A year and a half after visiting Grow Food Northampton in 2014, the 1st Hampshire District representative secured funding through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Executive Director Clem Clay said Monday. This has given Grow Food the opportunity to provide free year-round programming to Northampton and Easthampton elementary schools, including trips to the farm and in-class workshops.

After Kocot died, state Rep. John Sciback, D-South Hadley, pursued renewed funding for Grow Food’s education programming for the next fiscal year.

Northampton kindergarten students arrived at the farm Monday morning to learn about farming and participate in planting and harvesting activities. They were joined by honored guests Shauneen and Luke Kocot, 25, Peter Kocot’s son, as well as Scibak, Rep. Steve Kulik, D-Worthington, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and Northampton Public Schools Superintendent John Provost.

All attendees received a laminated thank you letter from the kindergarteners, and the Kocots received a framed piece of art the students created that showed their favorite memories with the Grow Food education program.

The students took tours of the community garden and farm with educators, while Clay welcomed the rest of the attendees. Shauneen Kocot shared memories of her husband’s passion for gardening and how he enjoyed sharing his personal garden’s harvest with colleagues at the Statehouse.

All of the attendees came together to visit the Giving Garden, a plot of land on the property that donates thousands of pounds of produce to local food pantries and soup kitchens. On Monday, Grow Food staff members cut 300 pounds of lettuce that will be donated to the Northampton Survival Center.

The students helped weed the Giving Garden and planted beans that will be harvested in the fall as another donation to the Survival Center.

“I think Peter would have liked the Giving Garden best,” said Shauneen Kocot, who noted that officials joined the kindergartners in the weeding. “Children were learning how to weed, getting their hands dirty and enjoying being able to do it.”

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