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Health Habits start early…

This is my first summer interning with the Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT), but for years I have periodically spent my summer vacations with family and friends on Wolfe Island.

TILT’s close proximity to Wolfe Island first caught my interest when searching for meaningful internships. After speaking with Corinne Mockler, Coordinator of Education & Outreach for TILT, I was even more excited to learn I would be helping out with caring for the public “Kids’ Korner” section of the Zenda Community Garden.  I would also be charged with writing a Food & Wellness Policy in accordance with TILT’s grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation, in collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, for the Adopting Healthy Habits Community Coalition.

During the cooler seasons I study Global and International Studies and Health and Wellness Management at SUNY Oswego, so my participation with TILT has been extremely satisfying so far!   I am hoping that the work that is being done in the Zenda garden, by community members, along with the creation of the Food & Wellness Policy, will make a significant difference in the community of Clayton and the surrounding 1000 Islands area.

Locals as well as visitors to the area will surely be familiar with the gleaming silver barns and silos of TILT’s Zenda Farm Preserve. Located on Rt 12E, only a couple minutes from the village of Clayton, Zenda Farm served as one of the premiere dairy and beef farms of the region for decades. The Land Trust started acquiring the property in 1997, through a series of generous donations, and now over 400 acres are conserved! Zenda’s LoisJean and John MacFarlane Walking Trail and refurbished infrastructure now serve as a site for community education and recreation, and the meadows are managed by TILT as safe havens for local wildlife such as grassland birds. Zenda is probably most well-known as the location of TILT’s annual Community Picnic, held the second Friday in June for close to 15 years. This past June, over 350 people were in attendance, despite the threat of disagreeable weather - quite a turnout, and my first experience with this fun community event!

Zenda is also home to an expansive, 8,000 square foot, Community Garden, which was started in 2009 as a partnership between TILT and the Thousand Islands Young Leaders Organization (TIYLO). Unlike most community gardens, it is set up as one large “family-style” plot! Families interested in participating simply need to annually fill out and submit an application to the Land Trust, along with dues of $25 (which helps with the cost of materials not covered by grant funding!).


In 2013 a section was opened to the public as the Kids’ Korner (along with an adjacent Natural Play Area), and in May, about 15 scouts from the LaFargeville Cub Scout Troop 74 and the Alexandria Bay Girl Scouts planted patches of pansies, sunflowers, strawberries, tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, and various herbs. The Kids’ Korner is accessible through a separate, public entrance and sports an ingenious bucket kit watering system, graciously donated to TILT by the Chapin Living Waters.

Chapin Living Waters, located in Watertown, NY, is a non-profit organization that provides drip irrigation equipment, to small scale subsistence farmers in areas all over the world that do not receive much rain. Richard Chapin developed the first commercial application of drip irrigation in 1960, and founded Chapin Living Waters in his retirement years. The technology they use offers an efficient means of allocating sufficient amounts of water to rows of crops as long as 100 ft, or even 330 ft, with their Super Bucket kit. TILT was fortunate enough to have Doug Carlson, a passionate Chapin volunteer, personally assist with installing the bucket kit system in the Kids’ Korner.


These buckets need only to be filled twice a day, at the most, in order to adequately saturate the soil with the water necessary to beat the brutal summer heat. Just as Chapin Living Waters’ bucket systems help communities in drought ridden locations, farm nutritious vegetables and fruits, their systems have allowed TILT’s Kids’ Korner to flourish. Richard Chapin recently passed away, and both the Land Trust and I are thankful to have become involved with such a wonderful organization during his lifetime.


The vegetables and fruits grown in both the Kids’ Korner and the Zenda Community Garden promote healthy eating and healthy lifestyle choices for the community members of the 1000 Islands region.

TILTKids Camp, August 2

These healthy habits reflect the Food & Wellness Policy, which will steer the food guidelines for the Land Trust’s 2014 TILTKids Camp, scheduled for August 2nd at Zenda Farm. Using this policy, TILT is collaborating with Clayton’s The Victorian/Subway, for a donation of nutritious lunches for TILTKids Camp. The goal of creating a Food & Wellness Policy is to support food choices for kids that are lower in fat, salt, and sugar content, while higher in nutritional value and fiber.

Nature Craft Day, August 8

To introduce the public to the Kids’ Korner section at Zenda Farm Preserve, TILT will be hosting a “Nature Craft Day” on August 8th, starting at 1:00 pm in the Natural Play Area, next to the garden. Activities will include decorating cement stepping stones, building a vertical garden with hanging buckets, rock painting and fun photo opportunities with a mosaic butterfly created by the kids! So that we have enough craft supplies for everyone, I encourage families to register in advance for “Nature Craft Day” by contacting the TILT office at or 315-686-5345. Walk-ins are also welcome; and remember, the Kids’ Korner, the Natural Play Area and Zenda Farm Preserve’s nearby MacFarlane Walking Trail are all open for visits from the public, year-round!

Kids Korner Garden

Families interested in getting regularly involved with the Kids Korner Garden can contact the TILT office at 686-5345 - Kids who volunteer in the garden can earn a “Busy Beaver” volunteer tee shirt (their parents can earn a grown-up version of the shirt as well).


The TILT website has additional ideas on how families can get involved, through volunteering by downloading a trail-guide (TILT conserves over 40 miles of local trails) or by signing up for an organized activity or tour, known as a TILTrek.

Yes, there are ample opportunities for families to “get out on the land” and experience the 1000 Islands! Volunteering for TILT has shown me how wonderful it is to get involved in helping a community GROW!

By Kelly Kearns, Summer Intern, TILT

Kelly Kearns is a summer intern for the Thousand Islands Land Trust. She grew up in Western New York, and is currently earning her BA in Global and International Studies, and her BS in Health and Wellness Management from SUNY Oswego. During the Fall and Spring semesters she is involved in the Health Promotion and Wellness Club as well as the Outdoor Club, but is passionate for staying active outside year-round. The focus of her internship with TILT, is in sustainability and wellness promotion.

Posted in: Places, Nature, Event
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