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Long Island

LI Earth Day events teach kids awareness

Benjamin Turner feeds a goat in the petting

Benjamin Turner feeds a goat in the petting zoo at Crossroads Farm. (April 21, 2012) Credit: Jeremy Bales

Ten-year-old Jeremy Klein dug his hands deep into the freshly tilled soil at Crossroads Farm at Grossmann's Saturday -- and vowed to become a farmer one day.

"The Earth is kind of our mother," the Merrick boy said as he helped plant lettuce. "If we take care of nature, it takes care of us."

Jeremy was among dozens of children learning about agriculture at the historic Malverne farm's opening day celebration. Hundreds of nature lovers attended the daylong festival, a prelude to Sunday's Earth Day celebrations.

Children frolicked in the farm's fields while their parents shopped for locally made organic foods and picked up gardening tips.

Some parents used the event to give their kids a glimpse into a different era, when farms flourished throughout Long Island and many families produced their own food.

More than a century old, 4.5-acre Crossroads touts itself as the last remaining farm in southwest Nassau County, raising herbs, flowers and vegetables.

"I want my children to grow up with an awareness that developers weren't always running the show," said Woodmere resident Michael Mills, 38, whose daughters -- Laura, 6, and Vanessa, 8 -- had never visited a farm before. "People tended to the land as a way of life. Every day was Earth Day back then."

Vanessa said the farm was "really cool" and seemed amazed it was so close to home.

"Are we still in New York?" she asked her father while gazing at the newly planted crops.

"We are," he answered. "Isn't this better than playing video games?"

Hundreds of others flocked to Gillette Park in Sayville for the Town of Islip's 22nd annual Earth Day Celebration, browsing used books, learning about recycling and visiting a petting zoo.

Rosemary Hely, of Bohemia, said Earth Day's message of environmental responsibility is important for her two young children.

"They've learned to be gentle with the Earth," Hely said. "We use reusable bags for shopping and we plant trees."

In Babylon, nursing student Justine D'Adamo, 27, hosted an Earth Day party Saturday for family and friends. She made environment-themed flash cards and games, which neighborhood kids played for prizes.

"They're the ones who will be responsible for the planet one day," said D'Adamo. "Now's the time to teach them how to take care of it."

With Candice Ruud

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