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November 19, 2012

Roxbury’s ties to Manhattan school date back to the mid-1960s*

If I were ever asked to substitute for Jay Leno in his popular “Jaywalking” segment on The Tonight Show, and ask most local people in our region where the Manhattan Country School is, I’d imagine many would respond near Manhattan, Kan., a small city in primarily a rural state.

I’d have to tell them it was the wrong answer. The Manhattan Country School (MCS) is found at 7 East 96th St., New York City. The independent school, nearly a stone’s throw to Central Park, gets its name from the country, specifically from Roxbury. It is a partnership dating back nearly 45 years in Delaware County, where the school has its farm.

Augustus and Martha Trowbridge grew up and firmly believed in the civil-rights movement. They founded the MCS in 1966, to teach students in a community with no racial majority and broad economic diversity. In that first year, the farm was also established as part of the school. For the first two years, it was on the farm of a friend of the Trowbridge’s, Jim Perkins, in the Meeker Hollow area. A neighboring farm, owned by Floyd Slauson became available, and Perkins helped the Trowbridges establish the present site for the school’s farm in 1968.

Ginny Scheer, farm director of the school since 1974, said the idea of the farm came about to add to a part of the mission of the school, in teaching environmental issues and sustainability. The Trowbridges had attended the Putney School in Vermont, which has a working farm as part of its curriculum, and applied the farm experience to their private school.

“It also is a community builder,” Scheer said. “Kids who come here, whatever their background, have to learn to work together. If they can’t work together, they don’t eat. They get a necessity of what we’re doing, and see what their role can be in it, and how their part is essential.”

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