A woman smiles at a circle of children
(Image credit: Valley Daycare)

MONGAUP, NY -- Speaking with Nicole Newick, the owner and director of Valley Daycare, made me wish I could go back in time and enroll my (now grown) children in a daycare like this one. What makes this place special is that babies from six weeks to five years old can come here to learn, be nurtured and play in a rich environment that’s set up especially for them.

Nicole applied for our Gardening Know How sponsorship because of a lack of rain in upstate New York. Unofficially in drought mode, the daycare needed to improve their water system. They had lost apple trees, their pond with frogs and goldfish had to be refilled by the fire department – there just wasn’t enough rain. We were happy to help out.

A Peaceful World For Little Ones

A circle of children putting their feet together

(Image credit: Valley Daycare)

Nicole’s husband is a contractor who managed the construction of the daycare, which was built from scratch. The property was originally 5 wooded acres, but now encompasses 15 acres, along with the school building and clearings for dedicated spaces.

This daycare opened in 2020 in the middle of the dreaded COVID pandemic. In the beginning they did not accept babies, and of course, masks were required at all times. Since that time, children up to five years old can attend, and Nicole hopes to one day expand the center to include after school support for school aged children up to 12 years old.

With seven staff members supervising and teaching, children spend the majority of each day in the great outdoors. The daycare has a 35 x 80 foot area covered in astroturf and playground equipment. The children are able to play outside in New York’s chilly winter in a specially built hoop house. The pre-school curriculum is designed to provide a foundation for the children’s future elementary school education, and includes life and agricultural skills.

Growing Healthy Children, Fruit and Vegetables

A child uses a plant to paint

(Image credit: Valley Daycare)

Valley Daycare has a 10 x 20 foot greenhouse where staff help the children start seedlings. Last season the older children planted and grew strawberries, zucchini and herbs from start to finish. New plants from last season include grapes, asparagus and rhubarb. A fun growing activity for the children is inserting plants into hay bales, which provide a medium that retains moisture, and requires only punching a few holes and filling them with soil and plants.

The daycare’s orchard produces apples, pears and peaches, as well as strawberries and blueberries. Cooking fresh apples in a crockpot is a fun and delicious activity. One of the center’s goals is to grow enough food to provide snacks for the children.


Nicole emphasizes that there’s an incredible parent group that supports the daycare. In addition to the amazing parents who come in and help, local businesses provide discounts on materials. In addition to community support, the Cornell Cooperative and local Sullivan Renaissance have helped with the creation of an outdoor lunch area, play areas and the edible and ornamental gardens. They also helped stock the indoor/outdoor play structure (hoop house) with toys and toy storage.

And, speaking of donations, this organization, which uses no chemicals or pesticides in its gardening, receives donations from the resident horse for its fertilizer needs. The children also have the pleasure of sharing their environment with chickens and rabbits.

A unique way to contribute to this daycare/pre-school is to click on the Valley Daycare Amazon Wish List which is linked to their website. This is a great opportunity to contribute to an incredible organization that is offering a strong head-start to babies, toddlers and those who are about to enter the big world of elementary school.

Exposing such young children to the wonders of gardening and the outdoors is a special mission. We wish Valley Daycare a successful future and hope to watch it grow as time goes on.

Want to learn more about the unique programs that have been awarded a Gardening Know How grant? Check out our Community Gardening for Everyone page!

To hear first-hand accounts from the gardeners who are making a difference, make sure to check out our speaker series!

Caroline Bloomfield
Manager of Marketing Communications

Caroline Bloomfield is Manager of Marketing Communications at Gardening Know How since 2019. A northwest native, she has resided and gardened in multiple zones in the U.S. and is currently at home in Eugene, Oregon. Writing and editing for various publications since 1998, her BA in American Studies from Southern Maine University includes an emphasis in English. She was raised in California by avid gardeners and continues to enjoy the natural world with an appreciation for the concepts of sustainability and organic care for the planet.