Communities Dig In To Reconnect: Teaching Through Farming

This post is from one of the 16 interns in the Real Time Farms Food Warrior Summer Internship Program (our Fall 2011 Food Warriors have started and will be blogging  soon!). These interns are collecting data, pictures, and video on the growing practices of our nation’s farms, collecting food artisans’ stories, and documenting farmers markets. We all deserve to know where our food comes from!

On my Food Warrior journey, I have experienced a new wave of “teaching through farming.” I have seen desks morph into tomato plants and notebooks into pigs. I have seen lecture halls in the shape of grassy fields and the cafeterias next to blueberry bushes. This new wave of on the farm teaching has inspired children and adults alike to travel to farms to grow, much like the plants in the fields. Founded with a mission to educate the surrounding community, these places are open to teaching anyone willing to learn.

Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, New York, was started on the campus of a school, explains Margo, the Director. As early as the 1970’s Margo and her fellow teachers noticed that kids were becoming increasing disconnected from each other and their environment.

“Children were beginning to not eat at home very much and if they did it was fast food, because that was really big by this time. The social dimension, therefore, was beginning to change. People were less and less able to know how to converse with each other because they didn’t sit at meals and do that,” says Margo.

This lack of family interaction at the dinner table made the first crack in the social gap, that technology would only further, in children’s ability to connect with each other and the environment. In response, Sprout Creek Farm implemented educational programs for children. Sprout Creek Farm runs a variety of summer camps for children aged six to sixteen, teaching children to milk cows, taste cheese, build compost bins, and grow their own fruits and vegetables.

Another farm committed to community education is Terhune Orchards in Princeton, New Jersey. Started by Gary and Pam Mount in 1975, the Mounts and now their daughter, Tannwenn, and her husband have expanded the farm from an apple orchard, to a 185 acre farm growing over 35 different crops.

Both Gary and Tannwenn are Princeton University alums and no strangers to the benefits of education. These two could have taken a lot of different career paths, but both father and daughter felt strongly that it was important to allow the community to participate and share the farming experience with them.

Terhune Orchards now attracts about a half a million visitors every year. With a goal to help you experience the farm, they offer pick-your-own produce, a farm walking trail, community education classes, guided tours for school field trips, wagon and pony rides, and a variety of children’s programs (Read and Pick Program, Gardening Camp, and Farm Camp).

Farms are opening their (barn) doors, solidifying our relationship with the food and the earth. Not to mention, helping us all more fully enjoy the summer outdoors, surrounded by growing plants and adorable animals! Sign me up, Mom!

Emily Saltz

Summer 2011 New York City Food Warrior

Want more? Check out this episode from Perennial Plate about kids at a farm!

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